Sitting trot - losing stirrups and inability to transition to canter - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 19 Old 11-23-2015, 12:24 PM Thread Starter
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Sitting trot - losing stirrups and inability to transition to canter

Hello all! Im a newbie to this forum and a newbie-ish to horseriding. Ive been enjoying reading through many posts here and have been learning lots. Im a thirty-odd year old woman that is, through you guys, reliving my horse-mad childhood and teens. I used to ride a lot, like Im sure many people did, when I was much younger it seemed totally natural when I rode before I could just simply walk/trot/canter/jump seemingly without any problem I wish I remembered how! then after close on twenty years I finally went back to it there a couple of months ago.

Sooo, I have a question to start me off if you dont mind. The first being how to successfully transition from trot to canter. I have read many posts here on this however they all seem to be a bit advanced for me where my foot is on the girth/where the horses stomach is etc. are skills I havent quite reached yet Ive to go right back to the beginning for my main problem. When going from trot to canter I stop posting, sit into the saddle, then I lose my stirrups, sit there jiggling about, hold on and hope to God that the horse can somehow telepathically pick up my wish to canter.

My main problem is losing the stirrups and a weird inability to kick when doing sitting trot which I just cant seem to work out. Reading posts here about this I learned that I probably am gripping with my thighs which last lesson I realised to an extent I definitely was which I tried to work on however the main reason, I think, for losing my stirrups is when I go into sitting trot my feet, with the movement of the horse, literally bounce out of them, even without my thigh-gripping, I dont seem to have the strength/ability to push down into them while bouncing about in a sitting trot. Has this happened to any other rider starting out? Would anyone have any tips/ideas? It sounds like a really stupid question but how do you kick/use your legs while in a sitting trot without losing your stirrups? Maybe this has been addressed before ad infinatum and if so I apologise and would appreciate being linked to an appropriate thread. Thanks! I ride English and once a week so testing out theories is unfortunately slow enough.
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post #2 of 19 Old 11-23-2015, 02:12 PM
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well, you may not really be ready for a canter in the first place. if you are easily losing your stirrups when sitting, then you probably are gripping up wiht you lower leg, not your thigh so much. and , it could be that you are also kicking by raising up your lower leg too much , too, thus losing the stirrups.
think of kicking more as "plumping a pillow" bettween your legs. so your ankle bone will bump inward, bump bump! on that pillow. not behind you, but right under you. you can even sort of "flutter" your ankle. but in any case think of the iside ankle bone , that sharp knobby one, as being your "spur" and slap it into the horse's side right where your foot is, so there is less movement of your lwoer leg.

practising going from rising to sitting, to rising to sitting trot would help you keep your stirrups in changing positions.
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post #3 of 19 Old 11-23-2015, 02:53 PM
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I agree with TinyLiny. But also check if your stirrups are TOO LONG. It makes them easier to lose them if they are too long.

Even in a sitting trot, your body is still moving with the horse. Some horses trots are easier to sit than others, but you shouldn't be like a sack of potatoes. You can still "post" without your rump leaving the saddle; just continue to move your body with the horse. You may find that easier to keep your stirrups then.

I would also suggest lots of riding WITHOUT stirrups to help you learn not to grip where you aren't supposed to. Transition from a posting trot (without stirrups) and back to a sitting trot, and so on. Be prepared to be sore the next day, even if you only do it for a few minutes. It's a tough workout! You can also do this exercise with dropping one stirrup, and not both. It teaches you to be mindful of what each side of your body is doing, and learn to balance.

And to complicate things, it also helps to post on the correct diagonal if your horse is moving in a circle.

Give it time!
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post #4 of 19 Old 11-23-2015, 04:13 PM Thread Starter
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Brilliant – thank-you so much for replying! – it is exactly those sort of basic steps that I need to re-learn. When I am trying to go into a canter the instructor does keep calling out “kick!” to me – or “keep the leg on!” – which I interpret as kick – which then in turn just makes me lose all control of my stirrups – as – like you suggest TinyLiny – I’ve a feeling I’m kicking way too wide – I just didn’t really know how to do otherwise. I’m in a group lesson – which the downside unfortunately in some way means that by the time I’ve half figured out what I’m doing wrong I don’t have enough time to even attempt correcting it by the time I’ve reached the back of the ride again. I think I am going to try save for one or two private lessons to get this nailed down and to solely work on what the two of you have suggested – although posting without stirrups??! – is that even possible?! ;)
I’ll check the stirrup length also – I know my first lesson they had me riding almost jockey-style to help me with my kicking – but bit by bit I’ve been lowering them down.
I perhaps should mention that every lesson we generally have a different horse – It somehow worked out though that I got to ride the same horse, Casper, for maybe four lessons. On Casper I started out with this problem – but then somehow magically seemed to fix myself. And then last week I was put on a new horse – and found myself landed back at square one – with the same problem again – but without knowing how I fixed it before – I don’t want to keep making the same mistakes whenever I land on a new horse – so thanks guys for helping me work it out!!
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post #5 of 19 Old 11-23-2015, 04:46 PM
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riding is much harder than people think. it takes time to develop the physical strength, and the balance. as you get more confident and have better balance, you can adapt to different horses, though it is always a challenge. I'll get on a horse, a different horse, like my frineds horse, and it will feel like riding a whole different species sometimes. I'll think, "how in the heck does this person deal with this rough gait?", and then I'll be glad to get back on "my" horse.
but, eventually , he get used to the new gait, and you no longer find it hard to deal with.

"leg on" all the time is what happens with school horses. they get so dull as a form of self defense that the require a lot of push to get them to go. in such a case, a crop is the better thing IMO, becuase you don't have to get all twisted up by straining to get leg on. you send the message "move!" with the crop, so you don't have to keep legging and legging.

as for the canter, chances are you are leaning forward as you strain to get the horse to break into the canter. this puts you off balance and the horse will trot faster to try and stay balanced under you (since you've pitched your weight forward), which makes it rough, which makes you curl into the fetal position and so on and so . you have to sit up straight, and really think of the canter as starting from the hind end, of you "scooping it up under you". this is something that you'll get in time, and for awhile it's going to be haphazard and a matter of luck much of the time. but, eventually, you'll get it. have faith.
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post #6 of 19 Old 11-23-2015, 06:22 PM
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Originally Posted by swingsong View Post
although posting without stirrups??! is that even possible?!
It absolutely is possible.

Very difficult and requires LOTS of core strength!

You technically don't need stirrups to do anything. They are there just for "support".

As an example (and my form is FAR from perfect) but I did hunter classes for the first time this year. This was my horse's second time doing them, so we're both big greenies to the English world. (But we did it to have FUN!) After doing my first jump, I lost my stirrup. Totally my fault. But had our second jump right in front of us and I did not have time to get my left stirrup back. So I did my best to get into two-point and jump it anyway. I'm a little "behind" him, but you technically don't need stirrups to jump either! It's balance and core strength. Of course it helps that I've been riding horse since I was 2 years old. Just takes time to build the confidence, muscle, and reflexes to make it all come together.
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post #7 of 19 Old 11-23-2015, 07:16 PM
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Never thought about it until now but I was taught to ask a horse to canter from the walk and have done so for years. A judge won't ask for trot to canter. Jumping horses go walk/canter. It is far easier to get the horse to make the transition from the walk.

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post #8 of 19 Old 11-23-2015, 09:30 PM
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I agree with the stirrup length comment, but once you're sure they aren't too long, think of putting weight in your heels. That will help release the rest of your leg pressure. Think of following your horse's movement with your seat and put more weight in your heels, that should help in keeping your foot in the stirrup.
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post #9 of 19 Old 11-24-2015, 03:26 AM Thread Starter
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Posting without stirrups – I can’t wait to try it! – I’m going to try book a private lesson for this though because I can only imagine how ridiculous I’m going to look(!) – I just need to motivate myself to do some sit-ups beforehand also ;)

Thanks Saddlebag – I’ve never, I don’t think, done walk to canter – even in my younger days – I must ask my instructor about it if I do get this private lesson – although at this stage I’m only really beginning even to master getting my horse to trot as quickly as possible from standing..!

And thanks Kay – I did read an exercise somewhere on this forum about standing on a step and pushing your heels down – must remember to try it – feeling the horse’s movement is something I’m really enjoying learning how to do properly in simple walk and rising trot – but then once anything else is added into the equation it just totally goes out the window – I need to have it fixed in my mind which hopefully I will now with your suggestion! – without keeling forward as I have a feeling I do do TinyLiny… In my head I’m going “move, move, move!” to the tune of Eliza Doolittle at the races in My Fair Lady so I can only imagine that this is making me crouch forward

Interesting what you said about the crop TinyLiny also – maybe three of the horses we ride in the beginners’ lessons are automatically handed crops at the start of the lesson – Casper – who I “magically” sorted this problem out on is not one of them – Captain – on which I’ve landed back to square one on is one of them – I think I just have it in my head for some reason that a crop is a last resort – and also Captain’s reins feel as though they’re about one third longer than Casper’s – so everything just feels as though it’s getting tangled up as I tighten my reins – clutch my crop and try to use it.

I'm going to print this out now and have all your pointers in my head as I go into my next lesson – thanks all so much for your patience – this must seem like such a basic problem – but you've given me a lot to work on!
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post #10 of 19 Old 11-24-2015, 07:47 AM
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Another tip when adjusting stirrups ~ with your feet out of the stirrups and your legs hanging loosely tap your legs against the stirrup leathers/stirrups. See where the rest (where your foot steps) touches. It should be at the ankle. As you ride and work on position and relaxing it will lengthen but starting out it will typically be shorter.
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