Sitting trot - losing stirrups and inability to transition to canter - Page 2 - The Horse Forum
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post #11 of 19 Old 11-24-2015, 09:58 AM
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Originally Posted by tinyliny View Post
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.
Thanks for this good illustration tinyliny. This may help some of my students when I am trying to get them to understand about bringing their legs inward rather than their heels up and back.

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post #12 of 19 Old 11-24-2015, 10:12 AM
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“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!!”

Riding the same horse is usually beneficial when trying to learn something new. Learning to ride involves a lot of experimentation. If something you try doesn't work, you should make certain small modifications and try again. Even when riding the same horse, things may vary from time to time and experimentation will be necessary.

When riding different horses, experimentation becomes even more important. Each horse is an individual. Each horse is built differently and has different physical abilities. Each horse has had different experiences. A horse may have been taught using a different method. A horse's reactions may be influenced by its last rider or even a rider earlier that had a significant effect on the horse.

All of these factors should be taken into account by the instructor as well as the rider. Of course, an instructor can concentrate on individual situations more easily in a private lesson than in a lesson with more horses and riders to consider.

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post #13 of 19 Old 11-24-2015, 10:38 AM
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Originally Posted by swingsong View Post
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 can’t 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 don’t 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.
I will try to give you several things to think about. These may or may not apply to you but should provide ideas to consider and may even act as a stimulus for coming up with other ideas on your own.

When you lower your seat into the saddle to being to sit, you may also inadvertently be raising your feet.

When you try to sit in the saddle, you may be tightening your muscles. This may involve tightening the muscles in the area of your crotch which would prevent your seat from settling deep into the saddle. This would raise your center of gravity and make your seat more unstable. Your muscles might also tighten around the sides of your horse blocking the effect of the pull of gravity that would otherwise cause your feet to push downward on the stirrups.

Tightening the muscles of your legs can also limit the ability of your hips, knees, and ankles to flex. It often helps riders to think of their legs working like shock absorbers on a motorcycle traveling over bumps in the terrain.

The better able you are to release unnecessary muscular tension when riding, the easier riding becomes. Relaxed muscles allow gravity to much of the work of stabilizing the rider’s seat. Relaxed muscles can move more quickly and smoothly. Relaxed muscles can move more subtly. When a rider’s muscles are relaxed, the rider can more easily move to follow the movements of his horse. Finally, when the rider relaxes, his horse is more likely to relax and move more smoothly and with greater ease making riding more comfortable.

You only mention “kicking” to get your horse to canter. I hope your instructor is providing you with more ideas on asking a horse to canter than just that. More methods have been developed to ask for a canter than to ask for any other gait. A good review of many of these methods can be found in Martin Diggle’s book “Masters of Equitation on Canter”. Knowledge of these various methods and the arguments on how they are supposed to influence the horse’s movements can prove very useful when experimenting with getting a particular horse to canter.

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post #14 of 19 Old 11-24-2015, 10:55 AM
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As said, you are probably gripping with your lower leg to much.

You need to practice the sitting trot a lot more. One thing I have pupils do is to take their reins in one hand and with the other insert two fingers under the pommel of the saddle and 'pull it up off the horse's withers' this gives you the idea of how you should be sitting on your seat bones.

Sit on a swing and feel how you sit to push yourself forward, this is the same as sitting trot and transitions. It doesn't matter at this point of you lean back a bit at the trot that is easy to correct when you have a secure seat.

Another thing to do is when you get in and many times whilst you are riding, place a hand under your thigh at the back and pull all the muscle to the back, this puts your thigh flat on the saddle, your knee and toe pointing to the front and it is easier to use your lower leg.
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post #15 of 19 Old 11-24-2015, 11:42 AM
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What follows is from a backyard rider - ie, someone who doesn't teach, compete, or show. My horses don't do flying lead changes unless they decide to do them, only sidepass when it makes sense to them, etc. So take this with a big steaming cup of FWIW:

Ultimately, to canter you need to convey the idea of 'go faster'. A horse trained properly - unlike mine - can also be trained to take a left or right lead when doing so. But when you are doing something for the first time, doing everything 'properly' can interfere with doing it at all. At MY level of riding, just getting the basics done can fill up my available brain cells.

If your stirrups are too long, you'll feel like you are reaching for them. But if you grip with the knee, and don't allow weight to flow without interruption to the heel, then the stirrups will still come loose. So if you don't feel like you are reaching for the stirrups at a walk, you are probably gripping with the knee (or thigh).

But you can also have problems if you are busy doing things with your lower leg. If you need to give animated, big 'cues' to get the horse to obey, then A) it will ruin your riding, and B) it teaches the horse to ignore the rider's cues - and I think that happens often with lesson horses.

At MY level of riding, I wouldn't worry a lot about cueing the right lead - not on a horse who is resisting going into a canter anyways. I prefer trails to arenas, so the correct lead doesn't mean much to me. We're probably going relatively straight, and any turns may be followed by a turn in the opposite direction, but at a canter none of the turns I do will be very sharp anyways.

Rather than worry about applying pressure at just the right point with one leg at X and the other leg at Y while tipping the nose Z degrees, try just giving a cue to 'go faster'. Squeeze with both legs, verbal urge - and if the horse doesn't obey, then hit your own leg with a whip or crop. If need be, then use the whip or crop on the horse. But rather than worry about telling the horse which lead to take, emphasize "Go faster - now!"

The advantage to the rider is that it is easier to stay balanced and engaged - to stay WITH the horse, and deep in the saddle. The "neutral position" for my legs is heels at the belt buckle. If asking the horse to go faster, I'll slide my heels back under my hip. (Once we get going faster, they go back to the neutral position.) But I'm not moving my leg away from the horse to kick it, and instead am squeezing both legs together in the same location. That makes it easy for me to stay balanced and comfortable and thus relaxed - because tension in my leg and bracing with my leg are the two great evils I battle when I ride.

If I try to move my legs to different spots on the horse, and particularly if I then need to move my leg away from the horse to provide some kicking power, I find I just set myself up for failure.

The big drawback I see for you would be in doing group lessons in an arena, since cantering on the wrong lead is quite bouncy, and a group lesson doesn't allow you to change directions at will. OTOH, a lesson horse knows darn well what lead to take when cantering in a circle, since they do it all the time (unlike my own).

Feel free to ignore most of what I've written. As I said, I don't teach or compete. But I think this point IS important: You should not need to kick hard to get a horse to accelerate. If the horse knows the cue, and disregards it, then the solution is not to nag, but to provide a consequence that will motivate the horse to stop ignoring you.

There is a big difference between teaching a horse who doesn't know a cue what the cue is, and teaching a horse who knows the cue but ignores it. With the first, patience is needed, and slowly increasing pressure until the horse figures out what you want. That can take a long time with some horses. The rider should take as many weeks as needed...

But once a horse knows, it is refusing. That needs a consequence. I took group lessons for a few months some years back, and some of the horses could walk all day while I kicked as hard as my 180 lbs could. They had no doubt about what I was asking, but didn't feel like it. Thus the crop - and the lesson horses all only needed one hard whack to then move off a light squeeze.

FWIW, I normally hit MY leg first. The sound is usually enough. But since I ride my own horses, they know what to expect and I normally have to hit myself about twice a year...

Good luck. Also - talk to your instructor before or after about it. You are paying for instruction, and she knows her horses. She may also see something no one here can see, since none of us are there.
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Last edited by bsms; 11-24-2015 at 11:49 AM.
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post #16 of 19 Old 11-24-2015, 05:44 PM Thread Starter
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“The horse has to know that you are asking for it to canter.” That is one thing my instructor does tell me – which obviously makes sense – I just need to work on the how I ask for it


TX – have added that book to my trolley on Amazon – it is just kicking/using the crop the instructor is teaching us at the moment – but I’d imagine the reason for that is because of my lack of ability rather than hers – I think she wants us to get the feel of the canter at the moment only – and then will start to work on technique. In general I think I’m a relaxed enough rider – that’s probably the one thing I have managed to keep with me from riding when younger – that and I talk to the horse when riding – – however in saying that when I get annoyed with myself or feel as if I don’t know what I’m doing – or what to do to correct what I know I’m doing incorrectly – well then I can only imagine seeing as my head is going into a tizzy that I tense up – and having “kick!” / “tell him you want to canter!” yelled at me only probably makes me tense up and flap my legs about more – and I’m fairly certain that if I check it during my next lesson I’ll find that I am moving my legs out like you said bsms – need to remember to keep them right under me – which’ll hopefully be easier now that I know what I’m doing!


Well I have a private lesson booked for this weekend – and have specifically said that I want to work on my sitting trot – and will hopefully get to try out your suggestions Foxhunter – it won’t be with my usual instructor so could be interesting to get a different view on what I’m doing/not doing…


Thanks all honestly for all your help! – I think I sometimes work better when things are written on paper in front of me for it to go into my head – when I make a mistake while riding it all happens so fast having this checklist in my head is sure to settle my mind a bit and help me work through it! :)
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post #17 of 19 Old 11-24-2015, 06:06 PM
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Originally Posted by swingsong View Post
Thanks all honestly for all your help! – I think I sometimes work better when things are written on paper in front of me for it to go into my head – when I make a mistake while riding it all happens so fast having this checklist in my head is sure to settle my mind a bit and help me work through it! :)
It is important to realize that there are too many things to think about when riding than any rider can do. It is only as certain things become automatic that we can concentrate on others. Don't try to do everything at once. Take things one step at a time and learn to enjoy the journey.

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post #18 of 19 Old 11-24-2015, 06:37 PM
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Are you able to get arena time on your own, without the instructor? Sometimes that person's presence can inhibit what you are trying to achieve.



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post #19 of 19 Old 11-25-2015, 12:46 PM Thread Starter
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Unfortunately not, Saddlebag. I rang to double check but no matter what your level, if you're using one of their horses in their arena, you have to have an instructor with you. Which is a pity as I can imagine that learning without an audience might be beneficial at times...
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