Improving Sitting Trot Question

Hi all. I’ve been working on my sitting trot for the past year. My tiny mare huge a huge lofty stride which I am just now being able to sit. When it comes to adding that pizazz or cadence, or in the mediums I need to squeeze or hold on with my thighs to stay in the saddle. Is that correct? I was previously under the understanding that the thigh should be loose. I don’t want to learn the wrong way. I can ask my coach next lesson but that’s a few weeks away and just wondering what the dressage masters of Coth can tell me?

I am a big Wanless fan and I know there’s a few others here.

Long and short, think about using isometric contractions. So you’re going to utilize one set of muscles against the other in order to greet stabilization inside your body. You don’t stabilize by yourself by squeezing the horse, but by organizing the muscles inside your body one against the other.

You aren’t completely rocksolid because there are certain key movements in certain key places. So you’re not as firm as a plaster cast on a broken arm. The main articulation is your thigh staying in contact with the horses back as it goes up and down, and that motion staying separated from the need of your torso to go up and down with the motion of the trot.

It’s not unlike the motion of a bicycle, as your legs push the pedals (you’re going to push into your knees not your feet though). And when on the horse you have the additional complication that the seat also bounces up and down.

Personal asymmetry will also play a lot into this, both rider and horse. One side of your body is likely bulked out and engaged more, the other side is more likely along for the ride and more passive.

Your horses body might also have a similar pattern. Those patterns might be the same or opposite between the two of you.


I understand what you are saying so thank you. I think I am doing that sometimes and sometimes squeezing too hard. I have listened to her entire podcast but maybe now is a good time to go back and listen again.

If we are super connected and in what I call her fancy trot, I can sit pretty well (compared to a year ago). It’s when the little bobbles occur that I kind of lose it and then we struggle to get to the good bit.

The upper part of your inner thigh is part of your seat aids. If you don’t keep it closed on a big moving horse, you will never be stable enough in your position.

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Closed, but not gripping, correct?

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When I sit a big warmblood trot in the mediums, my knees are loose, but my lower abs and the muscles “inside” my pelvis are rock solid, if that makes sense. Outside of my pelvis, my glutes are like Jello. I think people get into the habit of gripping/clenching when they learn to lean back to sit the trot. I think of pressing my chest into a wall and keeping my legs loose and long.

If I want collection or bounce, the thigh comes on. Lower leg slightly back to keep the engagement. My trainer teaches that you should always have an extended trot inside whatever trot you are riding-- so riding the extended is really just letting go. Maintaining the collection and packaging the energy to let go for the extended is the hard part, once you can sit.


Thank you, it does make sense. I don’t think I have the lean back issue, if anything I’m tipping too forward lol

I’m glad to hear that the thigh is in fact involved and not just sitting there flaccid haha

I’m going to experiment a bit with the feel tonight based on these replies.

There is definitely gripping when I do extended trot. Not sure if there’s supposed to be but I would go flying out of the tack if my thighs weren’t gripping lol

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If your horse is working over her back, the trot is a lot easier to sit.


Can you let her know? She isn’t getting the message from me… :rofl: :rofl: :rofl:

We are both new to scaling the pure dressage levels. I’ve never shown nor even ridden above First level until now, having only really evented, so this is all a learning experience haha


If your horse isn’t working over her back then she isn’t ready for you to do sitting trot.


Oh your horse works perfectly 100% of the time over it’s back?

I have a coach I work with (who is an Olympic medalist) who I would hope would tell me if I wasn’t ready for sitting trot lol


I’ve got my pony on speed dial to yours right now, “Ya know, their lard asses are a LOT easier to tote around on those stupid circles if you use your stupid abs. I know, right? I can’t believe she was right for once. All those stupid transitions and half steps and all the other BS she puts me through kinda paid off in the end. I mean I’m not happy about all those hours wasted when I could have been hanging with my friends eating grass and gossiping, but I have to admit it sure feels better when my back isn’t tight. Also, you should see the H/J people in my barn coo over my back. ‘She’s BUILT’ is music to my ears. Speaking of which, I’ve gotta go, need my ears scratched so I’ve got to flag some stupid human down. Scratching them with a hind foot is not nearly so satisfying as having a servant rub the insides with a towel.”

Seriously - GOOD transitions, transitions, transitions. Half steps (or even very basic lifting each hind leg in succession in hand) will do wonders for building abs which allow the back to develop properly.


I have a couple of slow mo videos if anyone wants to genuinely help and watch and share opinions. These are from last year so I have improved a little bit since then lol you can see me lifting the saddle in the 2nd one in the lengthening.

Ah the experienced dressage rider, always making everything so complicated! LOL. You are getting great answers to your question, but I would like to add an exercise I came up with that has really helped a lot of my students. It helps you to sit the trot, it also helps you to feel exactly where and with what muscles to “grip.” Best done on the lunge so you can grab the saddle for stability, but you can try it before your next lesson if you want.

Put your horse into a regular trot on a 20m circle. Drop your irons and pull both legs as far away from your horse’s sides as you can. This posture will bounce you off the horse if you hold it for more than a stride or two. You aren’t meant to. What it does is illustrate the feeling to you of how your legs are holding you in the saddle. You will reflexively wrap your legs around the horse after that first awful bounce. That is what you “hold on” with during a sitting trot. This presupposes that your core is strong and working for you and that your lower back is relaxed. Those last tidbits are what takes practice. Make sense? You will also see why it’s best to do this exercise on the lunge so that you can hold yourself in the saddle and not bother your horse while trying.


It can’t always be seen. And … true story, I leased a horse when I was between my own in order to do my coaching exams. Horse had been shown to PSG. I got on him in his field and did a little WTC around. His owner’s mouth gaped. “How are you just sitting there making him look comfortable?” “He is comfortable!” She then explained that her coach (Olympian and 4* Dressage judge) had told her to get over him being a “back mover” and to just suck it up and learn how to sit his uncomfortable gaits.

Fast forward a few weeks to when I was starting to ask him to increase his fitness and he pulled the “I don’t know what abs are” thing on me. OMG, it was awful, truly awful. He met my spurs, brought his back up, did one more circle and I called it a day and then dialled back his work load for a few days. He was fine for me from then on, but whenever someone new would hop on (he was subsequently leased to one of my students after my exams), he would pull the “Abs? Never heard of them” thing until they insisted that he get his belly off the ground and work more honestly.

So, although I’m not going to tell you not to practise your sitting trot, I am going to say that working towards engagement of your horse’s abs is going to help you both a whole lot by making that sitting trot more comfortable.


No she doesn’t work over her back 100% of the time, which is why I don’t do sitting trot until I feel that she is properly swinging through.

You implied here that your horse wasn’t working over her back.

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So I’m definitely not a Grand Prix rider (and currently sidelined with a “broken” back), but it looks almost like you are bracing against your stirrup on the down beat of the stride?

I always think of it like breathing with my legs - they drape around my horses sides and during the upward push they “close” slightly and then relax slightly on the down beat. Then my body has to be stacked so I can actually stay with my horse as they move forward.

My suggestion is do no stirrup work and just learn to relax into it. Do transitions back and forth and just find your “groove.” I would concentrate on keeping your legs underneath you and focus on dropping your weight down through your legs (almost think about kneeling into your knees?) and draping that leg. You’ll find it!

As your horse gets stronger, they will give you a more and more comfortable place to sit into and you’ll get stronger in your position at the same time.

Hope this helps!


It was a joke…and she doesn’t work over her back 100% of the time because we are both learning. Sometimes when I am, she comes up and I have to work through it, well we both do. We are just figuring things out.


I can give you one tip from my coach that was life changing to me (in addition to keep your inner thigh closed).Move your own hips every stride. Not passively “allowing” your hips to follow the horse, but actively lifting them a little up and forward every step, like a little ab crunch. Not up down, up down, like posting trot but each step up, up, up, up. The trick though is to do that without clenching your butt.