Why Do You Bounce
Today I wanted to carry on talking about sitting trot and provide you with some more information on how to improve it. Its not something that you just suddenly get one day, it takes practice and its a continual process. Lots of it and making a commitment to practicing. Where I went wrong initially was not understanding what happens when you trot, so I would spend lots of time practicing without stirrups and just end up bouncing and getting rigid by engaging the wrong muscles.
It wasn’t until I understood the movement that took place in the horse and rider that I really understood what I was trying to achieve. By doing this it gave me great guidance when I practiced. Instead of mindless bouncing round and round the arena in the aim to improve. You would of heard the saying “practice makes perfect?” well it does, but your practice has to be correct, it doesn’t have to be “perfection”, but you want to head in the right direction and be aiming for perfect practice. We can never be perfect right away and in fact perfect is a very dangerous word as it can put people off from even trying. The aim is that you are trying to improve the right biomechanics by using the right muscles and not some other muscles that should be relaxed. By learning what is happening you will have to tools to combat bouncing and understand why things may be happening when you sit to the trot. You will then be able to put in the “perfect” practice and improve verses just practicing aimlessly without seeing improvement.
Why Do You Bounce?
Bouncing is caused when you get out of phase with the up and down motion the horse does when they trot. With the stride of the trot, the back comes up and lifts then travels back down again. If you don’t move with that motion you end up not traveling down in tune with them as they take the next step forward again. If you are then only partially down, as that next stride comes forward you get popped out of tune. Then the more strides in which this happens the more behind you become and the more you bounce.
So the key is to get in tune with the horses motion and learn to move as fast as his back does with the strides of the trot. In general this requires an up and down motion in tune with the strides. When you can get down at the same time as the feet hit the ground you will be in tune. This “getting down” requires the subtle pulsing action in your hips to be efficient to allow your seat bones to remain plugged in.
As you learn to get down and up with each stride you will then discover is not so one dimensional, the movement is in fact more of a forward/upward, backward/downward movement. To stay in tune with the horse then requires your hip and knee joints to extend (open) and flex (close) while your seat bones remain stable and balanced with the saddle. Now all of this movement happens when we remain plugged into the horse with our neutral spine and balanced seat bones. Your body moves in tune with it and gravity plays a role in keeping you connected as well as your core. Its not that you are “actively” trying to open and close your hips, or grip with your legs. This movement happens with the movement of the horse. You are able to acheive this when you have correct core function stabilizing you so your seat is able to be independent and deep on the horse and the hips open and close to allow you to not bounce.
One way to improve your bouncing is to develop your ability to improve flexion and extension of the hip while maintaining your neutral spine. Where people go wrong is they tend to lean back when they have trouble with extension and opening of their hips and this can create tension in other areas of the body due to the body not being correctly aligned in good biomechanics to absorb the horses motion. This also creates tension and blockages from incorrect muscle usage.
So from your neutral spine you are trying to improve hip mobility as well as strength to open and close in tune with the horses movement and not affect the position of your pelvis. You are wanting to create that independent seat that is able to move with the horse. This is done by creating a stable core and improving hip function. The goal is to learn to activate the correct muscles to allow your hip to move freely without affecting the position of your pelvis and neutral spine.
Some other things to be aware of when it comes to bouncing is squeezing and clinching of the thighs or glutes. This can pop you out. You are wanting to switch on the right muscles to keep you stable and balanced, but then relax around that. Its an elastic, fluid strength with relaxation that gets created when we ride. This is everything we go into detail about with the Dressage Rider Training program. Workouts, exercises and all the resources to help you shine as a dressage rider.
Improve your balance and position by working on your body off the horse. Learn more about the program here.