Sitting to the trot
By Derriere Equestrian sponsored eventer Daisy Berkeley
It was plain to see at the eventing dressage element of the Olympic Games this year that some riders are able to ‘sit’ to their horse’s trot better than others. Obviously there would have been many factors influencing this fact, such as the rider’s level of experience and the horse’s breeding, but it is clear that a soft, connected riding position in sitting trot does little to hinder the gait and performance of the horse, while a braced back and less flexible pelvis leads to a stilted movement.
A recent British study conducted by Hartpury College using a riding simulator looked at rider asymmetry during sitting trot, at fast and slow speeds. “Asymmetry is perceived to limit performance within equestrian sports,” the researchers proposed.
They sought to determine whether the speed of the trot influenced the degree of rider asymmetry, and used young women in their study, who all rode a minimum of five times per week, and held a competitive record.
Results showed that the riders’ left shoulders were positioned lower than the right during slow sitting trot, and that in both fast and slow sitting trot, the right ankle joints were positioned lower than the left. The slower trot speed produced greater asymmetry within this population.
“If a rider is asymmetrical, then in addition to hindering the horse’s balance and straightness, instructional signals could be misinterpreted by the horse. Training problems deemed as behavioural problems could be the result of rider postural asymmetry, while rider injury and back pain may also occur as a result of postural asymmetry,” researchers concluded.
Significantly in this study, all riders were right handed, as are around ninety percent of the population. Are many of us subconsciously dropping our left shoulder and right ankle when attempting sitting trot?
If we are subconsciously leaning into the right stirrup and lifting our right shoulder when taking sitting trot, this sounds very much as if our left hip is collapsing. All of these subtle asymmetries will affect the horse to a degree, and could well be influencing our dressage marks!
My suggestion is to work with your riding instructor to identify any asymmetries in your riding, and perhaps have some lessons on a riding simulator. Invest in some comfortable breeches and riding underwear, to be sure you are not offsetting your position due to personal discomfort. Remember, when the rider is comfortable within the saddle, there is less likelihood of compensatory misalignment of the spine and pelvis, e.g. altering the body position to avoid pain to the sensitive areas. Bear in mind also that a good sports bra is essential.
The media recently reported that female horse riders who fail to wear a sports bra could be causing distress to their animals, according to Portsmouth University researchers, as riding without a sports bra can lead to poor posture that’s sensed by the horse. If you are particularly dominant in one hand, using your right hand to lift water buckets and hay bales for example, you could try a programme of strength building and exercise, to strengthen your left side.
Eventing, dressage, riding position, sitting trot, gait, rider asymmetry, equestrian sports, rider, rider back pain, riding instructor, dressage marks, riding simulator, breeches, riding underwear, sports bra