When introducing a beginner rider to the trot, is it better to have them sit the trot or post to the trot, or a little of both? Thanks. Lisa
Good question Lisa! Everyone's opinion is a little different on this subject. The fact of the matter is that when a person is first trotting, both the sitting and the posting trot are difficult for them. Here are a few thoughts to help you decide which progression to use in your lessons.
If your school horse is smooth gaited, then sitting the trot is not so hard and I would go ahead and have them do that first. If he is rougher or has a big trot, it would be easier for the rider to stand or post. When you are teaching the first-time-ever trot, it is most important to control the trot by having the riders trot one at a time and for short straight distances. It is also important to review how she will STOP before she begins and to give the rider an idea of what she should expect to feel (2 beats, bounces you up, etc.).
Once the rider has trotted a few times initially and seems in control then you can proceed to teach posting or sitting. For the initial trotting, I would just have them sit back, with their back and hips relaxed and possibly hang onto the pommel if needed. I like to get riders posting right away and it is a pretty natural movement for them to pick up.
I do not like to teach a person to post at the walk, as this is precisely the wrong motion for the posting trot. To post correctly, the rider must utilize the lift in the horse's back that occurs during the suspension in the trot. Since the walk has no suspension, if you ask a rider to practice posting at the walk, she learns to pull herself up with her hands and to push off the stirrup, which trains her muscle memory incorrectly. To post correctly, the rider needs to fell the rhythm of the trot and use the upward lift in the horse's back to help them rise up onto her thighs, then sit back down.
To me the sitting trot is more difficult than the posting trot, unless you have a super smooth horse. Therefore for me, the progression is to survive the trot the first few times, not worrying too much about how they are riding the trot (they will likely do a combination of standing and sitting), but to just make sure they can control the trot. Then learn the posting trot and then work on sitting trot.
But that' s just how I do it. There are many instructors that would feel differently and teach a different progression. And I might teach it differently depending upon the horse and the rider. There is no one right answer here. As long as your lessons are safe, fun and effective, and your students are making progress, then you are doing a good job. I hope this helps.