Second Year Student
I am learning to use my leg aid in rising trot. I don’t think I ever thought about how to use my legs in all of my years riding beyond gripping to stay on, banging them against my horse’s sides for go, and taking them off to slow down. Pretty rudimentary.
I focus on following the motion in the rising trot, allowing my body to relax and move in balance with the horse. During the rising phase of the trot all of my joints open to allow the upward and forward movement and follow the motion of the horse from my ankles, to knees, to hips, and elbows. During the sit phase of the trot, all of my joints close to fully absorb the motion. It is at the moment of sitting briefly in the saddle that my legs can naturally come onto the sides of the horse. This makes complete sense to me; rise and open, sit and close. I concentrated on rising and opening my hip and then folding back down into the saddle, bending at the knee joint, and closing my lower leg on the sides of my horse.
Because I am prone to analyze obsessively when I am taught something new, I had to go home and draw out the phases of trot and a little stick figure (me) over the top of the hoof prints to figure out precisely what was going on in rising trot. A full stride of trot has 4 phases and 2 beats. See Simon Battrami's article: The Purity of the Gaits. I wanted to figure out what my body was doing during each of the phases Through my little stick figure drawings, I discovered that when I am tracking left, I start to rise when the horse’s inside hind and outside front legs land and push me up as the diagonal pair of legs move forward through the first phase of suspension. At the highest point of my rise, the outside hind and inside front legs land for the second beat and I start to sit down in the saddle through the second phase of suspension. I sit fully in the saddle when the inside and outside front legs land again. This is the moment when I apply my leg aids. Having trouble visualizing that? Welcome to my brain!
I quietly chant to myself as I trot around the arena: Sit squeeze. Sit squeeze. My horse happily follows my rhythm or am I happily following his? Doesn’t matter. I have leg aids. Now all I have to do is learn how to use my leg aids to get forward from leg, to establish rhythm, and for lateral movement.