How to Keep Your Legs Still in a Trot

How to Keep Your Legs Still in a Trot

Keeping your legs still can be tricky, especially when the horse is in a trot. Your legs are bound to move a little bit but keeping them as still as possible will make you feel more stable on the horse. Perfecting your form is going to be key since the wrong leg placement and upper body position can make your legs swing or bounce too much when you’re trotting. It’s not an easy thing to master, but with enough practice, you’ll look and feel like a natural equestrian!

Method 1 of 3:
Positioning Your Legs

1
Roll your calves so your toes are pointed slightly outward. Point your toes slightly outwards so they make a 15 to 20-degree angle from the horse's head. Don’t over-angle them, just enough so that the inside of your thigh is touching the flap (English style) or side fender (Western style). Make sure the weight of your foot is evenly distributed in the stirrup for the most comfortable ride. [1] X Research source Pointing your feet straight forward will throw off your balance and restrict the movement of your hips and knees—both of which are key to staying on the horse and riding comfortably. This slight foot-angling can also help reduce any joint pain you might feel from long days riding.
2
Position your legs to be in-line with your shoulders, hips, and knees. A good way to know your perfect leg positioning is to place your legs where they naturally fall when you stand up. Hold your stirrups in one hand and hold onto the saddle's horn or pommel with the other. Stand up from your stirrups and take note of where your legs are on the side of the horse—that's roughly where you want them to stay when you're sitting down. [2] X Research source Take a video of yourself riding to check your form. You should see a vertical line between your shoulders, hips, and heels. If your legs move forward too much, it puts pressure on the horse's back which can be uncomfortable for them.
3
Keep your heels down by redirecting some weight into your ankles. Focus on pushing your heels down just slightly so they're stationed in place. Try not to push too far down because it will make your lower legs swing outward. Make sure your knees stay slightly bent so your toes are directly under them. [3] X Research source Your toes should be pointing slightly upward but not so much that your foot slips out of the stirrups. The inside of your thigh and your knee should lay against the flap or fender on the saddle to keep your foot in the optimal riding position. You may need to readjust your stirrups so that they're not too long—the bars should hit right at the level of your ankle. If they're too long, pushing down with your heels will naturally drive them forward, which means your legs will fall out of line with your hips and shoulders.
4
Avoid squeezing your legs around the horse. Keep your legs relaxed around the horse as you're riding. Squeezing them will not only make riding feel like a lot more work, but it's not very comfortable for the horse. [4] X Research source It may seem natural to want to squeeze your legs around the horse's midsection, but this will only cause your ankles to lift and your legs to swing back and forth. Some part of you is bound to move because the horse that you're on is moving. The more still your legs are, the more your upper body will bounce and vice versa. The only exception to this is when your horse is in a canter (a faster jog but not quite a full running pace). In that case, point your toes inward and gently hug the horse’s sides and belly.
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Method 2 of 3:
Positioning Your Upper Body

1
Engage your core to maintain an upright position on the horse. Flex your ab muscles to straighten your spine. Think about lifting your ribcage to create a straight line between your head, chest, and pelvis. Keep your shoulders relaxed and down and don't try to pull them back because that will cause your spine to curve. [5] X Research source The idea is that the movement travels up through your body effortlessly. It'll allow your pelvis to rock up and forward with the natural movement of the horse while it’s trotting.
2
Sit with your butt in the middle of the saddle. Check to make sure you can feel both of your seat bones in the middle of the saddle. When you're trotting, don't scoot your butt back so that your tailbone is right up against the base of the saddle seat because it'll send your legs forward and make them swing. [6] X Research source Your butt shouldn’t be touching the pommel or horn (for Eastern or Western saddles, respectively) or the cantle (the back lip of the saddle).
3
Go with the natural bounce of the trot by slightly straightening your knees. When your body naturally bounces upward, allow your knees to slightly straighten to distribute the movement evenly through your entire lower body and core. Don't think about straightening or bending your knees so much, just focus on going with the natural movement of the horse. [7] X Research source This is just a slight movement, so don't straighten your knee too much or it'll cause your legs to swing forward. The rising part is when the horse’s movement propels you upward in the saddle. You’ll notice it’s when the horse’s shoulder moves forward to make a stride.
4
Relax your upper arms and elbows at your sides while you're in a trot. As you feel the horse bounce you upward, open your elbows just slightly to absorb some of the motion. When you fall back down into the saddle, bend your elbows a little so they're slightly closed. This will keep your hands stable so they're not bouncing up and down. You’ll have an easier time maintaining your balance and have better control over the horse. [8] X Research source You can also rest your pinkies on your horse's mane. Your elbows will naturally open and close as your body bounces upward and forward. To help you remember, repeat "rise and open, sit and close" to yourself while you're trotting. Your elbows should never flap up and down or back and forth while you're trotting.

Tip: If you want to ride English style, take a rein in each hand and hold them steady over where the front of the saddle (the pommel) meets the horse’s mane. To ride Western style, hold both of the reins in one hand and let your other hand rest on your thigh. You can also hold both of the reins with one hand to guide the horse and hold the slack with your other hand.[9] X Research source

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Method 3 of 3:
Strengthening Your Body for Better Form

1
Increase your core power by doing planks. Start in a push-up position with your hands directly under your shoulders and your toes curled under to support your weight. Lower your elbows to the ground right under your shoulders. Try to keep your back completely flat as you hold the pose for 30-60 seconds. [10] X Research source If you’re a beginner, lower your knees to the ground to make it easier. For a challenge and to work your side abdominals, turn to the side, resting your weight on one elbow and the outer side of your bottom foot. Extend your other arm up or hold it on your waist. Again, keep your body in a straight line. Strengthening your core abdominals will help you maintain a good posture on the horse and hold you steady while you’re riding.
2
Loosen up your hips with standing straight-leg hip circles. Stand upright next to a wall or chair with your feet shoulder-width apart. Hold onto the wall or chair for balance and lift your leg all the way to the side as far as you can. Rotate your leg forward, down, and up again to draw a circle with your foot. Do 5 circles in both directions before switching to the other leg. [11] X Research source Try to make a 90-degree angle with your legs. If this is too difficult or if you have hip problems, lay down on the ground and draw large circles with your top leg.
3
Build your core strength, butt, and thighs with bridges. Lay flat on your back and bend your knees so that your feet are flat on the ground. Place your hands along your sides with your palms down and your fingers pointing in the same direction as your toes. Raise your hips to make a straight line from your shoulders to your knees and hold it for 30 seconds before lowering yourself down to the starting position. Do 2-3 sets of 10 reps. [12] X Research source Squeeze your core and think about pulling your belly button in toward your spine to really feel it. For a challenge, lift 1 leg straight into the air and do 10 more lifts while you're balanced on one leg. Switch to the other side. Strengthening these muscles will help stabilize your pelvis in the saddle, improving your overall balance on the horse.
4
Work your lower body with backward lunges. Step back with your right leg and lower your body until both of your knees are bent at 90-degree angles. Lift your body back up and step forward to return the starting position. Do this again with the other leg until you've done 10-20 reps on each side. [13] X Research source Keep your chest lifted, your neck straight, and your shoulders down as you lunge. For a challenge, hold 2 10–15 pounds (4.5–6.8 kg) dumbbells in each hand as you lunge. This one targets your glutes, quads, and hamstrings, which are all key to keeping your balance on the horse.
5
Master the correct foot positioning by balancing on the edge of a step. Stand on a stairwell or step-up box and hold onto a nearby wall or railing. Place the balls of your feet on the edge of the step and let your heels hang off. Lean back a little to feel the stretch in your calves and the back of your ankles. Hold this position for 10 to 20 seconds, rest, and then do it again a few more times. [14] X Research source This will help stretch your calf muscles and your Achilles tendon which is responsible for holding your foot in a flexed position. Elongating the ligaments and tendons in the back of your lower legs and ankles will help lessen the risk of a tear or strain after long days of riding at the ranch.
6
Do bent-knee leg lifts while riding on a walking horse. While the horse is walking at a casual pace, remove 1 foot from the stirrup and lift your knee upward until it's aligned with the base of your pelvis. Lower it back down to make 1 rep. Do this 10 times on each side to strengthen your hip muscles. [15] X Research source This is a great exercise to do when you're first starting to ride because it'll get you accustomed to the bounce of the horse and make you more aware of how your seat bones are positioned in the saddle. This will work your core, lower back, glutes, and quads, which are all engaged when you’re riding in the proper form.
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Method 1 of 3:
Positioning Your Legs

1
Roll your calves so your toes are pointed slightly outward. Point your toes slightly outwards so they make a 15 to 20-degree angle from the horse's head. Don’t over-angle them, just enough so that the inside of your thigh is touching the flap (English style) or side fender (Western style). Make sure the weight of your foot is evenly distributed in the stirrup for the most comfortable ride. [1] X Research source Pointing your feet straight forward will throw off your balance and restrict the movement of your hips and knees—both of which are key to staying on the horse and riding comfortably. This slight foot-angling can also help reduce any joint pain you might feel from long days riding.
2
Position your legs to be in-line with your shoulders, hips, and knees. A good way to know your perfect leg positioning is to place your legs where they naturally fall when you stand up. Hold your stirrups in one hand and hold onto the saddle's horn or pommel with the other. Stand up from your stirrups and take note of where your legs are on the side of the horse—that's roughly where you want them to stay when you're sitting down. [2] X Research source Take a video of yourself riding to check your form. You should see a vertical line between your shoulders, hips, and heels. If your legs move forward too much, it puts pressure on the horse's back which can be uncomfortable for them.
3
Keep your heels down by redirecting some weight into your ankles. Focus on pushing your heels down just slightly so they're stationed in place. Try not to push too far down because it will make your lower legs swing outward. Make sure your knees stay slightly bent so your toes are directly under them. [3] X Research source Your toes should be pointing slightly upward but not so much that your foot slips out of the stirrups. The inside of your thigh and your knee should lay against the flap or fender on the saddle to keep your foot in the optimal riding position. You may need to readjust your stirrups so that they're not too long—the bars should hit right at the level of your ankle. If they're too long, pushing down with your heels will naturally drive them forward, which means your legs will fall out of line with your hips and shoulders.
4
Avoid squeezing your legs around the horse. Keep your legs relaxed around the horse as you're riding. Squeezing them will not only make riding feel like a lot more work, but it's not very comfortable for the horse. [4] X Research source It may seem natural to want to squeeze your legs around the horse's midsection, but this will only cause your ankles to lift and your legs to swing back and forth. Some part of you is bound to move because the horse that you're on is moving. The more still your legs are, the more your upper body will bounce and vice versa. The only exception to this is when your horse is in a canter (a faster jog but not quite a full running pace). In that case, point your toes inward and gently hug the horse’s sides and belly.
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Method 2 of 3:
Positioning Your Upper Body

1
Engage your core to maintain an upright position on the horse. Flex your ab muscles to straighten your spine. Think about lifting your ribcage to create a straight line between your head, chest, and pelvis. Keep your shoulders relaxed and down and don't try to pull them back because that will cause your spine to curve. [5] X Research source The idea is that the movement travels up through your body effortlessly. It'll allow your pelvis to rock up and forward with the natural movement of the horse while it’s trotting.
2
Sit with your butt in the middle of the saddle. Check to make sure you can feel both of your seat bones in the middle of the saddle. When you're trotting, don't scoot your butt back so that your tailbone is right up against the base of the saddle seat because it'll send your legs forward and make them swing. [6] X Research source Your butt shouldn’t be touching the pommel or horn (for Eastern or Western saddles, respectively) or the cantle (the back lip of the saddle).
3
Go with the natural bounce of the trot by slightly straightening your knees. When your body naturally bounces upward, allow your knees to slightly straighten to distribute the movement evenly through your entire lower body and core. Don't think about straightening or bending your knees so much, just focus on going with the natural movement of the horse. [7] X Research source This is just a slight movement, so don't straighten your knee too much or it'll cause your legs to swing forward. The rising part is when the horse’s movement propels you upward in the saddle. You’ll notice it’s when the horse’s shoulder moves forward to make a stride.
4
Relax your upper arms and elbows at your sides while you're in a trot. As you feel the horse bounce you upward, open your elbows just slightly to absorb some of the motion. When you fall back down into the saddle, bend your elbows a little so they're slightly closed. This will keep your hands stable so they're not bouncing up and down. You’ll have an easier time maintaining your balance and have better control over the horse. [8] X Research source You can also rest your pinkies on your horse's mane. Your elbows will naturally open and close as your body bounces upward and forward. To help you remember, repeat "rise and open, sit and close" to yourself while you're trotting. Your elbows should never flap up and down or back and forth while you're trotting.

Tip: If you want to ride English style, take a rein in each hand and hold them steady over where the front of the saddle (the pommel) meets the horse’s mane. To ride Western style, hold both of the reins in one hand and let your other hand rest on your thigh. You can also hold both of the reins with one hand to guide the horse and hold the slack with your other hand.[9] X Research source

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Method 3 of 3:
Strengthening Your Body for Better Form

1
Increase your core power by doing planks. Start in a push-up position with your hands directly under your shoulders and your toes curled under to support your weight. Lower your elbows to the ground right under your shoulders. Try to keep your back completely flat as you hold the pose for 30-60 seconds. [10] X Research source If you’re a beginner, lower your knees to the ground to make it easier. For a challenge and to work your side abdominals, turn to the side, resting your weight on one elbow and the outer side of your bottom foot. Extend your other arm up or hold it on your waist. Again, keep your body in a straight line. Strengthening your core abdominals will help you maintain a good posture on the horse and hold you steady while you’re riding.
2
Loosen up your hips with standing straight-leg hip circles. Stand upright next to a wall or chair with your feet shoulder-width apart. Hold onto the wall or chair for balance and lift your leg all the way to the side as far as you can. Rotate your leg forward, down, and up again to draw a circle with your foot. Do 5 circles in both directions before switching to the other leg. [11] X Research source Try to make a 90-degree angle with your legs. If this is too difficult or if you have hip problems, lay down on the ground and draw large circles with your top leg.
3
Build your core strength, butt, and thighs with bridges. Lay flat on your back and bend your knees so that your feet are flat on the ground. Place your hands along your sides with your palms down and your fingers pointing in the same direction as your toes. Raise your hips to make a straight line from your shoulders to your knees and hold it for 30 seconds before lowering yourself down to the starting position. Do 2-3 sets of 10 reps. [12] X Research source Squeeze your core and think about pulling your belly button in toward your spine to really feel it. For a challenge, lift 1 leg straight into the air and do 10 more lifts while you're balanced on one leg. Switch to the other side. Strengthening these muscles will help stabilize your pelvis in the saddle, improving your overall balance on the horse.
4
Work your lower body with backward lunges. Step back with your right leg and lower your body until both of your knees are bent at 90-degree angles. Lift your body back up and step forward to return the starting position. Do this again with the other leg until you've done 10-20 reps on each side. [13] X Research source Keep your chest lifted, your neck straight, and your shoulders down as you lunge. For a challenge, hold 2 10–15 pounds (4.5–6.8 kg) dumbbells in each hand as you lunge. This one targets your glutes, quads, and hamstrings, which are all key to keeping your balance on the horse.
5
Master the correct foot positioning by balancing on the edge of a step. Stand on a stairwell or step-up box and hold onto a nearby wall or railing. Place the balls of your feet on the edge of the step and let your heels hang off. Lean back a little to feel the stretch in your calves and the back of your ankles. Hold this position for 10 to 20 seconds, rest, and then do it again a few more times. [14] X Research source This will help stretch your calf muscles and your Achilles tendon which is responsible for holding your foot in a flexed position. Elongating the ligaments and tendons in the back of your lower legs and ankles will help lessen the risk of a tear or strain after long days of riding at the ranch.
6
Do bent-knee leg lifts while riding on a walking horse. While the horse is walking at a casual pace, remove 1 foot from the stirrup and lift your knee upward until it's aligned with the base of your pelvis. Lower it back down to make 1 rep. Do this 10 times on each side to strengthen your hip muscles. [15] X Research source This is a great exercise to do when you're first starting to ride because it'll get you accustomed to the bounce of the horse and make you more aware of how your seat bones are positioned in the saddle. This will work your core, lower back, glutes, and quads, which are all engaged when you’re riding in the proper form.
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