How come I can ride trot better than canter?

Or, conversely, how come I can ride canter better than trot?

Rudolf used to note that some riders are more skilled at the trot gaits.  (I say “gaits” plural because piaffe and passage, never mind rein back, are also diagonally paired gaits.)

And of course some riders are more skilled at the canter.  I would say as a gross generalization that riders skilled in jumping are generally better riding the dressage canter than riders who have never jumped.

How come?

I will make this very very simple as it is so obvious–after one has been told!

The motion of the rider’s pelvis is different for each of these gaits, and if one takes the advice given to ride one correctly and applies it to the other, then trouble is likely to result.

Passage is a subject to itself, but in the basic trot a looseness of the thigh is important because it allows the riders pelvis to follow (or lead) the horse’s swinging back.  If one clamps the thigh inward (or levers it incorrectly under the knee roll to force the seat down) the pelvis is stabilized too much and will be “against” the horse in one phase of the back swing or other.  (Think brick.)  This is why Rudolf looked askance when I tried to show off how well I could post without stirrups in my first week in Germany.

“We don’t do that here!!!”

(Better luck next time for an ex jumper rider.)

Why don’t we do that here?  (Rising trot without stirrups)

German answer: Well, because we don’t.  You think about it.

Okay, I did.Please see all those other posts about use of the seat and how the pelvis is put together.

So strive for relaxed flexibility in the hip in the trot, but when a dressage rider canters, some contraction/closure of the thigh (rhythmically!) is needed.  If one loosens the thigh entirely for 100% of the stride, the rider tends to get behind the motion, “wallowing” in the saddle.  This will generally cause the horse to flatten and run rather than jump in the canter.  The rider actually leads the lift of the horse in the canter–can’t do that from the rumble seat.


(This for those of you who did not learn to ride with Fran and Joe  Dotoli,  jumping with Young Entry Stables in Massachusetts,  is a rumble seat.  Also Fran’s image for a rider hopelessly behind the horse approaching a fence.)

And this lack of getting “left behind” in the stride, is why jumper riders tend to find it easier to learn the dressage canter–though they often have to learn the moment to relax the thigh to allow the seat to settle.  They usually know the other skill.

The trot is in fact harder to learn to ride correctly than the canter, and a great deal of rider influence is also possible in this gait,  Which is often why you see some very skilled riders–Rudolf is an example, and so was Schultheis–who uniformly ride beautiful trots into their horses.  The riders influence of the diagonal pairing is very profound.

So, please trot differently than you canter, and canter differently than you trot!

See, that wasn’t so hard or complicated.

Practice, practice, practice. . . .

One thought on “How come I can ride trot better than canter?

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