Let me count the reasons why this terrific, two-beat gait is my favorite.
By Kelli Neubert
September 6, 2016
For a lot of horsemen, it just doesn’t get much better than a steady cruise in the saddle at a comfortable, unwavering walk.
Others prefer the ambling, three-beat rock of a lope (or canter) as they log their miles horseback.
There are even a select few that spend the majority of their time in their saddle as a blur across the horizon, covering ground at a high-speed gallop.
But as for me? Well, my heart will always belong to that terrific, two-beat trot.
I recognize that the other gaits are pleasant and necessary. I can appreciate each one’s place in the training process. A smooth lope is hard to beat, and a walk is often the most appropriate travel speed. But whether I’m riding across the arena to turn a cow back or covering the county with my trusty steed, my go-to method of travel is the trusty trot.
I love the solid, strong and cadenced feel that a trot brings. It’s exceptionally important when working a horse on a cow, as two feet are always in contact with the ground and the horse is physically ready to shut down his momentum into a stop at any point if necessary. Moving into a trot also offers increased opportunities to work on a horse’s drive, extension, collection and other maneuvers. And for riding outside? It just doesn’t get much better to me than a long-reaching, efficient, extended trot on a horse with bright ears and a loose rein.
However, with this beloved trot comes the question of my own body. Sure, at the walk, lope and gallop, I need to position myself properly and then hold my body in the right place. But when faced with any varying speed of the trot, should I extend that trot and post or sit deep in my saddle and coast?
Sitting the trot can be nice at a slow jog or on a smooth horse, but is often quite rough and uncomfortable when the animal is moving a little faster or has a rougher gait. When thinking about stopping the horse (when you are working a cow, for example), it is helpful to sit the trot as it better prepares both your horse and your body to stop the motion. I’ve also been told to sit the trot when asking for transitions between gaits. An added bonus? Sitting the trot can be a great abdominal workout. But it can be discouraging when going any sort of distance, especially on a bumpy animal.
Posting the trot (that is, moving one’s body up and down in the saddle to match the beat of the horse’s gait) offers a smoother solution to riding a horse while he travels. Posting can help the horse with balance and weight distribution and helps the rider to maintain a rhythm and acceptable comfort level while traveling at the trot. Posting can also serve as a signal to speed up or slow down, as the rider’s posting speed can guide the horse on how to travel.
Trotting brings a level of fitness into our riding as well. Not only does it better condition our horses physically, it is a great way for us to get in better shape as well. Trotting engages our legs and our core, and will burn over 450 calories an hour for a 150-pound person, compared to 175 cals/hr at a walk (Source: Texas A&M Agrilife study).
Yes, our view is the same, no matter the speed. To walk, lope or gallop is sure hard to beat. But between you and me, if you haven’t forgot, I like hitting a trot.