Teaching a rider how to trot for the first time can be scary for both the instructor and the rider. Safety and a positive outcome need to be in the forefront of the instructor’s mind at all times. A new rider is often scared to trot or overly enthusiastic. Both types of riders present a challenge to the instructor but with the right components on place, the first trotting lesson will be a wonderful experience for the beginning ride.
The first trot should be taught on a lunge line so that the rider can focus on balancing without concern for controlling the horse. Make sure that you have chosen a horse with a manageable trot, not a horse that is too bouncy or may be at risk for tripping or bucking. A trip or buck can be a traumatic experience for the new rider and is a safety nightmare for the instructor.
On the day of the first trotting lesson, allow the student plenty of time to warm up and become comfortable at the walk as they have done in previous lessons. When it is time to begin the trotting part of the lesson, stop and adjust the rider’s position and tack:
Set the rider in an in-the-saddle jumper position. This is a functional seat that allows the rider to sit deep but stay right on the horse’s center of gravity. Their foot should be level and balanced across the stirrup so that they can really step onto it but are not wedged. From this position, they can hold the reins along with some mane or an “uh-oh” strap as we call them at Adagio Dressage- it’s basically a grab strap attached securely across the front of the saddle. The idea is that you want something to help the rider keeps their hands low, avoiding the instinct to grab onto the reins and bounce them into the air.
Show the rider at the halt how to go up out of the saddle with their seat and down through their thighs. Learning the simple up and down motion of posting in a controlled fashion at the halt engages the muscle groups they will need when the horse begins to trot. Posting at a stand-still also give them a tangible skill to practice while they are finding their rhythm.
While horse and rider are here in front of you, double check all equipment. At a faster pace, things can come loose. A quick tack check gives you another opportunity to avoid unnecessary risk. Make sure to look at helmet buckles and check both the saddle and bridle on each side.
It is time to trot! Remind your student to keep their eyes up and have fun. A first trot should be kept relatively brief and the main objective should be allowing the rider an opportunity to be comfortable in this new and quicker gait. End the lesson on a positive note and pick up again next time repeating all of the basics until they are able to balance enough to learn to control the horse independently while posting at the trot.