I’ve been playing around with the rising trot with several clients recently. It’s useful for engaging the riders brain, giving the rider a workout and a horse an easy warm up. I’ve used it with my youngest clients to improve motor control, to help when we progress to teaching diagonals, and to help improve the stability of their lower leg. I find it a good ice breaker when teaching groups of kids, and invariably gets them giggling happily.
The usual rising rhythm is up-down-up-down, and once you get in rhythm with your horse your horse helps propel you into the rhythm so it is fairly effortless. Muscle memory also means that you can do rising trot automatically, and with very little thought involved.
However, when you try to change your rising so that you are rising in the sequence up-down-down-up, akin to changing your trot diagonal, your core muscles have to engage. Try continuously changing your trot diagonal using this rhythm and you soon start to feel the effect in your core.
The harder option, which really tests balance and lower leg stability, is rising in the following sequence: up-up-down-up-up-down. For one of my young clients, who tends to have a bit of an armchair position, this is quite difficult because her lower leg sits a bit too far forwards to support her in the “up” phase. However, by using a combination of standing up and hovering in the stirrups for a few strides of trot and the above sequence, she is getting much more balanced. Of course, this will also have an effect on the security of her jumping position because the weight will be in her heel which is directly below her hip, which I think is what this rider is most concerned about!
Finally, probably the hardest sequence to ride is this last one: up-up-down-down. You need motor control in order to not collapse down in the “up” phase yet also need your core so that you can absorb the horse’s motion in the “down” phase.
Try it next time you’re warming up and you’ll soon notice any weaknesses in your position – a forward lower leg or using your reins to balance, for example. Once you can switch between the different sequences smoothly without disrupting your horse’s rhythm, your core muscles are switched on resulting in better rising trot and a more stable and secure position.