The key to making both you and your horse more comfortable for you so it’s easier to sit the trot, is to put him on the bit so his back is round. You do that with what I call “the “connecting aids”.
Before you try to give connecting aids, check that your horse “thinks forward” in posting trot. That is, When you close both calves, does he surge forward toward a lengthening? If he doesn’t, give him a couple of taps with the whip or a couple of bumps with your legs to chase him forward. Then, ask him to surge forward again when you close your calves lightly. If he gives you a good answer this time, praise him.
The Connecting Aids
So in a nutshell, here are the aids to put your horse on the bit. I call them the “connecting aids”.
The “connecting aids” are a combination of three ingredients that are maintained for about three seconds—the length of time it takes you to inhale and exhale:
Those three ingredients are the:
• driving aids
• bending aids
• rein of opposition
The driving aids consist of your seat and your two legs because any of those aids will drive the horse forward.
The bending aids consist of your inside rein which asks the horse to look in the direction that he is going, your inside leg on the girth, and your outside leg behind the girth. Each of those aids contributes to bend.
The rein of opposition is the outside rein. It’s called the rein of opposition because it opposes too much speed from the driving aids and too much bend from the bending aids.
When you marry those three ingredients–driving aids, bending aids and rein of opposition for about three seconds, you give the cue to put your horse on the bit—the connecting aids.
First ask him to surge forward as you did when you were asking him to go forward toward a lengthening in posting trot. After his first two strides that are more forward, close your outside hand in a fist, and vibrate the inside rein. Keep all of these aids on for about 3 seconds. You’re asking for the surge FIRST so you can be sure you’re riding from back to front.
Give the connecting aids almost simultaneously, but think of them in this order:
- Close both legs.
- Close your outside hand in a fist.
- Squeeze and release on the inside rein.
- Maintain for 3 seconds and then soften.
Refining the Connecting Aids
When you’re first leaning how to give connecting aids, this is how you’ll start. Later on, you’ll make some minor adjustments which include:
1. Duration- Once your horse understands the connecting aids, you won’t have to give them for the full 3 seconds. If your horse comes on the bit after 1 or 2 seconds, soften right away.
2. Seat- Once your horse comes on the bit right away because he understands the connecting aids, add your seat to the driving aids. You’ll close both aids and give a little push with your seat as if you’re moving the back of the saddle toward the front of the saddle.
3. Timing of aids-It’s important to time your aids. That’s because your horse can ONLY respond to an aid when a hind leg is on the ground—and specifically just before it pushes off. But in the beginning if you worry about timing the aids, you’re going to get stiff which will be counter-productive. So by giving the connecting aids for about three seconds when both you and your horse are still learning, you’ll be overlapping the time when each hind leg is on the ground.
When you marry the three sets of aids correctly, your horse will come on the bit, and, as a result, it’ll be easier for you to sit the trot.