It was one of those rare days when I had time AND the weather was beautiful. I decided I would rather ride in our local park than do my usual dressage ring work.
Although I didn't know anyone at the park, I did my normal "Hey, can I ride along with you" to the ladies parked next to me and we headed out to the trail. (My husband alters the conversation a bit when I tell him I do this to "Hey, my name is Brianna. Will you be my friend?")
As we ambled down the trails we got to know one another and one of them asked me how I sat the trot without bouncing. Well first... I was shocked she didn't think I bounced! While I am working on the sitting trot, it certainly is not stellar. Then I was a bit excited.. maybe I am getting somewhere with this dressage thing!
I asked her to trot off so I could see what she was doing and why she was bouncing. Her horse was gaited so she was right to assume she should be feeling like she was gliding rather than bouncing across rough water on a boat. Yup.... she wasn't imagining it... she was bouncing.
I noticed that as soon as her horse started trotting she tightened her butt muscles and upper thighs. The effect was like a nutcracker. As her legs tightened and squeezed, her butt rose from the saddle and became tight. Her horse felt the tightness and responded by tightening his back. The tighter her butt, the tighter his back. The tighter the back, the more she bounced. The more she bounced, the tighter his back.
I asked her to come back to a walk and imagine her butt was soft fluffy mashed potatoes. Let the butt sink into the saddle like it got plopped onto a Thanksgiving plate alongside the turkey.
Once she got the feel of mashed potatoes, she tried the trot concentrating on keeping the mashed potato butt. Aha! Nice soft trot from the horse and she stayed in the saddle.
A few strides into the trot, the butt started tightening and she started bouncing. She returned to the walk and got the mashed potato butt back and tried the trot again. Each time she repeated, she was able to keep the soft trot just a bit longer. Like everything with the horse, practice until you think you have it and then practice it some more!