how to trot a horse

8 Tips For Learning How To Trot A Horse

Ah, the trot! It’s a gait that helps you travel faster on your horse than a walk, without the jarring jolts of a canter. It’s a rhythmic motion that makes your horse look graceful, like a metronome.

However, it requires skill and practice to master properly, or else it can turn even the most experienced rider into a bouncing potato.

But don’t worry, horse owners! Whether you’re a beginner holding on for dear life or a seasoned pro trying to perfect your technique, this guide will assist you in trotting like a champion.

1. Mastering The Perfect Posture

Whether you’re a seasoned rider or just beginning, ensuring that you maintain perfect posture is essential for effective communication and control over your horse’s movement. Regardless of your chosen discipline, the foundation for a balanced and elegant seat remains the same, whether it is English or Western.

Maintaining proper posture is crucial for improving your riding ability and preventing fatigue or discomfort for you and your horse. To achieve this, imagine a piece of string pulling your head higher, aligning your spine and shoulders, while avoiding slouching or hunching forward.

It’s also important to keep your horse’s head up straight, looking ahead rather than down at your horse’s neck or mane. This allows you to maintain awareness of your surroundings and anticipate the horse’s movements.

Additionally, your hips and shoulders should be aligned, creating a stable core, and your ankles should be directly below your knees and hips, forming a straight line. Your arms should hang naturally at your sides, avoiding tension or gripping, and your elbows should rest gently against your ribs.

Finally, you should let your legs drape comfortably on either side of the horse, with a gentle grip using your inner thighs, without squeezing or gripping excessively. Remember, good posture is the foundation for confident and enjoyable riding.

2. How Fast Do Horses Trot?

The trot is the second swiftest gait of a horse. In this gait, the legs follow a repetitive pattern: the left fore and right hind move together, followed by the right fore and left hind, continuing in this alternating sequence. When observing a horse that’s trotting from the ground, the synchronised movement of diagonal leg pairs is easy to notice.

The trot is a critical aspect of horse riding, and it’s important to understand its nuances. It’s a dynamic dance that can be adjusted based on the rider’s requests and the horse’s training. It’s comparable to a musical piece, where the basic melody is the two-beat rhythm.

The rider’s role is crucial in this performance, and they have the option to either rise out of the saddle at each diagonal and swing forward of the horse’s legs or stay seated and master the smooth, subtle movements of the “sitting trot”. It’s like being a dancer, where the rider’s movements can enhance the horse’s performance.

It’s essential to note that the trot isn’t just a pretty spectacle; it’s also a tool for veterinarians to evaluate a horse’s health. If a horse is lame, sit the trot when the two-beat rhythm becomes uneven.

The diagonal leg movements become unequal, and one leg lags behind or hits the ground harder. Head nodding or a noticeable hip drop, along with this unevenness, can indicate discomfort or lameness and should be addressed immediately.

3. Four Speeds To Trot A Horse

As mentioned, a trotting pace is a distinctive gait in which the horse moves forward by lifting and setting down diagonally opposite legs in unison.

There are several variations of the trot that offer unique characteristics in terms of speed, cadence, and stride length. These variations can vary from a slow and steady pace to a rapid and energetic one, each requiring a different level of skill and training from the rider.

However, the different trot variations are not just about speed. They are tools to explore the horse’s athleticism, balance, and responsiveness. Ultimately, mastering these gaits leads to a deeper connection and a more harmonious partnership between the rider and horse.

Working trot

The working trot is a horse’s natural gait characterised by a comfortable, flowing rhythm. Here are some key features of the working trot:

  • Balanced and relaxed: Horses should carry themselves evenly, with free-moving shoulders and hind feet stepping into the front footprints (also known as “tracking up”).
  • Active and rhythmical: The stride length should be moderate, with a clear two-beat cadence.
  • Common mistake: Pushing the horse too fast can disrupt the rhythm and shorten the stride, making the horse rush.

Mastering the working trot is essential for:

  • Developing a balanced and supple horse
  • Building a strong foundation for more advanced gaits
  • Ensuring comfortable riding for both horse and rider

To achieve this, riders should focus on encouraging their horse’s natural rhythm and maintaining a relaxed pace. This will lay the foundation for smooth and controlled riding in all other trot variations.

Collected trot

The collected trot is an uphill, more compact version of the working trot that aims to gather the horse’s energy and channel it forward:

  • Shorter, more powerful strides: The horse shortens its reach with each step by lifting its back with engaged hindquarters.
  • Active impulsion: The horse maintains a forward drive and a two-beat rhythm, even though it has shorter strides.
  • Shifting weight: The horse shifts its weight from front to back to create a balanced frame.
  • Common mistake: Relying solely on the reins to control the horse can result in a shortened neck and hollow frame.

Mastering the collected trot is essential for:

  • Developing lift and cadence in the stride
  • Improving balance and engagement
  • Enhancing communication and responsiveness

Mastering the collected trot requires:

  • Leg aids: To activate the hindquarters and encourage uphill movement.
  • Suppleness: A flexible back and engaged core allow the horse to collect effectively.
  • Balance: The rider must maintain a stable and centred position.

Focusing on uphill balance and hindquarters engagement can help your horse develop a powerful and elegant collected trot.

Medium trot

The medium trot is a gait that bridges the gap between the collected and extended gaits. It involves:

  • An extended stride, where the horse reaches further with each leg compared to the working trot but not as much as in the extended trot.
  • An uphill posture, where the horse maintains its balance and engages its hindquarters to push from behind.
  • A moderate increase in speed compared to the working trot, without feeling rushed.
  • A slight change in the horse’s outline, with the head coming slightly in front of the vertical as the horse stretches its frame.
  • Common mistake: rushing the horse or losing the uphill frame.

Mastering the medium trot can bring a range of benefits, such as:

  • Improving stride length and reach
  • Developing suppleness and engagement
  • Enhancing athleticism and responsiveness

To master the medium trot, you need:

  • Clear leg aids to encourage lengthening without losing balance.
  • Strong core engagement to support the horse’s extension.
  • Focus on impulsion and maintaining forward drive from the hindquarters.

Extended trot

The extended trot is an impressive display of a horse’s trotting ability. Here are some key features to help you master this expressive gait:

  • Maximum extension: Both the front and hind legs reach out and lengthen equally, creating a stretched-out frame.
  • Impulsion from behind: The hindquarters generate power, propelling the horse forward in a balanced and uphill manner.
  • Effortless flow: The horse maintains a steady two-beat rhythm, not simply rushing its steps.
  • Common mistake: Overemphasising front leg extension without engaging the hindquarters, leading to an unbalanced and ineffective gait.


  • Develops athleticism and power
  • Improves suppleness and range of motion
  • Enhances responsiveness and communication

Requirements to master the extended trot:

  • Precise leg aids: To encourage equal extension and maintain uphill balance.
  • Strong core engagement: The rider needs to support the horse’s extension without pulling it forward.
  • Focus on uphill impulsion: Remember, the hindquarters drive the extension, not the front legs.

Not all horses are naturally suited for the extended trot due to their conformation. Advanced training and a focus on impulsion are key to unlocking this expressive gait.

4. How Long Can Your Horse Trot For?

The duration for which a horse can trot depends on several factors, such as its age, breed, type, level of training, and fitness.

When a horse is turned out in the field or in its natural habitat, trotting comes more naturally to it than when carrying the weight of a rider. As a horse becomes physically mature and develops, and attains a higher fitness level, it can trot for longer periods. However, this process takes time and is gradual.

5. Rising Trot vs Sitting Trot

When a horse begins training, they are usually introduced to a rising trot. It helps their back muscles develop and prepares them for the demands of sitting trot. The rider moves in sync with the horse’s one-two rhythm, which helps them develop a connection and communicate better.

Rising trot

A rising trot is a comfortable and flexible alternative that can be easier for both the horse and the rider. But, to master it, you need good coordination and balance, which can be a challenge for beginners. That’s why starting with a calm and reliable horse with proper ground support is important.

Switching diagonals effectively is another critical skill that can be challenging for beginners. It takes practice to get it right. Sitting on the inside hind leg at the right time can help maintain the horse’s balance in an arena. But, with practice, anyone can master this essential skill.

Sitting trot

A sitting trot is an advanced skill that demands a lot from both the horse and the rider. It needs a strong core and balanced posture to master and make your horse move elegantly and smoothly.

However, it’s more physically demanding than a rising trot because it requires sustained engagement of the rider’s core and leg muscles. Some horses might find it more challenging on their backs, so they need proper training and fitting.

6. The Trot Up

The trot-up is a big deal in equestrian sports where the rider and horse show off their skills. It’s not just a casual walk, but a carefully choreographed performance consisting of a simple walk-and-trot sequence.

A vet can also use a trot-up to make sure the horse is healthy and fit to compete in events like showjumping and dressage. They look for any irregularities during the trot that might indicate pain or discomfort.

In showing classes, judges use the trot-up to evaluate the horse’s overall movement, quality, and balance. They check how the horse uses its hindquarters, tracks up, up and down movement and maintains an uphill frame.

Handlers showcase the horse’s trot to potential buyers at horse sales, highlighting its athleticism, grace, and temperament.

The trot-up is usually done on a flat, firm surface to minimise distractions and get an accurate assessment. The handler walks the horse straight away from the observer, then turns the horse smoothly, and trots it back towards the same position as the observer while keeping a consistent rhythm and tempo.

Apart from competitions, vets also use trot-ups to assess a horse’s health and wellness. Trot-up training can help the horse become more responsive and improve its balance.

In a nutshell, the trot-up is a moment when the rider and horse come together to display their partnership and potential. It’s a snapshot of the horse’s athleticism and overall well-being.

7. Good Horse Trotting

The trot, a two-beat rhythm of a horse’s hooves hitting the ground, is a gait and a display of the horse’s breed, conformation, and athletic potential. Although soundness is of utmost importance, the natural expression of a trot can significantly differ based on these factors.

Here are some tips to keep in mind when it comes to horse breeds and their trotting abilities:

  • Certain breeds like Warmbloods and ponies are naturally great at trotting, with uphill trots that cover a lot of ground. These are perfect for activities like dressage that require good extension and collection.
  • A horse with a strong hind leg and a balanced frame will have an active and expressive trot with impressive reach and impulsion.

But watch out for conformation issues like plaiting (inward swing of a hind leg) or dishing (outward swing of lower legs) that can mess with their movement and balance.

Standards and judging for dressage and showing:

  • Dressage: Judges aim to find a naturally balanced and uphill trot with clear tracking up. In this gait, the hind feet should land in the footprints of the front. A horse with a naturally ground-covering and expressive trot can easily move up through the training levels.
  • Showing: Every breed has its own standard for the trot. Judges will assess the horse’s smooth and flowing gait that fulfils the breed’s specific characteristics. They will penalise faults like plaiting, not tracking up, or dishing.

Knowing how the horse’s breed, body shape, and show standards affect the trot can assist riders in selecting the best horse for their needs and objectives. Many fields prefer a naturally uphill and ground-covering trot, but breed and body shape also contribute to achieving this.

Different breeds have different criteria for shows, so it’s crucial to grasp these standards to excel in competitions. Proper training and conditioning are important to refine the horse’s natural trot, enhance its balance and expression, and make it more harmonious and expressive.

By understanding the intricate relationship between breed, body shape, and the trot, riders can unleash the full potential of their equine companions and create a stunning movement performance.

8. Trotting vs Pacing

So, did you know that trot and pace are two different ways horses move? Here are some essential things to know about them:


  • The horse’s legs move diagonally, the front left and right hind legs move together, and then the front right and left hind follow.
  • It’s a natural gait for most horses and is used in various disciplines like dressage, show jumping, and pleasure riding.
  • A well-trained trotter looks smooth and balanced, with the hind feet following the front.


  • The horse’s front and hind legs on the same side move together, making a side-to-side motion.
  • Pacers are specifically bred for their pacing ability and are usually faster than trotters.
  • A gene called DMRT3 is responsible for pacing, and breeders often select horses with this gene to ensure pacing offspring.

Trotters prioritise balance and rhythm, and pacers excel in speed. Trotters can be trained for many things, but pacers are mostly used for harness racing.

Knowing these differences can help you appreciate a horse’s versatility and athleticism, whether they glide gracefully in a trot or dance with the wind at a pace. While both trot and pace are two-beat gaits, they differ in how the horse’s legs move, each with unique characteristics and purpose.


Can I practice my trot without a horse?

Yes, you can! First, at a playground, swing while lifting your feet, using your body’s motion to move the swing. Similar muscles are engaged for a sitting trot.

Secondly, sit on a four-legged chair and spread your feet apart. Then tip the chair forward with your hips, activating the sitting trot muscles. These exercises simulate trotting motions, helping strengthen and engage the necessary muscles off-horse. Just be careful not to fall!

How can I stop bouncing so much while doing a sitting trot?

Mastering the sitting trot takes practice. Whether you’re new or returning to riding, bouncing is common with most riders. Consistent practice is key, and repetition builds muscle memory and balance.

Don’t delay, even if you’re not competing in a sitting trot yet. Starting early allows time to develop this skill. While it may take months, regular practice leads to improvement.


Mastering the trot is a crucial milestone in your horse riding journey that enhances your connection with your horse.

However, a trot requires a combination of dedication, practice, and a deep understanding of your horse’s movements.

Remember, patience and consistency are fundamental to successfully achieving the correct trot.

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