Exercises for improving the trot
I thought it would be good to start a series of little threads filled with members tips of improving certain aspects of the horse's training. It will be a good place for people to refer to for help, before starting a new thread :)
So this one - what are some exercises you find useful to improve the trot?
I love to do canter - trot - canter - trot - canter transitions to improve the trot.
During the warmup phase, I frequently mix in trot on a long rein with walk, we're talking a walk/trot transition every 8 steps or so with just two walk steps mixed in. I take up the rein slack after he starts pushing from behind instead of plodding along up front.
Further along in the ride, canter/trot works to some degree but can backfire and take the relaxation part out of the equation, so we switch to...
Spiral in / spiral out at the trot
Turn on haunches each direction a few times at the walk
Leg yield or shoulder-in at either gait
Riding squares using no inside rein aid to make the turns (keeps him honest on the outside leg and rein)
Transitions within the trot.
When the horse is a little more advanced, I like to ride shoulder in trot, into canter, then back to trot shoulder in. It gets them really thinking and frees up the back and shoulders considerably. Plus they have to come onto their haunches in the canter and transition, to be able to stay balanced into the shoulder in.
I also mentioned this in my post in 'what are you working on', but I love to ride leg yield, alternating between haunches in and out, down the long side. I find that it gets the hind legs very active, and you establish a good connection from the haunches into your hand. At the end of the long side, you can also add a working turn on the haunches (yep - in trot as well) and repeat the exercise on the other rein. Adding the turn on the haunches (or forehand) is great to rebalance and get them absolutely on their haunches and with your aids, or they fall on their face!
I like the circle in and circle out again method for helping the trot. I found this was great for getting my horse to realize she didn't have to run around her circles.
My trainer says with a green horse you want to start out BIG and end up with nothingness.
I more than one way.
The way you help a green horse with balance, and forwardness is almost an exageration of what you would essentially do with a school master to help reinforce what you are asking for. So start of bigger, asking for more forwards, making the bends slightly bendier, exaggerate the movement, almost. After time, take away from it so you as a rider look like you're working less and the horse has to learn to do these things on its own rather than relying on a rider 100% to keep it together all the time.
A favourite excercise of mine is to use changes through half the school, extend those few paces, then really collect when you hit the corners/ direction change.
A lot of people also ride along the outside of the school so much they forget that the horse has to be straight- and this is in any gait. Riding more middle lines, and on the second track will help ensure your horse is straight from you, and you are correctly straightning (sp?) the horse rather than relying on the boards.
Bending is a great tool, and great practise for when you are in the warm up arena and other riders try and cut you up. Making sure you have breaks and the ability to turn and a 2 cent coin is important, IMO. It saves from a lot of accidents from other ignorant riders.
Most importantly though is riding figures correctly. We have a sheet with all school figures laminated at our place for anyone to take a peek at so they know where they should change bends, how they should be ridden, different varities (forward, collected, 10m circles in loops etc) can be ridden. Its alright saying 'I can do 4 loop serpentines' but unless they're ridden correctly then they don't benefit.
Evil excercise 1: 1 Loop Serpentine on the long side working/middle trot, middle of the long side 10m circle to the wall collected trot, contine serpentine working/middle trot.
Evil excercise 2: 4 loop serpentine through the LENGTH of the school, 6-8m circle in each 'bow' or loop. To keep the horse straight and consistant through out takes a lot out of both horse and rider!
On a 20 meter circle - for 1/4 of the circle do lengthened/extended trot, next 1/4 do working trot - then repeat for the second 1/2 of the circle.
To make it harder extended to working to collected and back again.
Trot/halt/trot once good trot/walk/trot then canter/walk/canter or canter/halt/canter.
WITHOUT slamming on the brakes.
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