I am so confused about the free walk and stretchy trot
Here is what I DO think I understand, if I'm wrong let me know. A horse that has properly developed it's topline, balance, rhythm should be able to do free walk and stretchy trot with eas and comfort. It should be the horse's opportunity to have a relaxing moment.
Here is where I am very confused. I think I've had too many different people and trainers telling me too many different things and when I thought Cinny and I were doing it correctly, we obviously failed miserably as reflected by our marks for these elements in shows.
What I was told and thought was correct was that in the free walk, or stretchy trot circle the horse should stretch downward, rounding it's back but not changing it's stride or rhythm. Optimally the horse should be able to reach it's nose to the ground in these elements.
Cinny felt like he was rounding and would put his nose knee level with a roundish neck...almost like he was trying to graze while walking or trotting. Obviously something is wrong.
When I was running scores at a show I would watch the entry and guess at it's points for these elements. I was WAY WRONG on my guesses. Horses that I thought did them crappy would actually get better scores over the ones I thought did it correctly. The horses with the higher scores seemed not to stretch toward the ground but seemed to be trying to put their chin on their chest..... so it was down but super round neck almost behind the bit.
So... I'm hoping Spider sees this, because she REALLY helps me so much and I understand, but anybody else who has a good way to explain so that I am not confused, please do.
Cinny really really needs a lot of topline work, and this "off season" is going to be dedicated to topline development. I believe Free Walk and Stretchy circles when done correctly will also help me to gauge his topline development...or am I wrong in that too? Anyway, they are things we need to fix before next year.
I would not think a horse with his nose tucked back toward his chest would receive high scores in any part of dressage, much less a free walk. odd . . .
I agree. That is how it looks to me,but I could be wrong. They aren't behind the vertical or anything more Luke their neck is suddenly becoming much more round with the muscles puffing out...like a muscle builder but the head itself doesn't drop or get lowered.
And tiny, you are great at explaining too!
I'm also quite baffled by the horse with the chin to the chest scoring well. That doesn't sound right.
My understanding is, for free walk, the horse's head/neck should stretch as far forward as it does down. One looking as if it were about to graze would be too much down and not enough out. Head level with shoulders would be too much out without enough down. I do know I've scored better when I fish the reins out to him a little as a time than when I've tried to just drop them at stride 1. I think what the judge wants to see, is that, for every inch of rein you fish out to your horse, the horse stretches into that slack.
Same principle for the stretchy trot. As much out at down, fish out only as much rein as your horse will stretch into without dropping the contact.
I have Never heard the term stretchy trot before........... Subbing so someone can enlighten me :wink:
Stretchy circle is to show that your horse is truly on the aids. The horse is supposed to lengthen his frame as he stretches into longer contact. Horse's properly connected chew lightly on the bit and they stretch, while the fakers will duck behind or come above the bit.
The thing that people forget in both the free walk, and the stretching trot circles, is that you're not just throwing your reins away and having your horse dump it's head on the ground trying to eat the grass ;)
The activity of the working gait MUST be maintained.
In walk, the walk must be active, marching, back swinging, and the horse actively taking the riders hand forwards. Where marks are often lost in this movement, is the transitions from medium walk - free walk - medium walk. The free walk itself might be enough for an 8, but if the transitions are below par you'll be very lucky to scrape a 6.
You see a lot of riders simply throwing their reins away from the medium walk and hoping the horse drops its head - then wiggling the reins a bit when the head comes up. The transition to free walk should be smooth, check the test directives - in the Australian tests they ask for contact to be maintained. Keep your leg on, ride towards your hand as you would if asking for a collected pace, and gradually allow your reins.
The transitions to medium walk from free walk is much the same. The most common problem is a rider will have a great free walk, then panic coming back onto the track and shorten the reins abruptly - horse flings its head up, lose the hind legs, back stiffens and your mark has plummeted from an 8 to a 6.
This is a transition that you need to practice, and the method depends on the horse. Some horses will respond best to gradually take up both reins at the same time. Some are best if you take the inside rein up first, some the outside rein. Play around with it until you are consistently having the horse brings it's neck up and shorten the frame back to medium walk, without resistance.
Similar for the stretching trot circle.
Riders throw their reins away, horse puts nose on the ground, hind legs are gone, contact is gone. Then panic and pull the horse's head up back to working trot.
The stretching trot circle is quite challenging for most, if you ride is correctly. You want to maintain the activity and engagement in the hind quarters, keep the shoulders light, and allow the horse to reach forward and downward, stretching from the wither. The contact MUST be maintained.
Easy to confuse stretchy with falling on the forehand at first too. Need to be able too keep the horse off the forehand.
The USDF has a series of YouTube videos on what different movements should look like:
And there are more for most movements on their YouTube channel.
Wow, I didn't know about those videos. Thank you so much for sharing.
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