How to slow my horse's trot
Hello! I'm wondering if any of you have advice or links to articles you find helpful on slowing my new horse's trot.
I've had Sam for a little more than three weeks, and in the beginning he would walk really quickly and try to break into a trot whenever he could. We've worked through the walking issue through circles and figures-8s, but the trot is still too quick for me. I get unbalanced doing small figure-8s at that speed, which I know is my fault because my balance should be better, but he does have a very fast trot, and I want to be able to slow him to a jog at times.
He's smart and willing — we've already worked through other issues on the ground and under saddle — but I'm not sure how to go about this trot thing. The circles aren't working (yet?), and half-halts don't do much. Any tips?
When I was working with my mare at this with our trainer (though hers was at the canter but hey, it might work :wink: ) the trainer said to do forceful half halts. She said hold back until they slow down and then release, when they don't slow down they don't get the release. If that didn't work she said to do a push and pull, like pull back until they slow down and then let the horse have some room to move then rinse and repeat until they pick up the general idea of things and know that if they move fast and ignore the cue then they have so much more force to contend with.
She also said to stop and back frequently at irregular points to 'keep the horse on it's toes'. She said when she trained QH's for western pleasure she did this all the time to get the slow gaits because the horse wasn't sure when to expect so it went slower.
Hope these ideas help somewhat and Good luck! :D
If you know how to post, a great exercise to teach him the difference between a faster, more extended trot, and a slower, more collected trot (as well as help you and the horse with balance) is the tried and true "big circle, small circle." I'm not sure if when you mentioned circles in your OP if you have tried this, but it is a great exercise for just about any horse, at all gaits. The following article explains the exercise nicely and also includes a diagram for reference.
Riding Circles – America’s Horse Daily
I also agree with Incitatus32 with the push and pull method mentioned. Just be sure that when you want to slow down, also sit back but don't stop driving. Downward transitions to a walk are a step in the right direction with this exercise as it does teach him that you want him to go slower, it is just your job to say "yes - I want you to slow down, good job, but not that slow!"
Also, you mentioned it has only been three weeks, you're still just getting to know each other (: so don't worry if it takes a bit of work to get in sync!
Hope this helps!
Not an expert, but don't ask too much so that you start at a slow trot. Also, do half halts to keep his attention.
Half halt over and over and over again until he gets the idea that he can't just keep going faster and faster. YOU set the speed not him.
Basically half halt and then release when he slows down to an acceptable speed, if/when he speeds up rinse and repeat until you can release the pressure and he doesn't speed up again.
You can also see if you can control his speed with your posting. :) If he's trotting very quickly, your posting will be tense, he'll move faster, you'll post faster, and it can create a bit of a snowball effect of speed and tension! I had this problem with one of my lease horses, and what worked for me was deliberately attempting to slow down my posting. Breathe out, try to relax, maybe hold some mane if you're unbalanced, and try to post slower. For me, I would repeat "marsh-mall-ow, marsh-mall-ow, marsh-mall-ow" each syllable for each time I rose out of the saddle. Eventually, your horse may try and slow their speed to match yours. Good luck! :)
A trainer friend told me to trot about 3-5 strides, stop and back up 3-5 strides. Trot, stop and back. After doing this for awhile they'll slow down anticipating to stop and back because they never know when you'll ask them to stop and back. Just another tool among many!
I don't know what style of riding you do, but here are some things that seem to work for me:
1 - With a snaffle bit, as the right shoulder moves forward, use very slight pressure on the right rein - a light pinkie's worth - with all the pressure of that pinkie gone when the hoof starts to move back. By that time, his left shoulder will be moving forward, and so you use very slight pressure on that side. The way it was described to me was that you aren't pulling back so much as you are just not moving forward as much. The reverse is to push the right rein forward at a slightly enhanced motion, to ask for the horse to stretch out its front legs.
You can practice it at a walk. When you do it right, the horse will start to walk a little slower or faster. When I was taking lessons, we all had to practice doing this at a walk, and then at a trot. It seems to be something of an instinctive reaction on the horse's part, since I was then able to bring it home and practice it on my own horses.
2 - With a western curb bit, I seem to get some of the same reaction by either raising my hand vertically (NOT back) a few inches, or lowering it. That changes the balance of the slack in the reins, which Mia (my mare) usually picks up on.
3 - A non-standard thing I do is vary my leg position to ask for a jog vs a more extended trot. That came from getting annoyed with my horse when she would deliberately pick up a very stiff-legged, bouncy trot on a trail. I would slide my feet forward, tilt back a little (get 'on my pockets' as the western instructor used to yell at me), and then just bounce on her loins.
Since she didn't like how that felt, she would switch to her easy, relaxed jog and I'd go back to riding with her instead of on her.
Note: I'm not a trainer, instructor or competitor. YMMV.
English riders use half-halts a lot. Western riders may too, but the two western instructors who tried to teach me to do half-halts seemed to describe it differently than the books I have on English riding. My guess is that a half-halt done badly is more likely to confuse or annoy a horse than refocus him. It may be that half-halts work best when someone is riding with constant contact...don't know, just speculating.
These are all excellent tips, thank you!! I will try them :)
To slow the trot you slow the rise (if rising or posting), this should be the first thing you do before applying the reins, the horse will slow to be in time with you as long as your seat is strong.
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