How to ride a good working trot
This pace comes between collected and medium trot and is ridden in Prelim and Novice tests. It needs to be established before you train for collected trot, which appears in Elementary tests and above. At Prelim, Novice and Young Horse level your horse should be in good balance and self-carriage, soft in the hand and working easily in an outline. He should also be in front of your leg in a forwards and willing manner in all movements, including circles, changes of rein and through the corners, showing loose, free, active steps with his hocks pushing under with impulsion, elasticity and expression.
Developing your working trot
The aim with working trot is not to rush your horse out of his rhythm, as it’s all about regularity and swing.
Transitions are key to helping improve all aspects of this trot, such as teaching your horse to push in the upwards transition, stay in better self-carriage in the downwards transition, keep a regular rhythm and develop his balance. It’s all about repetition. Do as many transitions as you can in each schooling session and, when you think you’ve done enough, do a few more. Walk to trot to walk, and halt to trot to halt are useful. Also, think about varying where you ask for the transitions so your horse doesn’t start to anticipate.
Make some transitions quick, so you only stay in trot for a few strides, as this will engage your horse’s hindquarters. With others, ride the full arena or a 20m circle before the downward transition, as staying in trot for longer will help develop his rhythm. Ensure that when you ask for trot, your horse responds to the aids immediately and also comes back to you quickly in the downwards transition.
Don’t think of collected trot as going slower. Instead you’re containing the trot, making it shorter, but with the same energy, impulsion and elasticity as the working trot – just more together.
Your horse should remain in a correct outline and self-carriage, but think of collected trot as allowing you to bring him more ‘up together.’ You’re encouraging him to lift though his shoulder, while his hind leg reaches under his body. Riding a correct collected trot is important as it’s much easier for your horse to do a 10m circle, shoulder-in and leg-yield, etc in a short, quick gait. In effect you’re making his work easier.
Developing your collected trot
It’s important not to slow your horse down when asking for collected trot. Instead, teach him to shorten his steps, but stay quick in the rhythm.
As with a lot of training it’s all about transitions. Start by riding from trot to walk and then from trot to a ‘nearly walk’, then ride forwards again, and build on that.
Don’t stay in collected trot for too long, instead collect your horse for a few strides, then ride forwards again. As he gets stronger you can ask for more. It’s better to do three or four good steps and then stop and praise him, instead of staying in collected until he gets tired. You’ll know when the trot is developing as you’ll feel as though you’ve suddenly found power steering as your horse becomes lighter
in front and easier to manoeuvre.
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