Quality stretch work is important for any horse. It keeps them supple and soft in their core work and, thanks to these simple three steps from leading British young rider Alex Harrison, it’s as easy as one, two, three.

Step 1 – open the back in trot

When horses stretch they open up through their backs, but when you bring them back up into an outline they close up again – this is why we rise to the trot, to encourage the back to open.

Work on a 20m circle in trot and ask your horse to stretch his head down by slightly lowering and widening your hands while maintaining the contact. Let him stretch slowly. Ride the stretch for about half the 20m circle, then bring him back up again, inch by inch.

Alex says, “I do a lot of trot work, during which I’ll sit to the trot to let the horse stretch his back, then rise to the trot as I bring the horse up.”

Step 2 – stretch in canter

Still on a 20m circle, move forward to canter and concentrate on establishing a good rhythm. Then repeat the telescoping process used in step one in canter.

Step 3 – quality transitions on a circle

Before moving onto any core or lateral work it’s important to check that your horse is balanced. This can be done by riding transitions from trot to walk, walk to trot and trot to canter.

Split your 20m circle in half and ride a transition up or down each section.

Make sure you work on both reins equally.

Short of time?

This type of work is great to use before a big schooling session where your horse might become tense, but it’s equally good to use on its own as a quick 10 minute workout.

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