The Working Trot
A steady, forward, working trot is the jewel in any horse’s crown. Whether you are riding for pleasure or competition, this is an essential component of your horse’s education. If you are having to squeeze every step out of your horse to keep them in the trot, this is no fun for you or the horse. Conversely, if you spend the whole time holding your horse back and checking their pace, this is not good either. The aim is to ask the horse for a trot and feel them pick up underneath you into a forward flowing trot that feels like it will go on forever. Before we start training, we need to see if there is anything that could be influencing the horse. We need to look at the health of the horse, and any possible pain or injury issues that could be affecting them. We need to look at saddle fit and what other gear we are using. We need to look at ourselves. Do we have an independent seat in the trot? When we transition upward, do we restrict or grab with the reins, grip with the legs, lose our balance? Do we know how to do a balanced, flowing, rising, and sitting trot without getting in the horses’ way? Do we have fear or confidence issues around the horse in general, or trotting specifically? All these need to be addressed before we start training. First off, let us look at the blocked, resisting horse that is making you work harder than they are. At the end of the day, this is a very clever horse! They have managed to turn the tables and get the human doing all the work while they take it easy. But really, being hassled constantly by the rider is no fun for them either. This type of horse is looking for a rest, all the time. So how are we going to address this? By giving them exactly that. Sounds strange? Yes, we are going to use psychology instead of brut force. Transition to the trot and notice at what point the horse starts to slow down or block. Let us say you are in an arena, and it is after 1 lap. So next time ask for the trot then do a downward transition to walk after ¾ of a lap. This way the horse can mentally relax, knowing there will be a break coming up soon. We need to tell this to the horse first up, that we will stop and not continue forever. Once you have done this a few times, the horse will start to relax more into the trot, confident that a break is coming. At this point increase the distance to a lap before stopping. Continue increasing the distance in increments and eventually you will have a horse that trots for as long as you like. It may take a few sessions to reach this point. Now let us look at the rushing horse. Guess what, we are going to use our transitions with these guys too. Begin in walk and achieve a nice steady walk first. Then ask for the trot and do a downward transition back to the walk when your horse starts rushing, whether this is after 5 steps or 50 meters. Clock where and how long into the ride they started rushing, and next time, try to do your downward transitions before this happens. Re-establish the calm walk. Transition to the trot again. Keep repeating this until the horse knows the routine. By now they should be starting to relax more in the trot. Up until now the time spent in the trot might have been short. As they relax, slowly start increasing the amount of time spent trotting. Both these types of horses respond to the same tool, transitions, but the focus for the rider is different. Both will result in a steady working trot with repetition. Horse training is never done in a single session. When you see an improvement, resist being greedy and finish your session there. The last thing you do is the first thing a horse will remember next time, so ensure to always finish on a good note.
Suzy Maloney B.Eq.Sc.
Happy Horses Bitless
Ph: 0401 249 263
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