What this episode is all about & how it can help you:-
- The importance of establishing Forwardness in the Trot
- How you can begin encouraging more responsiveness
- Why you must Activate the Inside Hind Leg & outside hind leg
- How you will know when it is ‘working’
When was the last time you went out riding with the sole intention of improving your trot? Trotting is a gait we spend a lot of time in when in the saddle. Yet, for many riders it is an afterthought in their schooling plan…
I think the reason for this is due to most riders feeling like they have ‘mastered’ the trot when they can managed a few ‘up-downs’ without being bounced out of the saddle! It tends to get put on auto-pilot after that point; and promptly forgotten about it!
If this has been the case for you and your horse, today is the day we take the trusty trot off of auto-pilot and begin consciously working on establishing and maintaining a better-quality gait.
The Trouble with Auto-Pilot Too Soon
As I said a lot of riders put their trot onto auto-pilot. They get into the saddle and the auto-pilot part comes from the fact that they allow the horse to dictate the posting. The ‘Up-Downs’. The Rising. The horse will move the rider, rather than the rider moving with or influencing the horse if necessary.
Becoming stronger through your position, particularly where core strength is concerned, will allow you to hold or carry yourself. This will in turn place you in a good position, which will allow you to easily communicate with your horse.
As you become stronger in your position, particularly in trot, you will soon see how you can begin to influence the horse as opposed to the other way around.
The Importance of Establishing Forwardness in the Trot
It is easy to become lulled into a false sense of ‘purpose’ when it comes to the trot. In fact, one of the most common challenges many riders face in trot is the is a lack of forwardness. Forwardness is essential to developing a good quality trot, so start here.
I realise that ‘forwardness’ has the potential to scare a lot of riders. But rather than seeing forwardness as speed, see it as moving with a sense of purpose.
Our aids help us channel the horse’s energy from the back to where we want to go. You cannot channel anything, if it not there to begin with. Make sure that your horse is working forward and that you are thinking forward as well.
How Your Posting Can Influence the Overall Trot
Once you have established forwardness in your trot, you can then begin to turn your attention towards ‘tidying’ things up a little. This starts will encouraging responsiveness, in both you and your horse.
I suggest working with your half halt and transitions. While you are shifting up and down gears, become aware of how you are posting or rising in the trot. You should be balancing yourself and moving your own body, rather than using the horse’s energy and momentum to ‘bump’ you up and down.
In order to begin working on a better quality trot you must be able to positively influence your horse, rather than the other way around…
Allowing your horse’s energy to bump you up out of the saddle, followed with allowing gravity to assist your ‘coming down’ is not posting. That is bobbing along! Focus on moving with your horse. Meeting him half way. Think of dancing – you are moving together, but each person is responsible for their own part of the dance.
When you learn to take responsibility for your own movement in the saddle, you can then begin influencing your horses movements. A small ‘stretching out’ of the ups or downs to steady things. A quickening of your movement to energize things. There are so many things you can do when posting correctly to influence your horses way of going.
Working on Encouraging Responsiveness
I recommend using basic half halts and transitions to fine tune the communication between you and your horse. Stick to basic transitions between walk and trot initially.
Work on refining the transitions so much, that your horse feels like he is just waiting to do what you ask.
Depending on both your level of riding skill and your horses training, you can refine this exercise to the point where there are two strides of walk and then trot. Maintaining the quality of the transition from the trot to walk is important here. So too is are the two strides of the walk. Finally, ensuring that the trot is pushing it forward again, forwardness…
Why you must Activate the Inside Hind Leg & outside hind leg
Activating your horse’s hind quarters is a vital part of a good quality trot. The hind quarters are made up of the inside leg and the outside leg of your horse. Depending of which way your horse is flexed, or bending, you have an inside and an outside. When thinking about the hind quarters, it is important to also think about straightness.
Straightness is, when speaking about the hind quarters, both hind quarters using the same amount of thrust as they are pushing your horse forward.
Many riders focus their attention on the inside back leg, but it is important not to forget about the outside back let. Don’t allow it to just do its own thing. In order for there to be a good quality trot, both hind legs must be present and pushing forward.
Trot is a fantastic gait to work on this because, in trot, all things are equal. Your horses legs move in diagonal pairs, and each diagonal is moving the same as the opposite pair. This gives you a good opportunity to really develop this equal push.
You can use your half halt to connect both back hooves to the ground. The hoof on the ground is important to think about here, because this is where your horse pushes from. Each stride sees his hoof is landing on the ground. This is followed by his leg (and body) moving over that hoof and then being propelled forward by his hoof pushing off the ground.
If your horse is not pushing equally from both hind legs, he will not be straight through his movements. Learning to tell which hind leg is on the ground and which is moving through the air at any given time is the start of influencing one or the other. When you can do this, you can begin to truly influence the trot.
How will You Know when the Trot Starts to Improve?
Many riders begin with experiencing these wonderful ‘moments’. Fleeting glimpses of how things should feel all the time. It often feels like you are both ‘pausing’. It does not feel like you are going faster, or slower.
A good quality trot feels like there is more room in it. More space available for you and your horse to use yourselves more each stride.
You will also notice that your horse will begin to strengthen and develop more behind; his hind quarters. This in turn feels like he can lighten the front end a little bit more, which in trot gives you that lovely expressive movement from the front legs; the ruler many riders hold their horses trot up against!
All of this requires your position to be as correct as possible. You will also have to develop an awareness for what you are doing in the saddle. As you are posting, working on using each post as an area where you can start to influence the trot.
Improving your trot is really and truly something that will have an impact on both your walk and your canter. It also allows the rider to experience an almost instant change in how their horse is going, which helps inspire them to work on it more.
Links mentioned in the episode:-
- 30 Day Rider Fitness Challenge
Instantly improve your half half