LENGTHENING THE STRIDE IN TROT- Every horse can show a difference!

Trot is a two time movement; the legs working in diagonal pairs (off fore and near hind together then near fore and off hind with a moment of suspension when all four feet are off the ground).  All trot work should be free (suppleness), active (impulsion - cadence) and regular (clear, equal steps).  This applies to all paces.

There are four types of trot: Working, Collected, Medium and Extended.  The lengthened stride is the halfway house between working and medium trot.  It is the preparation, or build up to riding medium then extended trot.  A horse can lengthen his stride in walk, trot and canter.  When ridden as an exercise within the pace, a few strides working then a few strides lengthened and back to working, it is an excellent way of developing suppleness, engagement, balance and obedience.

The  Horse

The horse should lengthen his frame; lower his back, staying lightly through to the bit and take the longer steps.  This allows extra freedom and swing over the back, allowing the hind legs to step under and create greater energy (impulsion).  Rhythm, tempo and balance should be maintained throughout.
Common Mistakes
  • The horse raises his head and neck high or draws back
  • Hollowing and stiffening through his back
  • Goes wide behind or hind legs trailing
  • Loss of rhythm or change tempo
  • Running, causing loss of balance and confidence
  • Steps become unequal/irregular 
  • Pushed beyond his capability to the point he loses confidence. 

Note! Time must be given for the horse to gradually develop and build up his muscles and balance.  It is progressive training.

The Aids
  • The aids are the same whether ridden in walk, trot or canter. 
  • Gradually build up the level of energy (impulsion), containing the energy.
  • Once the horse is straight, soften the hands whilst asking the horse to take some bigger steps without loss of impulsion.
  • Think about gradually easing out the bigger steps; don't just fire him off causing him to run, fall onto its forehand and lose his balance and confidence.
  • To ask the horse to come back to working trot, maintain the level of energy, sit up, closing the hands and legs. 

 Lengthened strides should be ridden in rising trot to encourage the horse to lift and use his back.  If uncomfortable for the horse he will tense and stiffen making it uncomfortable for both horse and rider.

The Rider Must
  • Maintains a straight line from the elbow to the bit
  • The hands must receive and must not restrict the flow of impulsion
  • The rider's position must be maintained, staying in balance with the horse

Rider Mistakes

  • Get behind the movement putting unwanted pressure on the horse's loins 
  • Use obvious aids for example spurs, kicking use of the whip  
  • It should not be obvious to the onlooker 
  • The aids are between you and the horse, discreet, it is not a spectator sport!
  • It is important that the horse stays supple over its back, maintains fluency and rhythm
How to Set Up
  • Maintaining a forward, active trot ride a 10 - 12 metre circle in the corner of the school  
  • As you finish the circle, straighten the horse and ask for the lengthened strides as you ride down the long side 
  • Gradually ask the horse to take a few lengthened strides
  • If he starts to run ride a small circle to rebalance then ask again

 You can also use the short side to create more impulsion and contain the trot  

  • As you ride either down the long side or across the diagonal, and once the horse is straight, ask for the longer strides  
  • Use the half halt to rebalance if the horse starts to lose balance 
  • Gradually build up the number of steps you ask for  
  • Think in terms of small adjustments rather than waiting for it to fall apart and a major correction is required

Read more flatwowrk exercises and tips section - A Fun Way To Teach Your Horse