Find out more about your horse's trot - and what you can do to improve it!
In trot the horse's legs move in diagonal pairs (see picture below) ie near hind and off fore move together and the off hind with the near fore. As the horse springs from one diagonal pair to the other there is a moment of suspension when all four feet are off the ground.
Take a look at your horse trotting by asking a friend to video you riding your horse in trot. You should see that your horse flexes his knees and hocks, and if your horse is really using himself, you should see a V-shape made by his legs (see picture below). Your horse should always look as if he's propelling himself forward from his hindlegs.
Riding on the correct diagonal
One of the early skills you will have learnt as a rider is to ride on the correct diagonal in trot. Often this skill is taught without much explanation as to why it is necessary.
Basically, if the rider is on the correct diagonal this will help the horse's balance. Your horse finds it easier to carry you when your weight is in the saddle as the horse's inside hindleg is on the ground.
So, if you are on the right rein, you will sit as the horse's off hind is on the ground and therefore his near fore (the other half of the diagonal pair) is also on the ground. You can check your diagonal by glancing down to see whether the near fore is coming to the ground (ie so you should sit). If it is not, you change your diagonal by sitting for an extra beat. You need to remember to change your diagonal every time you change the rein. Out hacking it is also good practice to regularly change diagonals otherwise your horse may become stiff or one-sided.
Remember that both horses and riders tend to favour one diagonal. A horse who is stiff may throw you on to his preferred diagonal.
Types of trot
Working trot is the one you'll use most often. Your horse should go forward in balance with even, elastic steps, in a consistent, rhythmical and energetic trot.
For medium trot your horse's hindquarters will have to work harder, so that the horse's stride is longer than his working trot stride and the moment of suspension is longer.
Extended trot is the next stage on from medium trot where the horse takes longer strides, covering as much ground as possible.
Collected trot is for more advanced horses, as the horse's hindquarters are more engaged, his frame is shortened and his steps are short and elevated.
Improving your horse's trot
* Use transitions, to and from trot, to encourage your horse to push off from his hindquarters. You do not want your horse falling onto his forehand.
* Working over trotting poles, and ultimately slightly raised trotting poles, will give your horse more lift and energy in the trot. Working over raised poles means your horse has to flex his joints more, which is harder work.
* As trot is such a symmetrical pace it is good for schooling and for establishing rhythm.
* As you work in trot think of flowing from one rein to another, from one exercise to another.
* Trot is a great pace for lateral movement thanks to the natural spring of the pace.
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