To develop suppleness, engagement, balance and obedience; to help your horse achieve self-carriage try riding him ‘on and back’ by asking him for a few lengthened strides before asking him to come back to his working pace and repeating it several times in a session (transitions).
To set up the lengthened strides …
You need to half-halt, and create some energy in your horse’s engine. Ride a 10m circle to balance you both, come off the circle onto the straight (diagonal or long side), half-halt again and give a little with the hand whilst encouraging the horse forward with the leg. Just a few strides will do as a start and cease all aids once you have asked.
Think about easing out the bigger steps by giving a little with the hand and give the horse time to develop and build up his muscles and balance. Fluency and suppleness over the back are very important.
If you get a few strides, half-halt again, sit up and continue the working trot (the back phase)
What could go wrong …
- If the horse runs, ride a 10m circle to rebalance him
- If the horse’s steps become irregular you have asked too much too soon
- If you get no reaction you have not set up correctly in order to create sufficient energy for the (gradual) release
- If the horse hollows and stiffens in the back you have used too much hand
- If the horse goes wide behind you are potentially behind the movement and putting excessive pressure on his loins.
Build up the number of steps you allow. Think of a pressure cooker. If you fully open the valve on a pressure cooker the pressure will be released in one almighty blast and upset everything. If you ease the valve open gently you will get a steady stream of steam!
Oh, and remember the building block of every exercise – RHYTHM.
One other thing – we are not aiming at ‘flicking toes’ we are looking to lengthen the horses strides. That means all four legs!