Remember to give your horse frequent walk breaks and/or stretchy trot circles in between transitions as demonstrated here by Mica Mabragana on HGF Infanta.
Dressage judge Sandy Hotz offers advice on how to make a horse’s trot more elastic.
Sandy Holtz has been training horses and has been actively involved in Dressage for more than 30 years. Sandy has also been actively training students in that time and is a FEI 3* and USEF “S” judge.
In the following article Sandy offers invaluable advice on transitions, posture and much more, explaining how elasticity can be defined as the ability or tendency to stretch or contract the musculature smoothly.
Sandy goes on to explain that after careful loosening and stretching of your Horses muscles and the correct training you can help develop longitudinal suppleness in your Horse.
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Q: Could you give me some exercises to make my horse’s trot strides slower and more elastic, with more depth to the gait? I do get slowness, but I feel the elasticity isn’t there. What should I work on?
Name withheld by request
A: Before addressing the elasticity, let’s look at possible reasons why you feel the need to slow your horse’s trot. Generally, a hurried trot tempo has many sources. Most commonly these are tension, overactive driving aids or faulty balance.
Tension could be caused by factors such as reaction to environmental stimuli, fear, pain or confusion by the rider’s aids. Or you simply have a horse who is genetically hot and sensitive, tending to hurry when pressured. Once you can identify and help your horse through his source of tension, the more likely he will relax his mind, body and tempo.
With overactive driving aids, the rider hurries the horse out of his natural tempo by aggressive or unceasing driving aids. This often happens when the rider feels the horse is not in front of her leg and can cause a vicious circle: The rider feels insufficient reaction to the leg and therefore drives with every stride. The horse becomes even more dull, which perpetuates the cycle.
In this case, first make sure the horse is round and supple over his back and that you are inviting him to seek a contact out toward the bit, keeping your wrists and hands soft (see more on throughness below). Check that you are sitting in balance, with proper shoulder, hip and heel alignment, with a relaxed seat and legs. Use your legs only when asking the horse for something, such as to move off more energetically in the trot. In between, keep your aids neutral. To test, try going from a passive neutral leg to an activating leg and then be alert: You must immediately reward a good response by quickly relaxing the aids or follow up a nonresponse with a tap of the whip or bump of the leg. In other words, be clear in what you are asking for and quick to either reward or correct your horse. Your aids will become precise and more meaningful to him.
Remember to give your horse frequent walk breaks and/or stretchy trot circles in between this work. Avoid riding with the same bend, in the same direction or with the same stride length for long periods of time since this can cause muscle fatigue, tension and loss of elasticity, not to mention boredom and frustration. If the horse stiffens his back or drops it entirely during the work, you’ve lost the bridge over his back, and he will likely become tense, shorten his stride or lose the supple contact. A simple remedy is to go back to rising trot and allow him to lower his neck and stretch forward and down into the contact, until you feel his back raise and swing again………….
………………If you carefully weave these exercises into one another, you will be surprised by how much more elastic and expressive your horse’s trot becomes. Your friends may even think you got a new horse!
Read the full article Here at dressagetoday.com
Sandy Hotz is an FEI 3* and USEF “S” judge. She has been actively involved in dressage for more than 30 years, enjoys training horses and students to the FEI levels and conducts clinics throughout the United States. She resides in Colorado.