We have all seen the wonderful video clips of horses showing extravagant extensions in the trot and I think most riders dream of being able to perform a similar feat. However, for most riders, merely asking for a lengthening of the stride in trot results in their horse either breaking into canter or running on to their forehand, with the hind end being, well, left behind!
Being able to lengthen and then subsequently shorten your horse’s stride when you want, develops your horse’s responsiveness, suppleness, and balance while being ridden. It also allows you to make adjustments if necessary while in the saddle, without changing from one gait to another.
Spend quite a bit of time on transitions, using your half halts, and circles, particularly smaller ones, such as 12 or 10 meter circles. Work between shortening your horse slightly and then returning back to working trot as well. Don’t attempt to lengthen until you have truly established and can maintain a good balance throughout the above mentioned exercises.
Once you and your horse have established a balanced transition between the working trot and a slightly shorter more collected trot, you can then begin to think about asking for a few lengthened strides in the trot. It is really important to maintain the contact between you and your horse throughout the movement. Lengthening the stride does not mean throwing the reins at your horse and kicking on. It simply means that you are allowing your horse more space to move within each stride.
The video below demonstrates an extended trot.