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Find your rhythm
Posted in Flatwork
Find out how to ace the first scale, which is rhythm
It’s really useful to learn the order in which your pony’s hooves touch the ground, for all of his gaits. To have perfect rhythm, they’ll always need to fall in the right order.
Walk is four-time which means you can count four beats for every step he takes (1-2-3-4).
Trot is two-time, so you can count two beats in a stride (1-2-1-2). His legs will move in diagonal pairs.
Canter is three-time, so you can count three beats in a stride (1-2-3). Remember, though, that the order of his footfalls will change depending on which rein he’s on, and there’ll be a moment of suspension where all four feet are off the ground.
Set the tempo
Once your pony’s footfalls are in order, you need to make sure his legs are moving in a regular tempo – he shouldn’t speed up or slow down within a pace (unless you ask him to!). A good way to practise this is in rising trot. You can set the tempo with your rising by counting 1-2-1-2 in your head, and try not to rise any quicker or slower than the rhythm you started with.
Exercise: In pole position
A great way to encourage your pony to find his rhythm is to pop over a line of poles in walk and trot. Not only will he have to move his legs in a regular tempo, he’ll also need to lift them a bit higher, which’ll help lengthen his stride and make his paces look a little more flashy!
Set it up
You’ll need 6-8 poles for this exercise. Place some of the poles on the long side near K, and the others by H. Stride out the first
set of poles for walk
(0.5-0.8m), and the second set for trot (0.8-1.2m). Leave enough room between each set of poles for you to make a change of pace.
How to ride it
- Start in walk on the right rein, and go over the first set of poles. Encourage your pony to take you forward in a marching walk. Keep your legs wrapped around him and have a steady contact on the reins, so he doesn’t get slower or quicker.
- After stepping over the last pole, ask him to pick up trot.
- Trot through the next line of poles and use your rising to keep his rhythm consistent.
- Do the exercise once or twice more, then change the rein.
- On this rein, you’ll go over the trotting poles first, then make a transition to walk before riding over the other poles.
- Ride it like this a couple of times, before letting your pony have a break on a long rein.
Finding it tricky to encourage your pony to stay in a consistent rhythm? Here are some ideas to help!
Fault: My pony gets faster and faster in trot.
Fix: Try to keep your rising slow to set the rhythm you want – don’t speed up with him! Also, riding walk-trot-walk transitions every 5-10 strides will help because he won’t get the chance to go too fast. Plus, it’ll get him listening to you, and he’ll start waiting for your next instruction rather than rushing off.
Fault: My pony’s canter feels like it has four beats, rather than three.
Fix: It sounds like he might be lacking in energy, and doesn’t have enough power in the canter to get three clear beats. Have a go at pushing him forward down the long side of the arena so he’s taking longer strides, then sit taller and deeper in the saddle to collect him up a little round the short side. Keeping the power you created down the long side will help bring a bit more lift to his canter round the short side.
I always feel like I’m bouncing around in my trot