Trot is a two-beat gait, with each diagonal pair of legs stepping forward together. The main types of trot are…
- working trot
- collected trot
- medium trot
- extended trot
Top tip – In rising trot, remember to check you’re on the correct diagonal. This means you rise when his outside foreleg is forward and sit when it’s back.
You’ll find you’ll be asked to ride in working trot most often – this is an active trot with plenty of impulsion, while remaining in a steady rhythm. You’ll come across the other types of trot as you move up the levels in dressage, but working trot is the foundation for all of these.
In a good working trot, your pony’s hind and front legs should track up, which means his hind hooves fall into the hoofprints his front hooves leave behind. It’s best to rise to working trot, as it helps keep your pony balanced and in a good rhythm.
When your pony rushes in trot, it can feel like he’s running downhill into your contact and is heavy in your hands or hollowing and lifting his head up. You’ll find yourself having to rise more quickly, too. To rebalance and slow him down, you can…
- slow your rising Gradually slowing down the speed you move up and down is a really useful tool to encourage your pony to slow – think about saying ‘baked bean’ in your head over and over to help you slow your rhythm
- use transitions Upward and downward transitions keep him focused on your aids, and responsive to your leg and hand. The more you ask him to do, the less he’ll be able to rush
- ride plenty of circles Using 10m and 20m circles encourages your pony to focus, as he’ll need to be balanced to bend in trot. Use half-halts to prepare before the circle, and ask him wait and listen to your aids.
You can take circles up a level by using trotting poles on a bend – this helps maintain his rhythm and will make it harder for him to rush through, as well as encouraging him to round through his back and stretch.
In a lazy trot, it feels as though your pony’s dragging his feet along without any impulsion. He’s also unlikely to be in a rhythm, so he’ll slow down, speed up a little, then slow down again. Easy exercises to improve it include…
- transitions Riding lots of transitions will keep him responsive to your aids and forward off your leg. You can practise riding an upward then downward transition at every other marker around the arena. This will help improve his impulsion, too
- trotting poles Riding over trotting poles is a really useful tool when it comes to improving his lazy trot. It encourages him to lift more through his paces and helps keep him balanced and in a rhythm. You can also increase the distances very slightly between the poles to encourage a larger trot as you move up the levels.
Top tip – Keep your rein contact soft as you ride over the trotting poles to allow your pony to stretch out over them.
Top tip – When you’re setting up trotting poles, use four poles 1.10m apart for a 14.2hh pony. If they’re on a bend, make sure the distance is correct through the middle of the poles on the line you’ll ride through.