Q: How do I get my horse to move out at the trot without breaking into a lope? He’s a western horse learning dressage, and the extended trot is part of the pattern we are working on.
To ask the horse to move into an extended trot, start from the slow sitting trot. Reach forward with both hands to give the horse somewhere to go. Your center of gravity comes slightly forward as your legs move back and close on the horse’s sides. Move into a posting trot to drive him forward with your seat. You’ll be pushing as you rise in the trot, and as you sit, your legs will close on his sides to ask him for more impulsion. As you reach forward and drive him on, he’ll extend. It’s your job as a rider to find out how much you can extend the trot without cantering.
Keep in mind that all training occurs in transitions. Once you find out how much you can extend the trot, alternate between a slow sitting trot and an extended posting trot. Over time, you’ll ask him to hold the extended trot for longer and longer, conditioning him to hold the new gait.
Be sure to use the entire arena. It will be easiest for your horse to move out on the long sides and diagonal lines of the arena. Practice your extended trot on the long lines of the arena, then move to a slow sitting trot as you round the corners of the arena.
This article originally appeared in the February 2016 issue of Horse Illustrated magazine. Click here to subscribe!