Q: My pony has a very fast trot that is really short and choppy. Are there any exercises to help lengthen it?
First, be sure to rule out any health problems and evaluate your pony’s level of fitness. It never hurts to discuss your concerns with your vet. Once physical issues are ruled out, you can move on to some training exercises.
Trot poles are a great place to start. Have a trainer help you set them up at an appropriate stride length for your pony. For most horses, 4 feet to 4½ feet is average. The poles will help your pony figure out where to put his feet, and as you adjust the pole distances slightly further apart, you can help him learn to lengthen his stride.
Be prepared that at the beginning he may be unsure of what is being asked and rush through the exercise, but if you work on keeping him steady and straight, trot poles can work wonders.
You can also try slowing down your posting. When you slow your rhythm, both with your body and your mind, your pony should follow. When your pony speeds up, you may find yourself posting faster and faster! Consciously keep posting at the speed you want to be going, and that should encourage your pony to settle into a slower, more even trot.
Something that is both fun and helpful is riding to music. Pick out some songs beforehand with different tempos and try to get your pony’s stride to match the beat of the music. Some ponies really enjoy marching to a beat and the rhythm will help both of you stay at a steady gait. Riding to the beat will help teach you to use your body to better control your pony’s speed and adjust his stride at the same time.
This article originally appeared in the January/February 2017 issue of Young Rider magazine. Click here to subscribe!