How to make the most of a beautiful trot

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Nov 30, 2002
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I don't believe in trying to create movement that isn't already there, but that's not the case here...

Mingus has a beautiful extended trot -- this doesn't take too much encouraging. On other occasions, he raises his head and really lifts his knees -- but only when he wants.

What training methods have you found useful to make the most of natural movement and to get them to turn it on more often? Trotting poles? Deep sand? Tall grass?

I'm not trying for anything extreme or unnatural -- I'd just like to not be the only one who ever sees his wonderful trot(s)
For a driving horse, the stronger they are the more easily they can display their true and effortless movement when in draught. This means lots of steady work until their muscles are tough and conditioned.

Roundpenning in deep sand will build muscle, tall grass makes them pick up their feet when they're in it but I don't think it does much to teach them to do it when they're not.

To make the most of natural movement, well...dressage is the only answer that comes to mind for me! Dressage mean strengthening both sides of the horse, slowly building muscle and teaching them to balance themselves, and eventually to use their hindquarters to carry their weight so their front ends are light and free. But that's a long process! Good luck.

Rabbit had the most extravagant extended trot I have ever seen on a 28" horse- EVER!! I encouraged it by clucking as he worked, he got into the rhythm of the cluck- so now his beat is matching the cluck, then you lengthen the time between clucks while encouraging the horse to stay at that speed. For a horse with a natural extend, it is equally natural to extend in this situation. My Arab mare Amira, would extend at my walking pace, to order, giving me time to lock into her mane, then ewe speeded up- she was in effect carrying me as i could not run. Got us sixth at the Nationals so she did well!!
I have often wondered this too? I have seen some GORGEOUS trots on foals, hocks up and under them, rear tucked and pushing from behind, front end extended, and traveling. But, as they get older many seem to lose that trot/action. I have often wondered if their is some way to encourage that action in them as they get older.

Some I have seen as well are just the opposite. Develope a nice trot as they get older. Even at two and three year olds. I have come to realized tho that not all horses, no matter if they "have it young" or develope it as they get older will still make a nice driving horse once hooked up to cart and then pulling the weight of a driver.

I am not talking about an "around the ranch/farm" driving horse. I'm talking about a competitive drivng horse, one to show and win with.


Beth, you are 100% right. Not every horse will make a competitive driving horse.

Some horses do lose their trot as they get older and some get better. A good

competitive driving horse has to move off the rear not the front. What really

makes them competitive is the desire or "heart" to do it, its the same with any

discipline. I have a blue roan gelding my husband and several other people

thought was just a "fun" horse. I told my husband I was taking him to nationals

and he thought I was crazy. Well, he made national champion in roadster. This

horse has heart to spare and I haven't pushed him to the max yet! Linda B

are you asking how to keep the extended trot, or collecting him into an animated collected trot?

The key is the motor..the rear end MUST be engaged, while the horse moves into the bridle (slight brakes) is a copy of my "Tips" sheet

Collection and Impulsion are the most important factors to teach a horse, after the whoa command! Long-lining has the same principles of the bitting rig, but with the added benefit of steering. In long-lines the horse can be taught all their gaits, head position and impulsion.

True collection starts from the hindquarters of a horse through engagement, or the motion of a horse "sticking his tail in the dirt". The horse learns collection and impulsion through the “go forward†signal combined subtle finger pressure on the lines. When your horse starts off at a walk, and at his first step willingly moves his entire body into your fingers, releases his poll, and "tucks his nose", you will have achieved the first step towards ultimate collection. "How far can you take this response?"

The walk is one of the most important gaits to work on. By using half-halts and clucking (think of using a brake and gas peddle of a car) you can start teaching the horse impulsion. This exercise cannot be overdone, it’s much more difficult for your horse to maintain an active, correct walk, and rounded through the top-line, than it is to walk along at a “swinging†gait with the neck not flexed. This exercise will also help develop the muscles of the horse’s neck, back and hind end.

To encourage the horse to really utilize the motor (rear end), I keep the line down around the back end-just above his hocks. The line creates a “barrier†so to speak, with the outside curve of the horse’s body being “held†by the line. With the line above the hocks, it seems to “push†the rear into the bridle. I use draw lines on all the horses. The critical key to draw lines is ensuring they run smoothly and easily! Any tendency to drag or snag will cause the horse discomfort and defeat the “light and airy†idea. With draw lines, I do not need lots of pressure to get the horse to tip his nose in. With the “hangers†you get an extra “draw†along with keeping the lines low on the horses body.

If the horse is used to a check, and is well broke to long-lines, I gradually raise his head, teaching him to collect himself and to carry his head perpendicular to the ground. Keep in mind that very few miniatures are built with their necks rising perpendicular out of their shoulders. Most miniatures’ necks are set on somewhat lower. If they’re checked up too high, they hollow out their backs and lose cadence behind, or swing from side to side. While the horse is checked, I will raise the “hangers†so the drawline is relatively higher.

The most important thing the check does is to teach the horse to raise his front end, causing him to drive off his back end: to come strongly off his hocks. Horses naturally carry 60 percent of their body weight in the forehand. In order to appear light and ‘airy,’ the horse must learn collection so that he doesn't appear heavy in the forehand.

As the horse becomes more programmed and conditioned to walking in a collected frame with impulsion, he can be asked to move out at the trot. Learning how to collect your horse’s forward energy on the bridle at the walk will make the transition into the trot much easier.

The secret here is persistence, and consistency, on the part of the driver.

Thank you, Kim, for such great information! I have a feeling that many will be saving this!
Susanne, last year I was conditioning Nick for a show. I put him in the 60' round pen and watched what he could I encouraged him to use himself to his full athletic ability just as I would bring it out in a riding horse.

This is what I did with free lunging.

Nick is too smart to be going round and round in circles. Boring, boring, boring. He needed to use not just his body, but his mind. I made one heck of an obstacle course in there like you could not believe. Jumps, cavelitties, hay bails, swimming pool, tires, anything I could get my hands on went in that round pen. And then I would direct him where to go and what to do, and then back out on the rail. He utilized ever gait he possibly could have. Floating, stretching, extending, jogging, you name it. He could do it all. By the time we got done, muscle tone was putting it lightly. A more fit and solid horse that could MOVE was an understatement.
Would this be correct? To bump with the whip into soft hands with half halts?

Also to throw in some smaller circles.

I come from a Q.H. background where "deep sand" was used extensively. I saw a lot of horses come out of that kinda training with leg problems. I would not use it.
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WOW don't know how much I appreciate your posts with driving tips. I've started a regular file, mostly posts from you. You know what you are doing and you provide excellent descriptions that are easy to understand and follow.

Just wanted to say THANKS
Marty, I love the idea of your obstacle course -- I find round-penning boring, and I'm sure Mingus falls half-asleep as he does it! I don't want it to become so automatic that he just runs in circles in liberty class...
Would this be correct? To bump with the whip into soft hands with half halts?
It is better to "bump them up" using voice. It is difficult to tap a horse's rump through a crupper and breeching when hitched, and when you succeed it usually causes the horse to at least momentarily jump or startle. The problem with this is that you are seeking to get the horse to release tension along their spine and stretch for the bit, not reflexively tense up each time they are tapped. It's fine to use the whip to back up your voice until they know they have to listen to you, but you should be able to use voice alone and get a strong response. Whip is primarily for use in replacing inside leg during bends, etc.

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