"We aren't, until we have developed a real medium trot."
"Good idea. Let's work on that."
So, we did.
|(photo from last month, when the trees weren't even in leaf yet) I look tense, Guinness looks amazing.|
The work I've been doing with my seat really showed off here. With the change to tucking my seat and lifting up on the front of my pelvis with my abs, my understanding of the half halt was greatly increased. Suddenly, a half halt from my core sucked my horse right up, slowed him down, and pushed his hind legs under. Without me jabbing my seatbones into his back, Guinness felt he could really round and step under himself. What a feeling!
My new job is not to override my horse, but instead generate energy from him with my legs and use my body to guide and direct that energy. My reins supple and manage him, keeping his spine straight and his neck and poll relaxed. This is much harder than it sounds. Every time I feel Guinness drop his impulsion, my first reaction is to push him with my seat. Now, I have to fight that tension and instead continue to guide with my seat and ask from my legs. It is very hard to use my legs separately from my seat, and keep my core forward and engaged so as not to be left behind.
Mentally, it's all there, but these things are hard to internalize. (I feel like a broken record, I've said this so much.)
Position aside, I have discovered a fantastic exercise for developing Guinness' understanding and reaction to my aids for the medium trot. Up until this point, no amount of half halt could keep him from dropping onto his forehand, rushing through my contact and bouncing me right off of his dropped back. I had tried to push him through the rushy stuff until I could re-balance and get a few good steps, but that just made Captain Nervous very, very nervous. He does not like to be off balance. So, I went back to the training drawing board and came back with this ...
Exercise for Developing Medium Trot:
Step 1: I start by circling once 10m at A, focusing on half halts and creating a lot of collection. As we come out of the circle, I keep that collection and balance through the corner onto the long side. I then ask for a medium with my legs only, not pushing with my seat or throwing Guinness off balance. If he doesn't respond to my leg, I will go to a tap with the whip. At the same time, I make sure to keep my upper body with my horse and not get left behind.
Step 2: Almost immediately, I half halt strongly and we do another 10m circle at E or B (depending on direction). While in the circle, I really focus on collecting the trot and re-establishing any drive or balance we may have lost during the little bit of medium trot. Sometimes I have to circle more than once if he is resisting my half halts and still out of balance.
Step 3: Coming out of the circle, I ask for another medium trot, half halting just before the corner to bring him out of it. We then circle 10m again at C, and repeat on the opposite long side.
As Guinness gets more understanding of the response to my cues for the medium and we are able to stay in balance longer, I will change the exercise so that the circles come at the corners of the long side and try to keep the medium for the length of the wall. Eventually, I'll move the medium to the diagonal, with circles still in the corners. Then, the circles will get removed.
He's already showing a lot more push from his hind end, and staying in balance longer. His responses to my leg aids are getting clearer, too!
Do any of you struggle with trot lengthening? Do you have any other exercises that help teach your horse what you're asking of them?