Although you may encounter issues when training a young horse, be patient and work through each concern logically. With dedication and determination, specific exercises will help to correct individual problems along the way.
Here we look at improving the trot. It is quite possible for a young horse to have one stronger and one weaker pace, but once you have this identified you will be able to target your training as necessary.
Improving the trot
Firstly, consider the overall rhythm of the trot. You are looking for a smooth swinging motion through both back and front, allowing you to remain comfortably balanced in the saddle throughout. One of the easiest ways to encourage this development is through the use of trotting poles. This will encourage an unimpeded, progressive action and improved bending of leg joints over time.
Said Gary: “Trotting poles are not necessarily a quick solution and you will need to be patient.
“I make sure I am clear in my mind exactly what line I intend to take over the poles, and once selected, I maintain my focus straight down that line.
“Trotting poles can be adapted into any schooling routine. However, I would suggest you need no more than four poles to begin this exercise, placing them parallel, each about a metre and a half apart. It is useful to stagger them so they are not immediately lined up in front of each other, but are placed at an overall angle.”
Gary then outlines the three simple choices regarding how to approach the poles.
Firstly, and probably the easiest way to begin, is to pick a straight, forward-facing line, over a narrow strip of the poles. Position yourself comfortably in the centre of the saddle and decide on your line before turning towards the first pole. Maintain an even and balanced position in the saddle and look straight ahead, reassuring your horse forwards with the leg.
Secondly, begin trotting over the poles diagonally. Similar to the first exercise, choose your line before turning towards the poles. Maintain a comfortable seating position. Continue looking straight ahead as you approach and ride over your chosen line, but this time you will be trotting over on a diagonal.
Thirdly you can also try doing leg yield across the poles. However, there is a word of caution with this exercise as it is quite advanced and should only be tackled by a horse already established in the leg yield. Again, you must have a comfortable, balanced position in the saddle. The approach to the poles is the same as the first and second exercises. You must then decide the point where you will start your leg yield, choose the line you are going to follow and importantly, the point where it will end.
It is easy in this exercise to find yourself leaning over to one side so you must try and correct this immediately if it occurs. Use your inside leg at the girth to encourage the horse to move away from it. At the same time, use your outside leg behind the girth to control the hindquarters. Use your inside rein to encourage a slight bend away from the direction of movement whilst using the outside rein to maintain contact.
As with all riding, a horse intuitively knows if you are tense during this exercise, so try and keep your hands soft. Also, try and keep the horse soft in the rein at all times.
It is always useful to have somebody watching, not only to provide you with instant feedback, but also to adjust the poles if necessary without you continually needing to dismount!
Gary added: “Try and allow your horse to use its natural stride. If you want a shorter or longer stride, you can adjust the poles as required.”
The choice of saddle that Gary uses for dressage is the Black Country Dante Dressage.
Gary finishes by saying: “I have recently been involved in new saddle designs, coming up with ideas and providing feedback on latest developments and innovations with Black Country Saddles.
“The saddles are just fantastic and as soon as you sit in one they are really comfortable. The leather is soft and supple from day one.”