Trot Poles

Thunder’s main issue is thinking I want him to canter when I add any leg at all. Previous owner never trotted, apparently. I thought I would work him over some trot poles to get him to slow down and think about where he was putting his feet. If nothing else they would force him to trot instead of canter. What I learned from this exercise is that I need to raise my stirrups one hole if I’m going to be in two point. I also learned that trot poles are awesome and get a horse to slow down and use his noodle.

My hands look like crap in this picture. I’m aware. Stirrups need to come up a hole too.

trot2

I think Thunder is naturally a nicer mover than Baron. He has more suspension and he seems to move effortlessly across the ground. I’ll try to get some video of him trotting in the pasture. You know those really cute ponies who have what they call “daisy cutter” movement? Thunder reminds me of that. The trick is to bring that out of him under saddle.

Picking up those feet!
Picking up those feet!

My game plan with him hasn’t changed. It’s basically lots of lots of trail riding with light contact to build muscle and relax. When we’re not on the trails I’ll add in some trot poles to keep him thinking and some typical dressage-ey stuff (serpentines, big circles) to work on balance and bending. He has to learn to carry himself and me as well and there’s no trick or shortcut for that. He’ll get it eventually if I keep riding him correctly. Even though I’d like him to do hunter/jumpers eventually, I have no plans of jumping anything any time soon. We have way too much work to do on the flat.

He is starting to stretch down and chew the bit. We have moments where he lowers his head and stretches, so I know he’s catching on. I want to tell him that it’s okay to chill out and stretch. The other day we rode in the vacant lot and I have no pictures but it was magical. We had long sequences of him stretching down, accepting the contact and moving really loosely. It was all at the walk, but hey, it’s a start! Any suggestions on encouraging him to stretch down are appreciated!

trot5

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One thought on “Trot Poles

  1. kshai1715 November 12, 2014 / 5:40 pm

    Suggestions on getting him to stretch (ala free walk) into the bit – firstly, contact! Make sure you can feel his mouth. Squeeze the reins one hand at a time, slowly. Squeeze with the same amount of pressure you might use to wring out a wet silk scarf (aka, gently!). One hand, release, then the other. But your hands need to be up, up, up, when doing it. Your hands should not be on his withers.

    Pretend you are a butler, carrying a tray of food to your rich boss. You will “present yourself” very upright, shoulders back, and hands up, holding that try nice and still, at about chest height. That’s an exaggeration of your hands, but when you (and the horse) are first learning, you need to over exaggerate things to make it click. Once you understand and are achieving, then you will start to refine. But you do need your shoulders back. I’m not kidding. Ride like you are a snooty butler carrying a fine silver tray. And work your hands on the reins as though they are wet silk.

    Squeeze one hand softly and gently and release, then squeeze the other. Once he starts to learn to reach down into that contact, reward him by no longer squeezing. But don’t change anything else – don’t lean forward, don’t drop your hands. Tell him verbally, good boy, but don’t pat him – because that may cause you to lean forward and drop your hands!

    Eventually once he gets that acceptance of the bit, you can start to increase your length of the reins, getting him to reach down in the same fashion. The ultimate goal will be to “put him on the buckle”, but it takes time— like a year. He needs to learn to carry himself and *only* drop his head, not his whole front end, and you need to learn to stop leaning forward, sit back and upright, so you can encourage that.

    If you lean forward, you will encourage the horse to drop his weight clumsily onto his front end. If you sit upright, like that butler!, you will encourage the horse to free up his shoulders, reach with his neck only and use his back end more.

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