Horse riding is hard enough when you start out with 3 simple paces of walk, trot and canter…but after about a year or so of training, you might want to extended trot your horse…however it takes time to develop the beautiful dressage extended trot we see on our horse to the right being ridden by Pan American Representative (and good friend who has ridden in several clinics with me, more noteably at Horse World Expo….Julio Mendoza).
I used to ask my coach about how to change the horse’s dressage working trot to extended trot and please explain, but it always seemed so hard to understand, and even when I learned to judge it…extended trot still wasn’t that easy to ride!
And I also knew how the dressage extended trot and improving the horse’s extension and collection is one of the main stepping stones to the higher level dressage movements.
I see so many times it’s mentioned – how do I improve my extended trot on horse forums, which in some way is a pity as your first point of reference should ALWAYS be Rule Book. That way all these grey areas become clear before you go and see to improve extended trot you should understand what the Rule Book says, and what the judges really want.
One of the things I found incredibly difficult to find an extended trot photo or even a diagram of extended trot when I was making our extended trot DVD…either the back legs didn’t look the same as the front (it says “diagonal pairs” in the rule book meaning they are meant to look the same not one big step in the front and the back legs a smaller step….Or, the horse was jammed and behind the vertical. And, thanks to my friend Julio Mendez, and his brilliant wife Jessica’s photography I was able to get such a cool photo of extended trot on one of his Friesian Stallions!
Extended trot is the opposite of collected trot. The easiest way to think about it is if you think about trot poles on the ground…if they are spread wide apart it will be extended trot. It’s a flatter long stride so the horse can stretch over the poles.
If they are closer together then it will be a shorter step or collected trot which produces a shorter, higher step to get through the closer poles.
Along with the shorter/higher step goes a lighter bouncier action. But that doesn’t mean the rider has to change the bounce part…what they have to do is change the length of stride…or change the length of the poles, and especially, as the rule book puts it change the LENGTH OF THE HORSE’S FRAME (neck and body).
Great extended trot exercises
It is not so much that we have to teach the horse extended trot. Teach extended trot to the horse is unncessary as the horse can do it naturally in the paddock. What we need to ‘allow’ and ‘develop’ is the horse’s capacity to carry us while he does extended trot, and be able to do it on que.
People seem to have the most problem with extension. It is very important that we follow the dressage test and for reasons explained in all the great texts, we ALWAYS teach extension before we teach collection.
A great extended trot exercise to improve the length of stride is to get three poles down the long side of the arena. Set them out at about 1.3m or so (that’s just a ‘normal every day working trot’, and then every day just make them a little bit longer and a little bit longer.
The ultimate of collection – passage and piaffe
The dressage extended trot is easy to understand because it has the word “extension”…but compare it to it’s opposite..’piaffe and passage’…Why they have to give piaffe & passage a separate name I do not know. But EVERYONE has done passage…that’s what the horse will do late in the afternoon on the trail when some bright spark at home decides to feed the other horses and they’re all whinnying and talking to each other and your horse “jogs” all the way home. OK that “Jog” might not exactly be passage, but it’s sure close!
Piaffe is what you see when a stallion thinks a mare is pretty cute, but cross tied in the hosing bay, so he can’t go anywhere, but he still starts trotting up and down on the spot.
All horses do it. Some more than others depending on the breed, but to give you one of our very best tips…we ALWAYS do passage from the arena back to the stable where the horse wants to get back to his dinner….it’s EASY!
These are just some simple and easy exercises…but there is lots more to it…so much so that we’ve made a DVD on all the things you need to know….the distances of the poles, how many beats per minute the trot should be so the judge won’t say “rushing”, or “not enough impulsion”.
Questions that are relatively simple such as – should piaffe’s music speed be the same as extended trot’s music speed.
Improving Extended and Collected Canter
And…questions a bit harder…how do you know if your horse is tracking up in CANTER! There are FIVE ways not to “feel” it, but to actually measure the difference between the horse’s collected canter strice and extended canter stride…and as riders and especially as coaches we’d better know the difference in how to actually TEST AND MEASURE the difference (not just “feel” and “guess”).
If you really want to know all this, and more, in a real simple and easy to understand format…have a look at “How to Improve your Extension & Collection”