So one of my favourite lessons so far has been focused on riding the extended trot. This movement is definitely one I personally think is often performed incorrectly. I think a true extended trot is actually quite difficult for both the rider and the horse. So in this particular lesson I learned how to open and close the flood gate to the extended trot.
The FEI defines extended trot as:
- iv) Extended trot. The horse covers as much ground as possible. Maintaining the same cadence, he lengthens his steps to the utmost as a result of great impulsion from the hind quarters. The rider allows the horse, remaining “on the bit”, without leaning on it, to lengthen his frame and gain ground. The fore feet should touch the ground on the spot towards where they are pointing. The movement of the fore and hind legs should be similar (parallel) in the forward moment of the extension. The whole movement should be well balanced and the transition to collected trot should be smoothly executed by taking more weight on the hind quarters.
My first attempt at extended trot really was quite ridiculous. Rheirattack is a very powerful horse and so in asking extended trot you must be very specific in what you want. So this amateur figured extended trot comes from a solid leg aid, right, it must be that simple? WRONG.
Rheirattack is sitting there going “Ok so how much do you want? A little, a lot, is your aim to be bounced out of the saddle?”. Well my first attempt with a solid leg aid resulted in the latter. I’m shocked I didn’t end up on the ground, cause that horse can move! So that was a quick lesson learned that I gave too much gas. It was like I floored it in the Audi and the turbo kicked in and I almost made it into the ditch.
So after a ringside debriefing with Susanne we established, he is an Audi and must be treated as so. My next attempt was much more refined. Once I came along the long side, I first softened my hand to ensure the emergency brake was off and he instantly lengthened his stride a little. Then I gave a subtle squeeze with my calf until I achieved the appropriate extension and off we were! It was probably the most incredible extension I have ever ridden. It was easy to sit, I could barely feel his hooves hitting the ground and I had the best view in the world – right between Rheirattack’s ears as we floated down the long side. I was at a loss of words of how to explain it but Susanne put it perfectly – it’s like riding a wave. Since Rheirattack was balanced he was able to drive from behind and then open up in front creating an incredibly uphill frame (hence the view between the ears).
When I gave too much“gas” he powered forward but I lost my seat and he ended up on the forehand. One thing I have to keep an eye on is I often use the movement as an excuse to lean farther back. But this only constricts the horse’s back, so I have to focus on sitting straight (think Charlotte Dujardin). The key to keeping it in control was QUICK half halts, anything too long and you’ve killed your momentum. At the end of the long side I simply closed my hand and he came back to working trot. Check out the video below with Carl Hester and his Olympic mount Uthopia for a great example.
Susanne Dutt-Roth is an international dressage trainer based out of Rideauwood Farm outside of Ottawa, Canada. She has graciously offered to teach me on her Grand Prix Canadian Sport Horse stallion Rheirattack. For more information please visit RideauwoodFarm.com.