One movement that is included in dressage tests at the lower levels is the trot-walk-trot exercise and it’s a movement that often causes problems for riders.
So, how do you ride this deceptively demanding exercise correctly to impress the judge and get a good mark?
The requirements of the exercise
The trot-walk-trot exercise can appear in a dressage test in several places in the arena:
- across the diagonal over ‘X’
- on the center line
- on the short side of the arena
- on the long side of the arena
The test will specify that you ride three to four steps of walk (or one horse’s length) between the trot transitions.
What the judge is looking for
If you break the movement down into its component parts and consider what the judge is looking for, you can see just how demanding this exercise is.
1. The transitions must be executed where required by the test.
2. There must be the correct number of walk steps, and they must be clearly walked, rather than jogged.
3. The downward transition must be obedient, balanced, and straight.
4. The upward transition must be obedient, balanced, and straight, and the horse must be reactive to the rider’s aids.
5. The rhythm and frame should remain constant and correct throughout the exercise, and the whole thing should appear fluent and effortless.
Common, mark-losing faults include:
- horse coming against the rider’s hand in the downward transition
- horse jogging into walk instead of making a clear, direct downward transition
- horse brings his quarters to the inside as he makes the downward transition
- not enough or too many walk steps shown
- poor clarity of walk rhythm, e.g. jogging
- lazy transition back into trot
- transitions performed too early or too late
- loss of outline
- stilted or unbalanced transitions
How to ride a good trot-walk-trot exercise
First of all, make sure that your horse is in a good, active trot, working nicely forward from behind through his back into a secure, elastic contact.
Look ahead towards the point where you want to make the transitions, and remember to give your horse a clear half-halt before you get there so that he is prepared.
Go into sitting trot a few strides before you ask for the transition into walk, and don’t allow the horse to slow down to a jog.
Keep your leg on as the horse makes the transition and ride forward so that the horse’s inside hind leg steps through and underneath to balance him.
Remember that if you allow your horse to dawdle into the walk transition, he’s more likely to drift sideways, losing you lots of marks when the exercise is ridden on the center line.
Use your inside leg and outside rein to keep the horse straight into the downward transition so that he doesn’t bring his quarters to the inside.
Keep the walk steps active to maintain the rhythm, and don’t forget to count them!
Plenty of activity in the walk means that you will achieve a better upward transition back into trot. In addition, the more engaged the horse is the more uphill his balance will be as he makes the transition.
The transition back into trot should be obedient and reactive, whilst remaining fluent and calm.
An abrupt, tense transition will be penalized.
The horse should remain in the same outline throughout the whole exercise, and the trot rhythm and energy following the transition should be the same as it was prior to the walk steps.
The ‘trot-walk-trot’ exercise is more difficult than it first appears, but it can bring you a good mark if you execute it well, as described above.
Be accurate, ride forwards and keep your horse reactive to your aids to guarantee success in the arena!