The trot is perhaps the horse’s most versatile pace.
In addition to the basic working trot, the gait can be collected and extended, and in advanced dressage horses, the trot can be ultra-refined to show passage and piaffe.
Before you can ride each variation of the trot correctly, it’s important to understand how the trot works and how the different facets of the gait are judged.
How the trot works
The trot has a two-beat rhythm during which the horse’s alternate diagonal legs move in the following sequence:
- left fore and right hind together
- right fore and left hind together
There should be a clear moment of suspension in between this movement when all the horse’s feet are off the floor. It’s this moment of suspension that gives the trot its expression and lift.
The two-beat rhythm should remain the same throughout all variations of the pace.
Working trot is the variation of the pace that you will use most when schooling your horse at home during the early stages of his training.
Working trot is what you’ll be asked to show in dressage tests up to and including elementary level (in British Dressage).
The dressage judge is looking for a good ‘quality’ working trot. The sequence and rhythm as described above must be correct; the horse should work forward from behind over a supple, swinging back, with the quarters engaged to put him into an uphill balance. All these qualities give the trot elasticity and cadence.
The horse’s hind feet should step clearly into the prints left by the fore feet.
Any signs of irregularity in the rhythm or stepping short behind can be indicative of tension and stiffness and will be penalized.
Collected trot demands greater self-carriage from the horse.
The horse should remain ‘on the bit’, moving forward with his neck raised and arched. His hocks will be engaged and flexed, stepping well under the horse’s center of gravity, and he will move forward, uphill and with good impulsion.
Although the steps are shorter than in working trot, the elasticity and cadence are just as pronounced, and the horse should demonstrate greater mobility in the shoulders.
Medium trot shows moderate lengthening of the horse’s strides.
The horse should move forward without rushing and should smoothly lengthen his strides, both in front and behind, to cover more ground than in working trot.
The horse should lengthen his frame too, without losing balance and diving onto his forehand.
Throughout the movement, the horse should maintain the correct rhythm and regularity of the trot steps.
In the extended trot, the horse covers the maximum amount of ground he can without hurrying and losing his balance.
His fore feet should touch the ground on the spot towards which they’re pointing.
The movement of the hind and fore legs should reach equally forward in the moment of extension.
The whole movement should be spectacular, yet remain balanced and smooth.
In the early stages of your horse’s training, you will be concentrating on developing a good, rhythmical and active working trot.
As your horse’s balance and engagement improve, you can begin to include some medium steps in his schooling repertoire.
If you have a young or ‘green’ horse, always ride your trot work ‘rising’ so that he can use his back, and allow older horses time to warm up before taking up sitting trot.
- How to Ride Medium Trot
- How to Create More Expression in the Trot
- How to Improve Your Sitting Trot
- How to (and Why You Should) Ride on the Correct Diagonal