I really like this first photo of Forrest…in a rising working trot, he is moving forward with energy and purpose. Looking closely I can see the contraction of his stomach muscles, lifting his back, withers, and neck. Too bad I didn’t let his nose out another inch, but that’s what helpful about being filmed when you ride: you can see the improvements that need to be made:
That working trot is the goal I aim for with a young horse coming 5, particularly a horse off the track as I find their biggest challenge is the complete change of balance they must adopt and relax into. For this reason one of my favorite exercises to achieve a nice, balanced, dynamic trot (or canter) is spiraling in and out of a 20 meter circle. It helps the rider (that would be me) maintain their horse’s straightness on a curved line, neither falling in or out (hopefully) and it requests the horse move off each of the rider’s legs. The spiraling out also obliges the horse to leg yield, always helpful for strengthening and working into the outside rein. As I spiral out, I simply keep that ‘leg yielding’ feeling, or perhaps a bit of shoulder fore, all the way down the long side, encouraging Forrest to continue to step well under with his inside hind- particularly to the right as that is the side of his body which he’d happily fall through the shoulder, if I allowed! So after our suppling walk work, where we also spiral in and out, we do our regular, stretchy-trot warm up, and then begin to spiral in.
And then we spiral out in leg yield with my attention focusing on keeping Forrest’s neck quite straight and leading the movement with his shoulders slightly ahead of his haunches.
To make absolutely sure neither Forrest or I am relying on the evil inside rein to keep his right shoulder in line, I finish off this spiral by releasing the right rein to see if he can now carry himself and, good boy, he does.
Leaving the circle, we use some of that strengthening and suppleness we’ve just created to trot dynamically down the long side, change rein, and begin to spiral back in and out, tracking left.
One thing that’s important to note is that, with a young or green horse, I don’t spiral in any smaller than about 12 meters because anything 10 meters or less in collected work and a greenbean neither has the strength or balance for that. To keep his trust, I want to make sure I always set Forrest up for success with what he’s capable of comfortably handling.
After all, isn’t that what friends are for?