The medium trot... so beautiful to watch yet surprisingly tricky to execute. How often have you seen the comment, "Too quick" or something similar for this movement on your score sheet? Yeah, you can raise your hand. I've been there, too.
So how do we develop a big, ground covering medium trot without our horse rushing or getting quick and the trot becoming irregular?
Before we really dig into the "how", let's make sure we truly understand the different gears in the trot and how they appear in our dressage tests.
Different "gears" in the trot first appear in First Level with the trot lengthening. The medium trot is then asked for beginning in Second Level and continues to be seen in tests all the way up to Grand Prix. The difference between the trot lengthening and the medium trot is the amount of collection and uphill balance required. However, the basic concept is the same: longer strides, not faster steps!
In order for the horse to achieve longer strides without getting quicker, he needs two big fundamentals in place: Rhythm and Relaxation. Rhythm and relaxation are the base of the dressage training scale.
Now let's talk about "How"... How to develop the medium trot.
Looking back at our training scale, let's talk rhythm. What is your horse's natural trot rhythm? As he trots freely in the turn out or on the lunge line, could you snap your fingers or tap your foot to the beat of his trot?
Once you find his natural steady beat, let's talk tunes! Look through your Spotify playlist... what songs on your playlist fit your horse's trot? Let's make a trot playlist!
Yes, the next time you ride I want you to play your "Trot" playlist. The tempo or speed of the songs will be the same for ALL gears of the trot - working/collected and medium!
Let's start on a 20 meter circle with your "trot" playlist playing.
Establish a relaxed trot with steady contact and, most importantly, a steady tempo. Let your music be your guide. Let your horse trot to the music!
From your steady, relaxed working trot, squeeze your calf to ask your horse for a few strides of bigger trot. As your horse begins to trot bigger, keep the beat of the music in your mind and your ear. Try to keep your horse matching the music.
Half halt, release, and bring him back to working trot. When he's learning, he only needs to keep the "big" trot for a few strides.
If he speeds up, half halt and bring him back to match the music. Let the music be your guide.
Repeat this "forward and back" exercise a few times in each direction. Little by little you can increase the number of strides in "big" trot or medium trot. Keep your "trot" playlist playing while you ride this exercise to help your horse stay on track.
Once your horse can change gears and maintain the "big" trot on the circle and match the music, you can try asking on the diagonal. Keep your music playing. If he looses his balance and his steps get quick, half halt and bring him back. Repeat this "forward and back" until he can maintain the medium trot.
Take a look at the video above. In the video above Stella and I are riding the medium trot from 4-1... to music! In this test, the horse is asked to perform medium trot across the diagonal with several strides of collected trot over X. Schooling this movement to music is extremely helpful! The tempo of trot should not change... only the length of stride should change. The horse should continue to trot to the music across the entire diagonal.
Give it a try... I'm looking forward to hearing your favorite songs to trot to! Leave a comment and let me know!