What is medium trot, and what are the benefits for your horse?

  • What is medium trot?

    Medium trot is a type of trot where the horse is lengthening his stride so he is covering more ground with each step than in working or collected trot, but not as much as is required in extended trot. It is described as ‘moderate lengthening’.

    A good medium trot should be uphill and the horse’s hindlegs should come under his body to create impulsion. He should not hurry in this pace but should remain in balance, while his outline will lengthen slightly as his head comes slightly in front of the vertical.

    What are the benefits?

    Medium trot can be a useful tool to help develop your horse. It can be used to refresh the working trot if it becomes a little flat. It will also develop the carrying power of his hindlegs, while riding transitions to medium trot – for example, from shoulder-in – will help develop suppleness and engagement.

    At what level do you ride medium trot?

    You’ll first encounter this trot at novice level if you’re competing in British Dressage. At novice, you need to show a few strides, but at elementary you will be required to show it from marker to marker.

    How to ride medium trot

    Preparation for medium trot is key – if your horse is not balanced and engaged, he will fall onto his forehand, break into canter, or lose the rhythm as he attempts to lengthen his stride.

    Ride a half-halt to gain your horse’s attention and engage his hindleg – contain the energy your leg has created.

    Make sure your horse is straight and working into an even contact. Ease your hand forward and apply your legs to allow your horse to move smoothly forward and up into the medium trot. Allow with your hand so that the horse can lengthen his whole frame, not just his stride.

    Use a half-halt to transition out of medium trot, keeping your leg on so that he doesn’t fall onto his forehand, and be sure to maintain the rhythm.

    How to introduce medium trot

    Before introducing medium trot strides, make sure you’ve established a good working trot in which your horse is working through his back to seek the contact.

    To teach your horse medium trot, first ride down the long side of the arena. Then before you reach the corner, use a half-halt to ensure your horse is balanced. Ask your horse for a slight shoulder-fore position as you ride through the next corner, which will bring his inside hindleg further underneath him.

    Straighten up on the next long side and ease your hands a little more forward. Apply your legs on the girth to encourage your horse to stretch forward with his head and neck as he seeks the contact.

    As you ease your contact, the energy you’ve created should push forward as your horse follows the bit. Keeping your leg on asks the horse to lengthen his frame and stride so that he covers more ground.

    Gradually increase the number of medium trot strides until your horse is strong and balanced enough to manage more. Focus on maintaining the rhythm, tempo and balance.

    Polework can also be a useful tool when introducing medium trot, but take care to avoid placing the poles too far apart to begin with. Start with a distance that is comfortable for him and gradually make the distance longer.

    How to improve your medium trot

    A good medium trot should be uphill and the hindlegs should come under the body to give impulsion. For a horse’s balance and development, it’s essential for them to learn to take the weight back on to the hindlegs.

    Grand prix dressage rider Anna Ross uses this exercise to improve a horse’s medium trot.

    The exercise uses the half walk pirouette to balance the horse and encourage him to “sit” and flex his hock joints in preparation for medium trot. This is a 180° turn in which the horse’s hindlegs lift up and down in a small circle.

    While your horse is learning, you can make the circle larger and half-pass back to the track if necessary, keeping the bend and the engagement.

    1. Start on the track along the long side, approaching the corner at either the A or C end. As you go past the marker nearest the corner, collect the walk and keep it active. Start the walk pirouette before you reach the corner.
    2. Start the walk pirouette in shoulder-fore position, with your weight slightly to the inside. Keep your outside leg on just behind the girth and encourage the horse to step forwards and sideways. At the start, think of riding a half-pass, and as the horse turns back towards the track, ride travers.
      In the pirouette, maintain the impulsion so the horse turns with even steps.
    3. When you get back to the track, move up into rising trot and then ask the horse to lengthen into medium trot, for no more than the length of two markers.
    4. Quietly bring the horse back to walk before the corner marker and then repeat the walk pirouette the other way.
    5. Repeat several times. If the horse is executing a balanced medium trot, then trot around the short side and try without the pirouette. Don’t allow the quarters to drift to the outside — keep the outside leg on and your shoulders following the movement. Also avoid pushing the horse out of his rhythm and balance. If he starts to run, bring him back into the walk pirouette.

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