Riding Techniques, Dressage

3 Exercises to Boost Your Medium Trot

A good medium trot is a pleasure to ride; powerful, expressive, uphill, and effortless…but it’s a common stumbling block for riders wanting to progress up the levels of dressage.

While some combinations struggle to show any real change over the medium trot and will receive comments such as ‘not enough shown’, other riders and horses tend to rush and end up with a trot which is faster, but doesn’t show lengthening of the frame and stride. Some other common mistakes include losing the rhythm, falling on the forehand, going hollow, or not staying straight.

Luckily, trot is the easiest pace to improve.  So even if you don’t have a horse with naturally brilliant extended gaits you can still develop more reach, suspension, and expression in the medium trot. Here are three exercises to help maximize your horse’s medium trot and score a couple of extra points at your next show.

On and Back/Mini Mediums

The medium trot is normally an entire diagonal or long side in the test, but you don’t necessarily have to school it that way at home. As with almost anything in dressage, transitions are your best friend when it comes to developing the medium trot!

The ‘mini mediums’ or on and back exercise is essentially just a transition within the pace; but rather than going for an entire length, you’d ask for a few strides of a lengthened or medium trot, followed by a few strides of a more collected trot.  

Lengthened trot in a dressage arena

Though the aim is to improve the medium, the downward transition is actually the key when riding this exercise. If the rider doesn’t pull but uses their seat and core to collect, it serves as a way to rebalance the horse, quicken the action of the hind leg, and improve self-carriage and collection. Collection is key to extension – think of the positive tension in a tightly coiled spring as collection, and letting the spring release as the medium. 

When riding the exercise, only vary the pace enough that the horse keeps his balance and impulsion. Ideally, you want to be able to do three ‘on and backs’ within one long side or diagonal.

Shoulder In to Lengthened Trot

Another way to develop the power in the lengthened trot is to ride it immediately after a shoulder in. This helps to get the hind end taking more weight and stepping further underneath the horse’s body, lightens the forehand, ensures that you’re controlling the shoulders, and helps in riding a smoother transition into and out of the medium trot. Here’s a good video demonstrating the exercise.

To do this on the right rein, you would ride a shoulder in from K to E, and then come across the diagonal from E to M in medium trot making sure to keep the horse straight. Similarly to the above exercise, this works by developing collection and ‘coiling up the spring’ before releasing the energy into the medium.

You can tailor this exercise to your level and make it easier by riding a 10 meter circle at K to set the horse up correctly before you start the shoulder in. Or, you could make it more of a challenge by riding shoulder in from K to V, then going medium trot from V to R, and immediately into shoulder in on the left rein from R to M before straightening and riding your corner.

Adding the shoulder-in after the medium can be a great help to horses who tend to fall onto the forehand in the downward transition, and also tends to stop the rider from pulling and tensing in the downward transition, which will result in a hollow horse.

Polework

Trotting poles spaced correctly can not only help to open up your horse’s stride, but also really encourages them to work through the topline, bend the hocks, and develop more cadence. In fact, polework can be a wonderful addition to your Dressage schooling in general. To help develop your medium from meh to mind-blowing, enlist a helper on the ground.

Horse and rider trotting over ground poles
Photo by Saidee Samuelson

Start with trotting poles spaced out for a normal working trot, and when your horse is trotting over them comfortably and in rhythm, roll each pole out an inch at a time to encourage a little bit of extra reach. It’s important to do this slowly so as not to damage your horse’s confidence or to end up with a rhythm disturbance. Slowly but surely, you’ll find your horse starting to lengthen his frame and stride into a proper medium.

Build on this by raising alternate ends of the poles onto a cavaletti or similar, to encourage your horse to help create a medium trot which is flashy and full of suspension, rather than rushed and flat.

Conclusion

Hopefully, you can now start to improve the medium trot by incorporating these exercises into your schooling schedule, whether your horse is the biggest, flashiest mover around or needs a bit of extra help to really stretch those legs!

What are your favorite exercises to help get that medium trot big and effortless? Let us know in the comments below!

Leave a Reply