Too many horses miss out on the amazing value of an extended trot. 

There’s something almost magical about trotting fast on a loose rein with the rider’s hands forward, wide, and low. This hand position allows you to keep the horse looking straight ahead where he’s going without impeding his forward motion. 

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Get Out

And it’s best to do this out of an arena so the horse can get out and go somewhere. Find a long dirt road or trot out through a pasture from corner to corner. The bigger the area, and the more ground you can allow the horse to cover in an extended trot, the better.

Convince Your Horse

If you observe loose horses out in a field, they all obviously know how to move in an extended form. But many horses have not been convinced that they can travel in that same natural and balanced way with a saddle and rider on their back. This is a major root cause of anxiety and spookiness.

More info about spooky horses: Why Is My Horse Spooky?

There’s nothing I’ve found that helps a horse’s mentality more than an extended trot. 

Benefits Of An Extended Trot

A standard practice in the horse world is to lope circles. And there’s a time for that. But remember that loping is similar to a human lifting weights. An extended trot is more like the human equivalent of swimming.

An extended trot will help develop strength and maintain the health of a horse’s overall body. It also helps get him off his front end and travel in a more balanced way. And that will contribute to his longevity.

Long trotting will form the habit of putting forth some effort in a horse’s thoughts and movements. It will make him mentally and physically lighter. 

Learn the importance of changing diagonals when you trot: Trotting Diagonals For Strength And Balance

Extended Trot For Loping

People often have trouble getting a horse to lope without things going weird. Either they can’t get the horse to lope at all, or he picks up the wrong lead, or he crow hops.

A free, extended trot is the tick to loping. Ask your horse to trot. Then to trot a little faster. When he speeds up, reward that by releasing all pressure and make it feel good. Then ask for a more extended trot again. And again.

Resist the urge to come in from left field and kick him into a lope. The loping needs to be your horse’s own idea. And the way to set that up is via the extended trot. He will decide he can’t trot any faster, so he needs to lope. But it’s his idea.

Correct Canter

In a correct canter (or lope) the inside leg carries the horse. The ouside leg thrusts. If the hind legs are too close together, he will either use both hind legs to carry, or both to thrust. Balance is lost. Once the horse has impulsion at the trot by making long strides, the muscles of his hind legs are stretched and strenghtened. The underlying cause that prevents a horse from cantering correctly is removed.

Watch this video: How To Get More Try Out Of Your Horse

Extended Trot For Picking Up The Correct Lead

The extended trot is also valued as the best way for a horse to naturally pick up the correct lead. At a recent clinic, there was a participant who said that her horse would not pick up his left lead. She had sent him to two different trainers that had worked on it for several months with no success.

So I got on the horse and had him really trot. And then I asked him to trot faster. And faster. He decided he needed to lope and very smoothly picked up his left lead on the first attempt.

I’ve had about a 98% success rate using the extended trot to pick up the correct lead. True story.

Tips to improve your riding: How to Ride A Horse

Find The Balance

It’s surprising to find how many horses can not open their gait, lengthen their spine, and travel with some extension in a trot. Or even a walk and lope. Maybe it’s because so much emphasis has been put on keeping a horse slow and soft. And that’s important, too.

But if a horse is never asked or allowed to extend, he gets in the habit of only traveling in this bound up way. And that tends to also cause a horse to be bound up in his mind.

So don’t underestimate the value of an extended trot. It will do wonders for your horse. I promise.

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Carson James
Carson James

Carson James' background is in Vaquero Horsemanship, and for the majority of his career, he worked on cattle ranches where he rode horses all day, every day. His knowledge comes from real life experience using traditional Buckaroo horsemanship to train horses and fix problems. He is now taking all of this knowledge and experience and sharing it with horse owners through his blog, his Insider list, and his Buckaroo Crew. He has a unique way of breaking things down where they're easy to understand, both for the horse and the human.