In trot ride round the corner of the arena and begin half-pass from the quarter marker across the diagonal.
After about six strides of half-pass, straighten your horse and ask for some medium strides as you cross the X marker.
After another six strides or so, half-halt and go back into half pass again. Repeat on the other rein and from both ends of the school.
After the half-pass, you horse should be more engaged, so this exercise could also help to improve the medium trot.
1. Start out in working trot, tracking on the long side of the arena.
2. Walk at the letter before the corner, maintaining a good bend.
3. Promptly make half a walk pirouette to the left, which turns you back to the same wall, facing the other way.
4. Using the lightest-possible aids, straighten your horse and transition back to the working trot.
5. Before you get to the corner, transition to walk and make half a walk pirouette to the right. Stay on the long side, heading in the other direction.
Repeat the exercise, asking for more during the trot on the long side. First, ask for a lengthening of the working trot and then for more extension, each time with an easy downward transition to walk and then the half walk pirouette to turn around.
This exercise highlights one of the extremes of collection, which is the collected walk required for a walk pirouette. Perfecting this will help you transition to an extended trot because the horse must remain active in the hind legs and do so with a correct bend. The pirouettes give you a moment to gather confidence, establish balance and reward the horse for thinking in the right direction.
In the process, you form the horse as you focus on the integrity of your position to maintain looseness, bend and flexibility. This allows your driving aids to flow through the horse’s back to maintain the looseness that keeps the energy flowing.
On the left rein, ride straight down the long side of the arena in a balanced trot (may be working or collected depending on the stage of the horse’s training).
At R, ride a half 20 metre circle to S in medium trot, thinking about creating impulsion without allowing the horse to take faster steps.
At S, half-halt and develop shoulder-in in collected trot down the long side to V.
From V to P, ride another half 20 metre circle in medium trot to refresh the impulsion, and develop shoulder-in in collected trot again down the long side to R.
At R, ride a half 20 metre circle to S in medium trot…and so on.
“Your horse may rush in the mediums and as a result stiffen and lean on the contact,” cautions Andrea. “Check that you are pushing and engaging him uphill using half halts rather than chasing him out of balance.”
You may also find that your horse feels “stuck” against the wall in the transition from shoulder-in in collected trot to the medium trot. “Make sure you are keeping the horse in front of your leg in the shoulder-in so he is ready to leave the wall exactly when you give the aid,” Andrea advises.
This exercise can be adapted to suit different horses by varying the degree of impulsion in the medium trot and asking for more or less angle in the shoulder-in. With a more advanced horse you can even add a half-pass out of the shoulder-in at E or B to the top of the centreline. Then come back down the long side and repeat the exercise from the beginning.
Dressage training on how to improve the trot with Olympian Courtney King Dye
Dressage training with Garreth Hughes, How to improve the trot