Exercises to Improve Lengthens

I’ve been surfing the web looking for exercises that could help improve Ava’s lengthen/medium trot. So, for your enjoyment, here are the articles I’ve found from around the web. (excerpts included, but please read the entire article by clicking the links).

Improving the Horse’s Extension & Collection


A great extended trot exercise to improve the length of stride is to get three poles down the long side of the arena. Set them out at about 1.3m or so (that’s just a ‘normal every day working trot’, and then every day just make them a little bit longer and a little bit longer.

Developing the Extended Gaits with Cindy Ishoy


Written by Cindy Ishoy.
An exercise for developing the extended trot is to alternate between shoulder-in and medium trot. Ride out of the corner in shoulder-in for 10-15 meters, then slowly straighten and push the horse into medium trot. After some strides in medium trot, collect back into shoulder-in before the corner. As the horse becomes stronger and more trained, several transitions between shoulder-in and medium trot can be fit into a single long side. The purpose of shoulder-in here is two-fold: it is a balancing movement, so it helps maintain or recover balance after the medium trot; it is also a lateral movement with flexion, so the rider is using the exercise, rather than strength, to bring the horse back.

Another exercise is to ride a short distance in extended trot, followed immediately by an 8 or 10 meter circle, then another short extended trot. This exercise can be ridden on the long side, quarter lines or diagonals. Can also use the centre line in order to circle either left or right. The circle makes the horse come back and rebalance on his hind end. As the horse becomes more highly trained, the transition can eventually go from passage to extended trot to passage. The passage encourages a longer moment of suspension, and (correctly used) it can improve the quality of the extended trot.

Developing Extended Canter: Use a 20-meter circle. Ask the horse for five to six strides of strong working canter on the circle, then five to six strides of collected canter, before asking again for a strong working canter. I will do the exercise for long enough that the horse is working hard, because the goal is not only to develop the extended canter, but also to develop the necessary strength in the hind end for collection. I like to use the circle because it makes the inside leg work harder, and it discourages the rider from pulling straight back in the downward transition. At the moment the rider collects the horse, the inside leg should drive to the outside rein, which resists only as much as necessary to get the response. The rider must remain straight on both seat bones and in the shoulders. The more equal on both sides you are as a rider, the better your horse will go.

Another exercise is to ask for a medium canter from the beginning of the long side, then ride a 20, 15 or 10-meter circle at the halfway point. The size of the circle is dependent on the horse’s level of training. The circle makes the horse collect without encouraging the rider to use a strong backward rein aid to achieve it. I will sometimes use the diagonal for this exercise with a horse that is advanced enough to do a 10-meter circle; I begin the diagonal in extended canter, ride a 10-meter circle, then continue the diagonal in extended canter. The exercise encourages the horse to take a more impressive, uphill canter stride. I always maintain a slight shoulder-in position as I come back to the collected canter. As the horse becomes stronger, I will add more than one circle on a single long line.

Riding a Dressage Horse: The Extended Trot


Written by Arlene “Tuny” Page.

Extended Trot Transitions
Exercise for developing great collected–extended–collected trot transitions. Uses the horse’s natural desire to please and his ability to anticipate.

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.

How to develop the extended trot in the dressage horse.
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.

Collected walk required for walk pirouette keeps the hind legs active with correct bend. Pirouettes give you a moment to gather confidence, establish balance, and reward the horse for thinking in the right direction.

To improve extension in the trot at any level, experiment with how far you and your horse can go out of your comfort zone to improve. On one end of the spectrum, how far can your horse extend? On the other end of the spectrum, how close can he get to ultimate collection?

Perfect pole work: part one


Video’s covering exercises to develop bend, balance and impulsion, and adjusting the stride.

  • Riding around an ‘arc’ of trotting poles helps you capture the bend of your horse. Riding around the inner, center, and outer parts of the arc will also encourage lengthening and shortening of the stride. Plus, it helps develop consistent rhythm and coordination in your horse.
  • Cantering around a ‘clockface’ of four poles is good for developing and maintaining bend and rhythm, teaching a horse to lengthen and shorten his stride, and instilling accuracy in the rider (invaluable for dressage tests).
  • Riding an ‘arc’ of canter-poles around a corner encourages correct bend, is a useful stride-adjusting exercise, and promotes better balance, impulsion and coordination.

Work Over Cavalletti To Create Impressive, Consistent Trot Lengthenings


Article written by Nancy Later. I snipped a lot of the beginning parts, and explanation of what you’re looking for, out.

Setup Requirements: Five wooden jump poles.

Start by spacing the poles about three and a half of your boot lengths apart. (Author uses her own boot lengths, stepping on foot in front of the other, toe to heel rather than a measuring tape. This way you always have a consistent, reliable measuring method, wherever you are.) Evaluate the distances and adjust the poles as necessary. Trot two poles until horse is consistently relaxed and comfortable.

To work on lengthens: Start by adding half a boot length to each of the spaces between the four trot poles. Approach them in the same manner as before. Practice this for several weeks before lengthening the distances again. Never lengthen by more than half a boot length at a time and don’t lengthen the overall distance by a total of more than one and a half booth lengths beyond your horse’s natural stride.

To help your horse produce the added balance and power necessary to tackle the longer distance, prepare him with two or three half halts just after you turn off the short side. Then ride forward to the poles, trying to be quiet and supple, rather than strong, in your position and aids. As he steps over the poles, concentrate on keeping him between your legs, seat and reins, without pulling on or pushing him. Remember to let him so the work.

Raised Cavalletti

Once your horse is easily negotiating the poles spaced one and a half boot lengths farther apart than his normal trot stride, shorten the spaces back to the original distance and remove one pole, so only three remain. Place the two extra poles perpendicular to these poles, one on either side, then roll them just underneath the ends of the three poles so they’re lifted a few inches off the ground (see photos).

Use the same half halts out of the turn and forward approach to these raised poles. Focus on the feeling the raised poles create in your horse’s motion without any extra push on your part. If he struggles to get over them or loses his balance, rhythm or relaxation, instead of trying to “help” by kicking or pushing him, shorten the distances by a few inches. When he’s comfortable again, practice the routine for an additional week or so before returning to the original distance. There’s no need to lengthen the distances farther than that; the raised poles are enough challenge on their own.

If you wish to read the first part, called “Your Horse Will Offer His Best Effort If He’s Confident In The Connection Of Your Aids”, you can find it at http://www.nancylaterdressagehorses.com/BuildTrust.php

One thought on “Exercises to Improve Lengthens

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.