The Different Kinds of Trot in Dressage
by Jan Nivelle, Coach to the Spanish National Young Riders Team
Jan Nivelle gives us basic points to develop and strengthen the trot in our horse. Theoretically, our horse’s quality of trot will continually improve throughout the process of development until finally reaching the Grand Prix level. Through years of work we will earn an expressiveness as a result of our horse’s level of concentration that they learn to keep.
Personally, I always search for rhythm and elasticity FIRST, rather than searching for big, spectacular, unnatural movement. Before searching for a huge movement and spectacular tricks (which are artificial because the horse does not offer them in its own natural movement), it is more important that the topline is supple and that the horse can balance himself in a basic (natural) tempo. In this sport, or in other words, in the “commercialization” of horses, we can observe again and again that amateur clients experience a great deal of emotion in front of horses that move spectacularly. But finally, at the time of truth, the spectacular movements are worthless if the horse hasn’t learned to release its own top-line and stay connected from its back through its neck to the mouth with a soft and correct contact passing through the spine and forward.
These are the first things we should assure ourselves of in the daily work:
1. A normal trot with correct (natural) rhythm.
3. Good contact.
When these three points are present, then it is possible to gain the quality of movement assuring the persistence of the training scale in EVERY MOMENT.
We can often observe, especially in the movements of young horses and also with trainers, that they put a lot of effort into pushing the horse into more or bigger movement than the horse can handle or perhaps MAINTAIN without blocking himself.
Who ever acts this way is actually destroying the top-line (spine) musculature.
It is important to keep these problems in mind and not to lose sight of them during the basic trot work. When we obtain a normal trot and an active relaxed top-line (or spine), THEN we can start working the mechanics of the trot, because we are reaching the number 4 point in the training scale which is IMPULSION. Then it is required that the mechanics of the trot give space for more impulsion, but first the top-line (or spine) must be relaxed. If the top-line is not relaxed but at the same time we reach impulsion through the mechanics of the trot and if the horse is not moving correctly over the back, we can harm the spine or even the neck resulting in a posture of that of a deer.
Its very important to feel conscious that each horse has its own individual rhythm, (particularly the most basic rhythm), and this personal rhythm is the rhythm in which he must move with his top-line (spine) relaxed. This is the art: the intuition. There are riders who have the sensitivity for it and who feel where the basic rhythm of each horse is and who feel where the trot is that the horse feels most comfortable. Other riders do not have this sensitivity, or in other words, some horses have many problems, and what has happened here, is that the riders are so busy with those problems, that because of that, they dont get to instill their horses with this basic trot. The sooner we achieve a working trot with specific impulsion, the sooner the trot will be ready for competition. The preparation of extended trot is not an objective in and of itself until the horses are at a medium level. Young horses could extend their gaits in beginning, but the extended trot will only damage the extremities of the horse when he is too young.
Translated from the original Spanish article at www.topiberian.es by Ana Gilmour and Heman Batiatto.