1. The warm-up is to establish rhythm, balance, and looseness. Use stretching as part of the beginning and end of every ride to ensure the horse remains round in the topline and moving forward into the contact to create the arching spine. As part of the warm-up and cool-down, it is important for horses to have a “sleeping trot,” which is just the horse’s normal, relaxed trot.
2. Check reactions to the aids at the beginning of every ride – going forward, coming back, as well as laterally. It should always be the rider’s choice as to how forward or how collected, and they should be asking for the opposite of what the horse would prefer to do. Within lateral work – for example, shoulder-in going from a collected trot to medium trot and back to collected trot – this forward-and-back must be yours for the asking, or you must insist that the reaction needs to be quicker. Rider’s aids need to be effective when necessary and then relax when the response is correct.
3. “Change your mind” within a movement and ask for something else to check and confirm that your horse remains adjustable and doesn’t take over within any movement. For example, within your canter pirouette, make it smaller and then “change your mind” and make it a bigger working pirouette, then back into a proper pirouette.
4. Keep the neck straight and ride the hind legs actively up to the contact. Allow the horse to use his neck to balance and do not overbend the neck. For the horse to take the half-halt, the neck must be up and out in front of you. To feel the straightness required, ride with the reins in one hand. Reward the horse with a ‘give’ in front when they maintain the neck in the correct position.
5. Sometimes horses are a bit shy in showing us all of their gears, so to further develop the medium to extended trot and to encourage the horse to confidently move out, try this exercise: Using the whole arena, on each long side, ask for more extension in the trot by just a small amount; maintain it, ride the short side like a 20-metre circle, and then on the next long side ask for one more gear shift up, and so on. Building this strength and several gears within the trot will give the horse the ability and confidence to show his extended trot. Keep in mind to do this slowly and not push your horse out of balance.