That's the beauty of spending 20-30 minutes trotting--you can try all the different trots. A little bit of everything keeps the horse using multiple small muscles to carry itself differently, lets it use itself freely and relax, and allows for a less boring ride.
I always wonder about this too. Part of me thinks I should let him go how he wants and the other part cringes when he decides he wants to go like a giraffe. Then I never know if its asking too much to be in a true dressage trot AND be doing fitness work so I always end up compromising a bit and asking for him to reach forward into the contact without necessarily being in a real frame.
Often I'll do trot/canter sets when I don't feel much like doing work up there.
Attach a set of draw reins between the front legs and off I go.
I also use my trot sets to make my trot bloody huge. I'll get the horse in a lower frame and make them trot huge. It seems to help me teach the youngsters to fully use their range of motion and really opens up the rib cage.
It depends on who I'm going with. If I'm going with someone with a big trot or I'm alone, I make him go forward and stretch into the contact. He can get a HUGE trot. To give you an idea, he easily keeps up with most cantering horses. It's great because he really uses himself and I can feel his shoulders opening up
But, if I'm going with whose horse has an average or slow trot, I just let him do his best giraffe imitation. It takes way to much work to make him stretch into the contact in a straight line with a slow trot, and usually just pisses him off. We mostly just do trot sets to make him happy anyway, so it's pointless to get in a fight over 'proper' contact for 20 minutes.
I don't get too carried away with the frame as long as I can feel his back up and working. I spend most of my trot sets either kicking the crap out of Toby because HE HATES THEM AND THINKS THEY ARE ABUSE (so he gets REALLY lazy), or trying not to die (because butterflies are scary). I ask for him to work into the bridle, and I may play around with up, down, big trot, etc, but I really have to spend more time kicking or keeping him thinking about something other than spooking, so it isn't much of a flat session. I WILL let him stretch down, which he loves and I love and is great for his back, but he's not always in a good state of mind for that and I don't like him down there the whole time.
If Linc is feeling energetic then I'll do some stretching into the bridle, bend each direction, shoulder in and leg yields. Honestly though we're usually just bebopping around on a loose rein while I listen to my ipod But I don't think that's the correct answer
I typically use the trot sets as a way to encourage them to open up and really use their back, so while they're not round I am encouraging the stretch over their back and the softness in their jaw. I was just trotting around on my younger horse today and thinking about how his tempo was quicker than I would allow it to be in dressage, which led to this thread Now my older horse is the one I occasionally have to put on the bit and/or in shoulder-in because he likes to spook...
Please leave out the draw reins! Whether or not they are actually used to "crank the horse's head down", they always (even if only mildly engaged for a moment) teach the horse to "give" to the bit by tucking his head closer to his chest. Which is the opposite of our goal in dressage. We want the horse to SEEK the connection, and happily connect with the bit without thinking he needs to change his "frame" when the rider takes a contact. By definition, that is a false frame.
As the old saying goes, the only riders good enough to use draw reins without risking ruining the horse ('s idea of what a real connection is) don't need them. Reiner Klimke always said he didn't trust that HE was good enough to use them without damaging the horse. That speaks volumes.
To the OP, I feel like all horses need and enjoy time to just relax and be horses. So I like to do a fair amount of hacking (usually just walk) on the buckle. But in trot or canter work I always keep them at least somewhat together, as it is easier on their bodies (and legs) to carry weight when they are carrying themselves correctly.
If we're outside of the arena, my horse's trot is HUGE from the start. If left to his own devices, he gets more strung-out & on his forehand. This does his body/hindend/back no favors. So I constantly have to 'monitor' him & keep him in some sort of a frame. In trot sets, it's more hunter-y, but I'll add in some bits of dressage - shortening the frame, shoulder-in, leg-yield,haunches-in & haunches-out.
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Nobody's espousing using draw reins to do dressage. Sometimes on a keen, hot horse the option to add a bit of "crank" is nice to have in one's armamentarium. One can abuse any piece of equipment. None of us is Reiner Klimke and I personally accept the fact that my horse would be better off if only my trainer rode him, but he's stuck with me! Personally I used them on Gwen once in a while. She knew DARN WELL what was expected of her, and how to appropriately respond to the bit. But sometimes on interval days her answer was "eff you, lady".
She knew DARN WELL what was expected of her, and how to appropriately respond to the bit. But sometimes on interval days her answer was "eff you, lady".
Hahahaha! It's only funny because my TB had that attitude when I pulled him out yesterday for a day of long n' low in the arena. I should have abandoned ship and went back to the barn for the evil draw reins, but nope...Instead we did lots and lots of circles. Tomorrow, though, is long n' low day...even if the middle hoof is flying!