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Was this the right feel for lengthening?

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  • Was this the right feel for lengthening?

    First, ,let me say that I am working with a trainer, but since I will not have another lesson until Tuesday I came here to see if you all think I am on the right track!

    Background: I am leasing a TB who evented prelim.
    My trainer has been telling me that for lengthening I was using not enough hand- not riding him into the bridle enough. She actually said that I was riding the back end but forgetting the front.

    One week goes by- I still have not figured it out. So after this past lesson I really tried to work on it. (Without running poor horsie into the ground.)

    So, on Friday, I got a GREAT feeling trot- but I don't know if it was correct or not. I was using more hand, as she suggested, and he was just getting annoyed. But then, I bumped him with my calf, and he SURGED up. It was like his trot got more bouncy but also more floaty-feeling and soft. I actually had a hard time posting to it because his back was hitting my butt before I thought I should be back down in the saddle. His head and neck seemed to be rounder, but he was definitely poll- high, not long and low type frame at all.

    What do you all think? I can try to describe it better if you need me to. I've been riding a long time (25 years), but lots of greenies and fixer upper type horses, I've never done any upper level stuff. I think I have a strange mix of being advanced at some things but beginner at others.

  • #2
    I worry about the "not enough hand" part...you shouldn't be riding with a backward hand, and the description makes me think that your trainer is having you restrict with the hands while continuing to drive forward. Your hands should have a buoyant feeling so that the horse is encourage to lengthen his frame in the lengthening.

    The feeling that you describe sounds about right - I always notice that it feels bouncier as the horse is "kicking out" through his shoulders - you'll feel this in his back. You should be holding the post a bit longer to drive him with the swing of your hips so that he pushes more from behind- he should not be picking up tempo.

    It takes a while to teach a proper lengthening - the horse needs to lengthen its stride, while pushing harder from behind...not running. From your description, it sounds like you're getting close...but watch that the hands don't become to restrictive. Practicing on circles is good because they are more apt to stay soft because of the bend and get the idea of driving harder.

    Hope this helps.


    • #3
      I gather your coaches more hand comments were related to the fact that you were simply allowing the horse to drop on the forehand and pull himself along.
      The movement yes should feel up.

      A true feeling should feel like you are in a speed boat that is lifting its bow out of the water with power from behind.
      I still remember my first true extended trot. I had a grin from ear to ear. It was a loooong time ago but I still remember how awesome it felt. Fortunately for me I had the chance to ride it on a schoolmaster who gave me the 'feeling' despite my amateur fumbling.

      Using the words more hands is a dangerous one as it can be misinterpreted to a backward movement. I think the word containment is better.

      My aids for lengthen are as follows (I appreciate some people ask differently)
      From a good trot I half halt as a preparation then ask for a more forward feeling. At this point I am containing slightly. After about 2-3 strides I then ask again for more forward and as the horse then really surges forward I gradually let the pressure go so that the horse can stretch the neck out more.

      By giving the first aid with a slightly more restricted hand it tells the horse that you want a bigger trot not a faster one. The second aid is just now I want it even more forward.

      When I am asking for a lengthen from a corner I do a couple of steps of shoulder fore as I come out of the corner (after the half halt) and before the first go aid(when I am straightening to go across the diagonal) That just sets the horse back on his hocks and makes the forward easier for the horse as well.

      Trotting up hills is a great way also to teach the horse and get the feeling.


      • Original Poster

        Thanks guys. Yes, I know the 'more hand' comment sounds bad, but yes, he was just running forward and NOT pushing from behind. I have pretty light hands- I've ridden a lot of TBs who just take off if you pull on them. I know everything starts from the back! I was a little taken aback by this statement so that's why I included it.

        'Containment' does make more sense, it certainly felt like he was going up and not down and fast. I don't know if he was lengthening much though or not, it was hard to tell. I think I need to learn the feeling of containing and then letting go a bit, then holding, then letting go? But this just seems like the normal way to balance a horse-- how is it different with lengthenings? Or am I overanalyzing here?

        The posting thing she mentioned to me as well. She said to post UP.


        • #5
          Posting up is a good one too but easier to think that bringing your pelvis up to meet your hands as you rise. That way your butt is tucked under rather than you sitting on the front of your pelvis and tipping your upper body.

          When I was teaching someone and mentioned lifting the pelvis up to the hands she said her previous coach had always yelled at her to "Don't dip your canoe"
          (think of that prow of the canoe not dipping into the water)
          I don't like to use the words Don't when teach so prefer "Lift your pelvis toward your hands"

          You can practise this feeling sitting in a chair. It should feel like you are lifting up your belly button and you will feel how your seat bones will be more under you.


          • #6
            Originally posted by Eireamon View Post
            Posting up is a good one too but easier to think that bringing your pelvis up to meet your hands as you rise. That way your butt is tucked under rather than you sitting on the front of your pelvis and tipping your upper body.
            Makes all the difference in the world to post this way
            ....horses should be trained in such a way that they not only love their riders, but look forward to the time they are with them.
            ~ Xenophon, 350 B.C.


            • Original Poster

              Thanks for the tip about posting! I'll try that tonight!


              • #8
                I just wrote a blog post that might help you. I'm in a slightly different situation because I am just developing a bigger trot on a horse who finds the movement difficult, but we just had a huge breakthrough and luckily someone was videoing it so I could go back and watch what was happening. I wrote about what I felt happen, and there is plenty of history about the training process with this particular horse if you are interested. The part that may help you the most is the pictures.

                Again, it's not perfect work, it's the first time this horse kinda figured out how to make his stride bigger and offered me a huge trot, but there is a pic that shows very clearly the hind leg taking a HUGE step, and you can see the horse has his withers clearly above his haunches, traveling in a very uphill balance (and he's not an uphill built horse at all). He could only hold that together for 2-3 strides after a corner (where I used the bend and half-halts to reconnect him and collect him), then he started to flatten out/fall on the forehand, but I posted a pic of that too. The stride is still huge like the uphill pic, but the horse is clearly traveling in a very different balance (on the forehand). I think the difference in the two pics is a great illustration of the difference between a good lengthening or extension (front end lifts off the ground, hind end pushes under the horse) and a not-so-good one (falls on forehand and rushes), although the not-as-good moments are a normal part of the training process as both the horse and the rider learn the movement and develop the strength to hold it together... so like my horse did, don't be surprised if you can get just a few strides of the good lengthening before it falls apart. In the saddle, the difference in the feeling is just as clear as it is in the pictures. Hopefully that helps some!
                Gallant Gesture "Liam" 1995 chestnut ottb gelding
                Mr. Painter "Remy" 2006 chestnut ottb gelding
                My Training Blog: www.dressagefundamentals.com