Which tempo is a good training tempo? Yes, of course you need to ride forward, this is nothing new to you. But how forward? And how does that translate in walk, trot and canter?
Collection is certainly one of the things you would like to achieve with your horse, but if you only ride forward, how do you get your horse collected?
You do your best and train your horse as best you can. Still, a little help is often fine; whether it is to confirm that you are doing well or to help you ride at a different tempo that in turn will lead to improve your horse’s workout. Ask a professional to help you with it! It will give you new insights and obstacles can sometimes be solved very easily!
To trot too fast
Often I see riders trotting too fast in the tempo. And the canter is often too slow in the tempo. In walk a wrong tempo is often the cause of rhythm mistakes.
Riding forward is not the same as trotting at high spead around the arena. And that is exactly what happens often. Forward is mistaken for "very fast".
As a consequence your horse is pushing instead of carrying itself. When pushing, the horse pushes itself forward with its hind legs. You will notice it when for example you need to lean backward in the extended trot to maintain your seat.
Pushing and carrying
Also in the transition walk – trot you can feel that your horse is pushing. Your horse is first leaning forward before trotting. If your horse makes the transition using its carrying strength, then the transition is more direct, because the horse doesn’t need to move its weight to its front legs before going into trot. With self-carriage, the transition is made from the hind legs whereby the horse’s topline moves up. It feels like you are being lifted by your horse.
Professionals ride often in a much lower tempo than non-professionals. This while non-professionals learn from professionals that they should ride forward. Apparently professionals mean something different with forward than non-professionals think.
The secret of the correct tempo lies in the reaction to your legs. It is fine to ride your horse in a somewhat lower tempo trot, if he reacts by “flying forward” to a very light leg aid.
In canter many riders ride in a too low tempo. And the horse often is behind the leg. It should feel like you are constantly telling him to stay cantering. Better would be to ask him once to canter using the canter aids and then to stop asking as long as you don’t want to change anything.
The obedience to your leg aid is something that your horse can easily learn. All you need is to be consequent. In the article 'How is your horse learning?' I explain how to improve the reaction to leg aids.
In all paces, walk, trot and canter you should be able to ride without keeping your leg aids on. Do you need more than one light aid in up transitions? Then your horse is not obedient enough and you tend to ride at the wrong tempo. In trot, the tempo is often too fast, while you continuously keep your leg aids on to ride your horse quicker and quicker forward. In canter, the tempo is often too low and the horse is behind your leg.
In short: the tempo at which you ride your horse is closely connected to the reaction of the horse to your leg aids. You don’t need to ride your horse faster to ride him more forward. Better a somewhat lower tempo, whereby your horse is nicely finishing the movement and can develop self-carriage thanks to the great reaction to your aids. A horse pushing is getting longer when trotting faster which makes it more difficult for you to keep a nice seat. Ridding correct transitions whereby your horse is doing it from its hind legs and is not leaning on the forehand is a nice method to get a better reaction to your leg and to develop more self-carriage from the hind legs.
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