Sometimes my trainer will
tell me to ask for a more
active trot. As soon as I ask
for it, she will remind me,
“Not faster—more active.”
What does that really mean?
An active trot is all about the
rhythm. You don’t want your horse
to increase his speed; you want
him to step a little further under
himself with his hind legs to allow
the withers to elevate.
In a truly active trot, if you
could look at the hoof prints in
the arena, your horse would be
slightly overstepping his tracks.
For example, the hoof print
from his front left hoof would be
overstepped by his back left hoof.
An active trot is about
compressing and building the
energy while keeping the same
rhythm and cadence.
As your horse is trotting, apply
your leg in rhythm with the horse.
If you want his right hind to step
further underneath him, apply
your right leg as his right hoof is
leaving the ground. You’re asking
him to step a little further.
The key here is to cue when his
hind hoof is leaving the ground. If
you ask when the hoof is still on
the ground, he can’t do anything.
He’s committed to the hoof being
right there and he can’t step any
If you keep your leg on your
horse the entire time, rather
than pressing in rhythm, you’re
not being clear with your horse.
At the right moment in the trot
stride, that moment when his
hoof is leaving the ground, ask
your horse to step under himself
and then contain that energy with
If you don’t regulate the trot
with your hands, you’ll get a bigger
trot, but it will be extension with
longer steps rather than more
active. The hand is a form of
communication. You’re not going
to stop a horse with your hand.
You’re going to ask a horse to stop
with your hand. Therefore, use
your hands when he can answer.
For example, when the horse’s
right leg is coming forward, your
right hand should be able to hold
the right side of the horse to keep
his right side from going further
In an active trot, you’re
compressing the energy from the
front end when you add energy to
the hind end.
RONNIE QUEST has been in working
with horses and riders in the English
discipline for over 40 years. He and his
wife Jaime own and run Equestrian
Stables in Lubbock, Texas.
If a horse is pulling on the reins
during a stop, he either doesn’t
know how to stop correctly or
there is a problem with the way
he’s being asked. As a result,
your horse has learned that
pushing back gives him some
relief, and it’s become a habit
that he needs to unlearn.
First we need define how the
stop works for your horse. A stop
is the cessation of all forward
movement. It should originate
in his hindquarters, the driving
force behind all balanced equine
motion. In order for your horse
to stay light on the reins during
a stop, he has to stay balanced
over his hindquarters and step
forward into it. Look at the
ultimate version of putting on
the brakes, the sliding stop,
as an example of how a horse
uses his hind end. No matter
the speed, the principle of the
halt originating in the hind end
remains the same.
Problems arise when you use
the reins alone to shut down your
horse’s forward motion. This
prevents him from getting his
hind legs underneath him, putting
him on his front end. If pressure
in his mouth is the first, or only,
cue your horse receives when he’s
asked to stop, he has little choice
but to fall against your hands.
Pulling harder on the reins makes
it even worse by compressing your
My horse pulls on the reins
when I ask him to stop. How
can I fix this? Active Trot