In part 1 I shared with you a simple forward-and-back exercise to help your horse produce beautiful lengthenings. Now I'll introduce cavalletti exercises that will further build the engagement, power, suppleness and swing in his back to make them even better.
The cavalletti exercises will also teach you the difference between allowing a lengthening and forcing it. When you ask for a lengthening and then allow your horse to do the job on his own, his hind legs will step under his center of gravity, creating more balance and impulsion. This also recycles the energy through his swinging back to the soft, healthy connection in the bridle. The result is bigger steps. In contrast, when you try to force the lengthening--pushing and/or kicking him into rigid hands with every stride--his back with stiffen, his mouth will brace against you, his front legs will quicken and his hind legs will lose their balance and rhythm.
In these exercises, the cavalletti will do the work--encouraging your horse to take bigger steps--so you can focus on the feeling of his swinging back and the harmony in your connection. Make it fun for your horse, too. Treat these exercises like a game, rather than work. The more he enjoys the learning process, the more willingly he'll offer his best efforts--at home and in the show ring.
Video by Amy Katherine Dragoo
For exercises to improve your horse's trot lengthenings using cavalletti, see "Strengthen to Lengthen, Part 2" in the September 2010 issue of Practical Horseman.