There is no secret to great trot lengthenings, which eventually lead to great medium and extended gaits. They're merely a product of correct dressage training--weeks and even months of strengthening, conditioning and, most importantly, developing balance. With these basics established, even horse to whom extended gaits don't come easily can learn to flip that "switch," provided they possess another key ingredient: trust.
When your working trot feels really rideable--your rein, seat and leg connections are all harmonious and his responses to your leg aids are forward and prompt--begin to play within the gait. Down the long side of the arena, apply a little more leg pressure to encourage him to go slightly more forward and more animated for a few steps. Concentrate on your own balance as you do so, stretching your legs long and your upper body back and tall, and keeping your center of gravity balanced over the middle of the saddle. Also soften your fists and wrists, thinking of following his mouth forward.
Watch as I "play" with lengthenings on Ruudi, a 10-year-old Dutch Warmblood owned by Ingrid Wallin.
Video by Amy Katherine Dragoo
In part 2 I show you how to produce even better lengthenings using a series of cavalletti exercises.
To learn more about introducing lengthenings, see "Build Trust for Better Lengthenings" in the August 2010 issue of Practical Horseman magazine.