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There may not be any gate more unpleasant than a fast, jarring trot. You know the feeling – where you can’t get your horse organized, and they feel bouncy, quick, and tense.

The more a horse rushes around, the more anxious they become, and the faster they will go, so creating a balanced and rhythmic trot is very important.

But here’s where many riders make a mistake – the more you pull on the reins, the more unbalanced the horse becomes, and the faster they will want to go.

So, how do you slow these horses down?

In this video, I will talk first about why horses rush and then demonstrate how to use your aids (mostly seat and back) to slow your horse. I will also give you a tip for when you ride in the arena, and how to use the fence or wall to help create the slow down without having to use a lot of rein.

Hit play below to watch the video.

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66 Responses

  1. Such a timely video! I was having this very problem with my horse two days ago. He was actually not just rushing at the trot, but wouldn’t even walk – he was breaking into a trot. He was anxious because we had worked on canter transitions. (That’s a different story.) It was an incredibly frustrating ride. I have a question about the filling about your back/waistband. To clarify, the filling out your back doesn’t come from tilting your pelvis, does it? Does it come from a tightening of the core muscles around your stomach?

    1. Hi Lisa, it isn’t a tightening of the core muscles! Place one hand on your stomach and the other on your low back and think about filling out the space between them, that is the feeling you are going for!

      -Julia, CRK Training Community Manager

  2. Very informative.

    Question, I have a green horse who once he does become rhythmic at the trot becomes very heavy in my hands. I push him forward and get him to lighten for a short time. What are other technique and exercise that could help prevent him from “falling forwards” into my hands.

    Thanks.

  3. I have a 7 yr old thoroughbred mare that I purchased 2 months ago. She had 2 failed careers, first as a race horse, then as a polo horse. I attribute her speed to her past careers and training and never thought it could be that she is not balanced. I usually have several ways of slowing her in the trot: half halts, circles, stops and starts and backing up. It seems to me as if she forgets that she does not have to speed and when I start riding her, at some point she remembers, “Oh, I can take it easy here, there is no need to rush.” If she is fast at the trot then she tends to be fast at the canter. I only canter her when I have a steady and comfortable pace at the trot. If I can’t get it for some reason, then we do not canter.

  4. Ive noticed that longing helps. Sometimes horse rushes because he is so full of energy that just needs to get rid of it. After he becomes relaxed and calm.

    1. The benefit of the longe work is that not only can the horse loosen and warm up but also improve strength to balance itself for when it is carrying a rider. Very often my horse will speed up if he has had a lay-off and is not strong enough to do the work in a balanced way.

  5. Thank you, Callie, this was super helpful. I noticed the additional visual aids in the video that seem to be something new. I thought they were very helpful and enhanced your explanations. What you have described is exactly my situation with my mare: she is unbalanced which causes her to become more anxious, both of which lead to her speeding up. I have not been very successful with correcting this over the years, mostly due to an ill-fitting saddle and lack of access to a trainer and consistent practice. Softer, even footing in the paddock where I ride would probably also help. Could you please explain more about the half halt: is it a softening of your whole hand, or just a “give” with your ring finger?

    1. Hi Katrin, it is a softening of the contact with the reins.

      -Julia, CRK Training Community Manager

  6. How do you slow down and sit on a trot where the horse has a club foot? I’d like to sit a trot with my horse, but he’s rather uneven and always puts his head up on a trot.

    1. Hi Laural, does the club foot cause him discomfort at all? He might need a little more assistance from you as the rider with a supportive contact to keep him in balance.

      -Julia, CRK Training Community Manager

  7. Calli … I loved the way you explained the half halt… Filling out your back/closing the hand simultaniously.

  8. My horse has balance issues mostly at the canter and we have not cantered yet since our accident last year. I am just starting to ride again and noticed doing a 20m circle tracking right he seemed to be more unbalanced than tracking left. I also realized my nervousness at tracking right at the trot, opening my rein on the right, griping with my thigh on the right, he would bow out, get unbalanced and then turn his head in and start to run to get balanced. My instructor said to put my left hand on his neck and keep my right hand closer to his neck, post tall and push out my belly and press with my left thigh to help with the arch. When I did that it all came together. It was so amazing. It will be a long time before we canter. But I was so pleased with that and able to see ho w what I was doing was impacting his balance.

  9. My horse is very unbalanced at the canter and we are working on that through lounging. I have not cantered him since our accident last year. I have just started riding again and I noticed when doing a 20 meter circle at the trot tracking right he was very unbalance but fine tracking left. I realized I was very nervous for some reason tracking right and I would open my right rein, grip with my thighs and then he would get unbalanced turn his head inward yet bow out to the left and not stay on the arch. My instructor had me keep my right rein closed and put my left hand on his neck, post tall and push out my belly and give just a little pressure on my left thigh. It was amazing the difference the first time and how it was so much easier for him to bend on the arch and not be unbalanced.

  10. Great video as always. My mare will tend to get speedy at the posting trot. I can frequently slow her down by slowing how fast I’m posting, and sometimes I can bring her down by sitting and she will move into a slower sitting trot. Sometimes though I just have to bring her down all the way to the walk. I’m going to try using the walls. Great idea!

  11. My new lesson horse is very forward so this is perfect timing. I have ridden him 3 times. He likes to get very fast but even fast he has a nice trot, not bouncy. He will also veer off the rail when tracking right and cuts in towards the instructor. My instructor says he likes to test his riders. She said to be verbal and sing Twinkle little star which helped. The third time I was more relaxed and able feel the increase and half halt more effectively. Too much rein I thought even tho she said it is sometimes needed. Also I was able to keep him moving, without speeding him up when he suggested it was time to halt. Some of the speed increase is when we approach the door of the arena. I started adding in more transitions and riding one quarter or the other and changing the size of my circles etc. But I really needed your tips today to prepare for my next ride so I can become more quiet in my aids. BTW Carly looks great, she is really coming along thanks to you.

  12. I have an Arabian who is so head high and FAST! Very uncomfortable to ride. He is only under saddle for a year and is very unbalanced. He has Lyme but is fine now. He has had a chiropractic adjustment and a saddle fit. All good now. We have been doing a lot of circles to slow down and it is working…but the head…. is another issue….Do you recommend side reins to get him to lower? We haven’t really begun working on it too much. I Really don’t think he will balance out until I can get him to lower that head!

    1. Hi Chrissy, I wouldn’t recommend using side reins to ‘lower’ his head. First, I would make sure that your saddle fits properly, an ill-fitting saddle makes it really hard for them to maintain balance. If you are looking for a tool to help teach him how to stretch and lower his neck I would recommend looking into a chambon!

      -Julia, CRK Training Office Manager

    2. Hi Chrissy,
      I too have one of ‘those’ fast and reactive Arabians. I would like to put my little perspectives into the conversation.
      This is from many years of riding other breeds then now the past 8 years with him. I have been around him since he was started at 5yrs. Started Western but quickly switched to English recreational riding. He has always had a huge issue with his mouth and given that he has always had very gentle educated riding this is not due to a painful mouth or rough handling. After a long time I realised it was all about “Opinion”. He is very strong-minded as well as hot so there has been a very long path of ask and acceptance. He will now drop and work on the bit, while he is calm, but patience only, works with Arabs. You cannot bully or “insist” they just will fight with you then. Most people I know are amazed that I can safely ride him…. and indeed when his attention is not mine… I have to really work to get his attention back on me. I do not know how often you ride him, but I find working with him several days in a row is very effective – but my sessions are very short. When he has done something well we either stop with lots of pats and put away or change and do something else. If I am finding he is not “getting” it and is starting to get tense then I change into something completely different as an activity. This breed is so intelligent and hot, so a little of something successful can be left in their brains to simmer like yeast and when you come back next day it is a loaf !!
      After having been moved a 1000 miles to a new home(still with me) he became very anxious and way over-reactive. So this all has been recent work for the two of us.
      An example arena session under saddle for us may be only 20-30 mins. We are making great progress but as the emotional component of him is so huge it has always my guiding light. We may be working on canter, but if he starts to express any anxiety then we go off and work at walk – leg yield, or turn on the forehand, or walking over poles. Square halt, backing up…anything that is calming and also demands attention, then a few minutes later we try the canter again. It is always at his brain speed. If he is not thinking he cannot hear me.
      You have only started him a year, calm young horses take a long time to meet our expectations, you have a hot young horse and a smart one – you have to work with his brain far more, and it comes with time.
      The suggestion of the Chambon is a helpful one but it may not solve the problem until his brain is yours. You may end up building more resistance and that would be worse. I did look at the comments in the Chronicle of the Horse and thought there was some very helpful information and comments in there from good horsemen ! I suggest that you read them. Good Luck ! Remember to laugh at your silly Arab, because they can be a silly goose at times !! – Cheers Lavinia https://www.chronofhorse.com/forum/forum/discussion-forums/dressage/9851987-chambon-gimmick-or-training-aid

  13. Thanks Callie – that was really helpful and I like the new format with the visual aids on the screen, as Katrin said. It helps to reinforce the point very well, particularly with half halts. As always, your calm, quiet instruction is excellent.

  14. Hi Callie thank you, my lease horse does the same thing she picks up a faster trot heading down to the door, like you said and my trainer use a little half halt. I’m getting better feeling when she would pick it up and get her to slow down

  15. Thank you for another interesting video
    I would be interested in something similar in the canter
    I find the downward transition from canter to trot can be quite clumsy and my horses both have a tendency to “ fall out “ of the canter which suggests to me that it’s rather likely to be something I am doing or not doing

  16. Thank you Callie,this is exactly what I need to work on with Denny the next time I get to ride him. His trot is extremely fast and uncomfortable until I can get my seat under him. By working with these aids, I will be able to get his trot slowed down to the more comfortable trot, I know he has.
    I will also pass this information on to Diane,so she can get to Denny’s more comfortable trot, without frustration when she is riding ,not in a lesson.
    I’m so looking forward to hopefully riding sooner then later ,so I can apply these aids!!
    Thanks again!

  17. So much training occurs at the walk. excellent advise. I had the same problem this morning. and went back to the walk. did some leg yielding and backing. I was riding outside on a cool morning. My horse usually has a good consistent trot except in a show warm up or on a cold spring morning. He doesn’t really race at the trot he keeps stepping into a canter. We love to canter except when I am asking for a trot.!!!!

  18. Hi Callie, thanks for this video. I have a speedy horse at the trot and she’s also very unbalanced. What helps us is working on the transitions, doing circles or a figure 8 and also going over a ground pole. This last one really helps her to focus on balancing her body and slows her down a lot.

  19. Thank you, Callie, the video was helpful, especially the idea of balancing.

    When I got my seven-year-old horse, she only had one speed, and that was gallop. Someone had been using spurs on her, and she was afraid of everything. She was volatile, rearing and bucking.

    I walked her on the ground for six months, six times a week. We’d walk as slow as molasses, regular walk, fast walk until she kept the same pace as my steps with backups in between. Re-educating her took a long time. One day she just realized that I wasn’t going to hurt her, and it was ok just to walk, relax and hang out with me. Then we moved on to her trotting beside me from the ground.

    Now I’m riding her, and I switched her from a bit to a bosal. We’ve been doing the same sequence, slow, medium and fast walk for six months. We’re up to a trot, and I’m using very soft hands and my body movements as signals for her to slow down and stop.

    One day we’ll move up to a canter, but she had to learn that we need to be in sync with each other, and 18 months in, she realized that’s a great place to be.

    I enjoy your videos, thanks again for posting!

    Kimberly

  20. Hi Callie, I watched Wendy Murdoch’s webinar on using Sure Foot pads to help a horse balance and relax. What are your thoughts about using Sure Foot pads to help Carly find her balance and relax? Thanks! Carol

    1. Absolutely! SureFoot pads are a great addition to the program for horses like Carly 🙂

      -Julia, CRK Training Office Manager

  21. Thank you, Callie! Can you share some if the ground work that helps with this as well? My new horse was a ranch/roping horse and I think he’s used to being asked to go fast!

    Also, I feel like I’m always asking him to do what I want, how do I find out what he likes and how do I help him have a good time?

    1. Hi Linda, we have a collection of videos on the groundwork that Callie did with Carly in our Training Journals program. You can click here to learn more about Training Journals.

      I love your second question! Andrea Wady’s program we offer, Pure Liberty, is fantastic for understanding how we can give the horses a chance to express their needs and enjoy their time with us. You can click here to learn more about Andrea’s course.

      -Julia, CRK Training Office Manager

  22. Thanks Callie! I feel like there is a difference between horses that get speedy at the trot generally and horses that get speedy at the trot right after a downward transition from canter – like the downward transition unbalances them and throws them into a fast trot.

  23. Thank you. My Roxy will get anxious typically when going in a counter clockwise direction due to imbalance. I think it may be a combination of my imbalances and hers. Typically I will use transitions back to the walk or stop to reset and try again. I have used backing up as a way to strengthen her back end. Maybe more transitions and backing up will help. I will need to work on the things you suggest in the video, and on feeling where she is at, so I know when to correct and when to release.

  24. Thank you for this video.
    Similar to using the wall, I do surpentines of various loops at walk and trot to help the horse listen and develop their ability to balance on their own. I especially find this useful with Thoroughbreds who have been worked primarily on their left rein and who want to rush forward.

  25. When my horse is anxious and unbalanced, I’m likely to be the same. I ‘ll find myself tipped forward as I grip the reins. I don’t always know who started it, but as soon as I’m aware and start working on myself, it helps him. I settle in the saddle, breathe in rhythm, soften (you help me learn and practice all that–thanks!). It sounds counter-intuitive, but dropping my stirrups can be helpful, I think because it settles weight onto my thigh. I’ve also played your audio lessons on my phone/speaker enough that he recognizes your voice and the music and seems to be soothed. I’m learning that what you say about mastering a quiet, balanced walk is so true, and that releasing as he slows is important.

    1. Good insight! I have been taught it is best to assume that the horse is responding to our subtle cues. Certain horses are tense and need us to settle them as you describe above but unless that is your horse, assume he is reacting to your position, balance, mind set, etc. Your horse is lucky to have someone who understands that he is not being bad….just needs quiet guidance!

  26. Can you say more about what you mean by “fill out your back”? I don’t know how to do this!

    1. Hi Ellen, a great way to get that feeling is to place your hand on your low back and try to fill your back so it touches your hand!

      -Julia, CRK Training Office Manager

  27. Firstly, the video formatting change/enhancement is wonderful. Kudos. This topic is dear to me as there are days when my boy is VERY fast at the trot. I have been told to slow down my posting rather than letting him set the tempo. Sometimes I have had to exaggerate that slowing and I’m sure it looks strange. I like the way you describe half halt. — this was good for me with my Arabian cross horse who has a pretty big engine for a small guy. Thanks Callie !! Good one.

  28. Thanks Callie, connecting the dots between rushing and being off balance, along with consistent rhythmic movement will be a help for my boy who does like to rush out and is anxious at times, as well as being unbalanced.

  29. Thank you! Great video.

    I wonder if you would share some of the groundwork exercises you did with your mare in preparation for the riding part of this?

  30. I have a Gaited horse that sometimes gains faster then I ask. I tried sitting deep in the saddle , and it seemed to work. Plus slight rein pressure or more as necessary. If she gets anxious I rode circles. But still working on all these techniques. Another thing that helps is I take a deep breath , relax and sing . It seems to calm her down.

  31. Loved the video but not sure what you mean ‘expand your waistline’. I don’t think you mean push your tummy out?
    Thanks

    1. Hi Gill, place one hand on your back and the other on your stomach and think about filling out the space between your hands. Hope this helps!

      -Julia, CRK Training Office Manager

    1. Hi Syl, a great way to get that feeling is to place your hand on your low back and try to fill your back so it touches your hand!

      -Julia, CRK Training Office Manager

  32. Hello! I love your tips for slowing down the fast trot, but I am still confused about the half halt. I have been riding for years but have just started learning about the half halt. Can you explain in more detail about how to get it?

  33. Hello! Thanks for the video. I have recently started riding an OTTB who retrained as an eventing horse, but has not been ridden consistently for several years. I am working on his transitions and with slowing down his trot. However, he has a tendency to want to lean and move into the circle in the arena. This of course, gets him, and me, off balance. He will speed up during that time too. Any suggestions?

    1. Hi Aimee, there a few factors that could be contributing to the leaning in! If he has developed unevenly in his body, for example, muscles on one side of his body are better developed than the other side. As the rider, you too might be collapsing on one side and contributing to the leaning in. If either of those are the case, you can ask a friend to take a video so you can see if it is you contributing to the leaning. If it is uneven on his part, you can work on exercises on the ground to develop the other, weaker side.

      I would recommend checking out our ABCs to On the Aids program, to learn how to identify and resolve movement patterns in horses.

      -Julia, CRK Training Community Manager

  34. Late to this. I am leasing a horse who is speedy. The interesting thing is that when I relax when he is fast, he becomes very collected. I can then slow him down and keep that collection. But getting collection starting from a slow speed takes 15+ minutes. I think I have one of those odd horses that pop up from time to time and need to work with his ability and experience.

  35. Hi Callie
    I learn so much from your videos and the comments – thank you

    My Australian stock horse tends to speed up – rush – at the trot when we are in paddocks and having a long straight rum – the half halt works ‘sometimes’. Of course there is no wall to use but veering him to a diagonal works sometimes – however any special tips for slowing the trot in an external big open space environment would be welcomed

    thank you

  36. I’ve been working with my QH for the past 2 years on softening and collection. She was originally trained as a cutting horse and though she’s really well trained, she tends to want to start quickly at any gait and can get a head of steam up. What’s been working for me is when she starts to speed up, I immediately ask her to turn 180 degrees and go the opposite direction and do that as many times as it takes for her to keep the walk or trot speed I had asked for. But I’d like to progress to a more subtle way of asking and I think your exercise with the half halt is the way to do that.

    1. Hi Rick, yes the half halt exercise will be perfect for that! I too actually own a horse that was originally trained as a cutter and now she is used as a lesson horse on Callie’s farm and she can sometimes rush a little forward and teaching her to half halt and rebalance has been valuable in her education!

      – Julia, CRK Training Community Manager

  37. Hi, thanks for the video! I sometimes ride the speedy horse at the riding school. What I use to slow him down is to stay just a blink of an eye behind the movement of him with my sitting ups. My pace is therefore a little bit slower and my horse responds by slowing down to adjust his pace to mine. Another trick is to use my weight in the saddle to just rotate or wiggle just a little with my hips in the saddle which also affects the horses balance and he has to slow down. Altough I use this trick as the last option like safety backup 🙂 see you soon

    1. Hi Kelly, you can use the same technique that Callie talks about in this video! Does the jig happen all of the time? What are the circumstances?

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

    1. Hi Joan, typically when you clean out a stall you replace the pine shavings or the straw with fresh bedding.

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

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