Working trot is that trot where your horse feels like he is maintaining a calm, steady, rhythmic balanced energy. It feels like he is pushing forward from behind, but not running or out of balance. It feels like a just-right, in-between trot, – neither slow and lethargic, nor quick and tense. In the working trot, it feels like the horse is able to do the next move with ease.
One way to help discern what is working trot, is to think of it like this: if you set up three rain barrels on their side, would your horse have the rhythm, steadiness, yet sufficient energy, to easily jump over those barrels? You would want that jump to feel smooth, neither fast and out of control, nor like the horse had to heave his body to get over the jump. Of course, do not try this experiment without the horse’s understanding and experience of how to jump. Just use your imagination and inquisition.
The working trot is essential for the horse to develop his body and mind; in order to carry himself correctly; be prepared and balance for further work such as good clean canter departs, lateral work, or jumps. This active, balanced trot is excellent for building muscle and maintaining range of motion.
Experiment with working trot by asking for more energy and power from a lethargic “do-less” type of horse, or looking for less energy and more relaxation and rhythm from a too-energetic horse. Try it on a 20 Metre circle, as well as straight lines. You may have to practice playing with pressing forward, yet half halting for balance or steadiness. Be sure to feel what is reasonable to ask for at that horse’s stage of training, age, and extremely importantly – his level of soundness. Use your own rhythm and energy level to show the horse what to match, then leave the horse alone as much as possible. Just staying alert to when you do need to support, or remind, but never nagging.
If one has been accustomed to riding a very slow trotting horse, a working trot may feel very forward at first. The opposite type, the forward horse, can be difficult to convince to relax and slow down. That horse may benefit from some deeper connection work to his human to learn that riding is about matching what the person is putting out.
A well developed working trot will allow you to have fun with a horse that is strong, capable, and prepared for greater work.