Endless repetitions won’t get you there. That’s for sure.
The most important thing when working with your horse on emotional and mental engagement is to know when to stop.
I’d like to share with you a series of 6 pictures taken during the very same extended trot attempt.
You can see how we start – it’s the very last picture.
(I organized them starting from the last one taken to the first one taken)
The horse is very collected, yet light. Almost floating in the air. She knows what we will be doing next, because I told her few steps before, and she had time to prepare, and to make this collected trot extra lofty for the upcoming extension.
Pictures 2, 3 and 4:
these pictures show how she extends the trot, and how soon I finish the exercise (5. picture). I finish it as soon as I feel that the engagement and extension are very good. I never look for perfection, I look for something in the frames of “very good” – sometimes it’s less, sometimes it’s more, I don’t mind. I finish as soon as I feel that she really wants to do it well. That’s enough for me for this moment.
I release the air from my chest and pat her.
We walk on the loose rein, until she totally relaxes. This is very important as I want to have her relaxed and with me at all times.
Usually, I don’t repeat exercises – if it’s OK I reward with sugar, if it’s not I just finish without giving any feedback to the horse. We take a break, and then we move to another exercise. My experience shows that horses understand extremally well that something went “not quite right” if I don’t reward the exercise. They really think “why?”, and when I try again the next day they put EXTRA effort to perform this very exercise nicely.
We really underestimate our horses.