Question: Every time I ride my pony and ask her to pick up a trot from a walk, the first stride is a canter stride. Then she slows down into a trot. She does have other issues with bending and switching her hind legs at the canter if I don’t keep her bent. I’m up for any suggestions!
Answer: Sometimes horses that are a little heavy on the forehand or built a little “downhill” (their hips are higher than their withers) will give a little hop when they transition into the trot as a means of shifting their weight back onto their hindquarters, where the engine is.
To avoid this, try gathering your pony up into a more collected frame before you cue her to trot. You’ll do this by slowly picking up on the reins until you have light contact with the horse’s mouth and at the same time closing your leg on the horse so he does not stop and rocking your weight back a little. This is known as a half-halt and it will basically rebalance your pony so that he has more weight on his hindquarters and his forehand is lifted up just a little. Then when you cue him to trot. He should not need to hop into it.
It is also possible that you are over cueing your pony into the trot so you may want to try a milder cue and even just use your weight aid and not your legs.
If your horse is cross-cantering (one lead in front and another in back), you need to keep better control of his haunches and keep his haunches bent into the circle. There is a Q&A on my website about cross-cantering and how to prevent it, so I’ll let you read more about it there.
Good luck with your pony and I admire your desire to be a better rider!
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