It’s important to maintain an engaged cantor and trot, but engagement takes practice. Polework can help encourage your horse to want to work, even outside the arena. Keep your training regime fresh with these exercises.
First, set up 4 trotting poles approximately 4-5 toe to heel steps apart, depending on your horse.
Always start with a warm up to get your horse’s blood pumping and muscles feeling loose. Once you’re both sufficiently warmed up, begin a trot in a 20 meter circle over each pole keeping the speed even and your horse off your leg coming out of each pole, maintaining consistent rhythm. You will find that if your horse is either behind the leg or rushing, the poles will knock. By establishing the right rhythm, your horse should stretch over the back and neck to the contact in both reins.
Next, stay in trot over the poles, but this time, pick up canter immediately after the poles, and complete your circle in a canter. As you approach the poles again on your next circle, go back to trot. Once over the poles in trot, go back to canter. Repeat the exercise a few times to allow your horse to commit the movements to muscle memory.
By learning to maintain relaxation over the back and gaining more engagement, this exercise will help to correct a horse that is tense or runs into a canter, and the downward transitions will reinforce proper form as the horse starts to sit back in preparation of the trot poles.
Simple exercises like these should be a regular part of your training regime. Creating suppleness will ultimately lead to a more engaged canter and trot.