Lengthening and Shortening Lesson Plan and Evaluation

Yesterday I attended a seminar at the 2015 PATH Intl Conference by Marny Mansfield and Emily Wygod of Endeavor Horsemanship called “Step Up the Approach” about stepping up your approach to instructing. They had this great handout of an example lesson plan, with a video of the instructor teaching the lesson, and then we discussed it. With their permission I get to post it here, and will share the comments about how the lesson went, because I think those are just as valuable! Enjoy!

Lengthening and Shortening Lesson Plan and Evaluation

“How Did She Prepare? With her Lesson Plan of Course!”


  • Riders will demonstrate lengthening of their horse’s stride two times and shortening of their horse’s stride two times at the walk between a set of ground poles.

Teacher Prep/Equipment Needed

  • 2 ground poles down center line

Lesson Content/Procedure

  • Safety check (unmounted)
  • Mounting (no specific order; first come, first served)
  • Discuss objectives
    • What is lengthening?
      • When the horse lengthens each stride/step to cover more ground. Horse’s movement should feel larger and increase the rider’s hip/seat motion. – not the same as going faster.
    • What is shortening?
      • When the horse shortens each stride step, to take smaller/more steps. Should feel less movement. – not the same as going slower.
    • Why do we lengthen/shorten?
      • Lengthening teaches our horse to move off leg, and push from their hand end. Encourages more engagement/movement, and prepares our horse for more advanced movement.
      • Shortening helps control our stride better to collect our horse. Very useful when jumping.
      • In the lesson she said, “If we need them to cover distance we can ask for big step. If we need to turn a tight corner, we can ask for short steps. We also need to be clear whether we want longer steps, or faster steps, or trotting.”
  • Warm-Up Exercises
    • 10 “sponge squeezes” to stimulate sensation of half-halting
    • Riders will feel the beat of the horse’s walk by dropping the reins and placing hands on shoulders, and then haunches.
    • Riders will count the 4 beats of the walk. Leaders will ask horse to take bigger steps and then smaller steps for riders to feel the difference.
    • In the lesson she had them put their hands on the horse’s shoulders, count the beat, then had the leaders lengthen then shorten the horse’s stride with the rider’s hands still on their shoulders.
  • Riders will walk down centerline through [the 2 ground] poles and count out loud how many strides they feel at a normal walk.
  • Each rider will go through 2 more times, and increase then decrease the number of strides, changing direction after each turn.
  • Safety check
  • Posting trot (to better feel change of rhythm between lengthening vs. shortening) down long side in each direction – riders will concentrate on shortening horse’s stride before coming back down to the walk.
  • “Passing Game” (if time) – riders will walk in single file line; close but at a safe distance from each other. Rider in the back will ask horse to lengthen stride in order to pass other horses and move to front of line. Other 3 riders will practice shortening their horse’s strides to let the rider in back pass. As each rider passes, they will say “inside” to let other riders know they are passing.
  • Dismount (same order as mount, unless otherwise necessary)


What she did well…

  • Great lesson plan
  • Great loud teaching voice
  • Enthusiastic
  • Equipment – good idea to use ground poles to help make a hard to see idea more concrete
  • Interspersed comments and explanations throughout the lesson so it wasn’t one info big dump.

Ideas to improve upon…

  • Working on both shorten and lengthen is a lot for one lesson – just focus on one. Unless she just wanted them to focus on the difference.
  • Didn’t teach to the highest level, taught to two less experienced ones and didn’t include third better rider until the end.
  • Could have had better rider demonstrate skill to other two.
  • Possible progression: remove leaders
  • For shortening use half the arena, or the short end (where they naturally shorten)
  • For lengthening do diagonal so more room, or on the way home (where they naturally lengthen)
  • Include the other aids, not just rein and leg
  • Trotted late – could have used it earlier to engage everyone, then she wouldn’t have had to talk so much.

Anything to add?


Note: This is not professional advice, this is a blog. I am not liable for what you do with or how you use this information. The activities explained in this blog may not be fit for every rider, riding instructor, or riding center depending on their current condition and resources. Use your best personal judgment!

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