|It is difficult to discuss how to ride tolt, as individual horses are
very different. You learn much by using every opportunity you have
to try riding different icelandic horses, and trying how you have to change
your riding in many minute ways riding them. The same horses can have,
and usually have, different footfall in the tolt depending on many things,
like how they are ridden, in what shape they are, on what kind of ground
they are tolting, whether they are riding up or downhill, how fast
they are going, and more.
As the footfall is similar in walk and tölt, you often let the
horse tolt from walk. As the horse carries its neck higher in tolt
than in walk, you shorten the reins a bit before and while the
transition is done. Usually it is easier for the rider to tolt
the horse if the rider sits a bit backwards in the saddle, that is, sits
maybe an inch or two behind the point where he usually sits. The
rider has to take care not to tilt backwards, the legs and back should
be straight as usually, and relaxed. So, in the transition from walk to
tolt, the rider:
1.Moves a bit backwards in the saddle.
2.Shortens the reins.
3.Encourages the horse to go faster, with
a verbal clue and with the
4.When the horse has tolted a few steps
usually you give it again a
bit of rein (an
inch or so), so it can move freely in the neck, but keep
The hands should be
like rubberbands, have reincontact without
So that the horse can tolt well, it needs freedom in the withers (that
is why you move the weight backwards and encourage speed so that the horse
powers from its behind, and that is also partly why goey horses are popular
in Iceland, this is more natural for them). It also needs to carry
its neck rather high (I need an english word for this, but this picture
that shows this here below)
But the faceline may not be too horizontal, or
too vertical. The horse is collected, not like a dressage horse,
collected anyway, using their behind as a motor to push
the light front end forward, free the withers and allow the horse to
balance it self, not lean on the reins. If the horse does
not know how to collect, teach it collection at the walk, and later
(weeks later) try keeping that collection at the tolt.
How the tolt is ridden in Iceland. The posture of the horse is
the head and neck is carried excellently, but the
feet of the rider are a bit much forward (that is very common here
doesn't spoil the horse's performance, just
looks bad) and the rider has contact with the reins. You want
of the horse to elevate, not the nose.
Find the ideal speed for your horse to tolt clean (or almost clean).
All horses have a speed where it is easiest for them to
tolt clean. For pacy horses this is usually medium-speed, for
horses this is usually slow or fast tolt. As they get
more training, you can tolt them slower and faster than this particular
speed without loosing clean hoof-beat. But this is
also the reason that it is often problematic to tolt-train horses with
bad tolt-balance in a group, because each of them
might need to tolt in different speed to be at their best.
Find the ideal ground for your horse to tolt on. Usually it is
where the ground it not very soft, it is more difficult for
the horse to tolt as the ground gets softer. Keep though in mind
tolting for long distances on asphalt is straining for the
legs of the horse.
The horse needs to be soft in the mouth to tolt well, do everything
can to keep your horse soft and responsive in the
bit. Avoid a dropped back and eve-neck, because that leads to
body and stiff or no tolt. The softer you are, the
softer the horse is, and the softer the tolt is.
The saddle needs to fit well for the tolter, and sit right, or he
stiffens up to brace himself against pain.
Many horses tolt better going slightly downhill (again, extremes are
bad). It is difficult for all horses to tolt clean uphill,
and riding a horse uphill in tolt either teaches the horse nothing
tolting or makes the tolt worse. Tolt (or walk) on
horizontal or downhill, trot (or walk or canter) uphill.
Improving a horse that lacks balance in the tolt takes time in many
cases. Be patient, good things happen slowly, and do
not get frustrated even though the training takes weeks or even months.
Teaching a piggy-pacer to tolt can take riding him
4-5 times a week for 3-6 months. If it happens fast, be overjoyed,
brace yourself for a long training period. Give
your horse at least 3-4 rides per week for 2 months if you really want
to change it's tolting.
Training pacy horses and trotty horses will come in later articles.