Dressage training; at the heart of all equestrian disciplines. Forwardness in mind, calmness of attitude, trust in each other.
Ensure the horse is:
- happy with the rider’s presence.
- confident in the space he is to perform within.
- in the habit of paying attention to its rider/handler.
Encourage the horse:
- to be forward thinking, actively eager to travel with the rider.
- to be calm, safe in the knowledge the rider will always be asking a reasonable question.
- to be willing to wait, able to anticipate that the rider may require something and its opposite.
Enable the horse:
- to understand the language of the aids
- to become physically and mentally more agile so he can respond and perform smoothly.
- to progressively become stronger, able to perform the required movements while also remaining sound.
With these basic principles in mind, explore with your horse the possibilities of developing more impulsion that is both containable and easily available while also developing equal lateral flexibility.
Use combinations of gymnastic exercises:
- Circles-Turns-Transitions of pace.
- Pole work in all paces, on straight and curved lines.
- Utilise counter-flexion in walk and trot as a means of achieving symmetrical flexibility as well as enabling the adequate preparation for changes of directions/bend.
- Introduce rein-back, first in-hand and then ridden with assistance from the ground.
- Lateral work:
- turns on/about the forehand
- leg-yield in a variety of locations within the working space.
- shoulder-in, (my favourite) described as ‘the mother of all exercises’ for developing work beyond the novice level.
- Travers (hind quarters/haunches in)/Renvers (same thing but orientation of the quarters to the track/wall).
- Half-pass (in: Walk, Trot, Passage, Canter).
- Pirouette (in: Walk, Canter, or Piaffe).
- Counter-canter (variations of difficulty and location).
- Simple changes and developing ‘flying’ changes leading towards ‘tempi’ changes of leading leg in canter.
- Employ In-Hand work from an early stage and utilise support from the ground when introducing new exercises particularly lateral work and work towards passage and piaffe.
The art of riding of course relies on us recognising when the horse is ready, both physically and mentally mature enough, to tackle new or more demanding work.
Top tip: Keep training fun! If the horse offers a positive response, reward. Expect small amount of sustained effort and gradually more will come. Maintain your sense of humour!
Smile with your horse!