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My first digital camera changed my recorded equestrian life. Gone were the awkward, ginormous-head-tiny-rump photos I’d so often caught on film years prior. Now, when my horse moved from where I’d placed him (which he usually did) or when I got the light all wrong (which I usually did) or when the devilish red “barn eyes” were more than a clumsy editing tool could conquer, I just pressed delete and hurrah! The bad photo was no-more, vanquished, erased. All it took was another “click,” and I could try again, ensuring the pictures-for-keeps showed only my horse’s good side.

"The light shining in through the barn on this day was spectacular," says Jessica. "I love interesting light. I got very low to the ground and let the light shine directly into my phone camera. This is what created the rays of light. I then edited it with a warm filter, so you can almost feel the sunlight touching your face."

“The light shining in through the barn on this day was spectacular,” says Jessica. “I love interesting light. I got very low to the ground and let the light shine directly into my phone camera. This is what created the rays of light. I then edited it with a warm filter, so you can almost feel the sunlight touching your face.”

Of course, to most casual photo-takers today, the very idea of a digital camera sounds dated. We’re all pretty much bound to our smartphones and the ease with which we can snap and share every horsey adventure instantly. But just because we all have quality cameras literally in our pockets and at our fingertips, at all times, doesn’t mean the pictures are all that great. And of course, if we want to share our pics on social, we want them to be fab!

With horses and smartphones in mind, TSB reached out to professional photographer Jessica Dailey for guidance. Jessica recently provided over 1,200 (yes, you read that right) color photographs for the bestselling TSB book WORLD-CLASS GROOMING FOR HORSES by pro grooms Cat Hill and Emma Ford. Many of the excellent images in the book are step-by-step, although Jessica took pains to include a number of “beauty shots,” as well. With that kind of in-depth “horse-flavored” work on her resume (on top of her usual commercial art, fine art, event photography, and portraits, which she takes on a freelance basis) we figured Jessica could give us some great tips for taking sensational photos with our phones.

“I have loved art since I was a kid,” she says, “and that evolved into a love for photography as I got older. As a kid I remember being fascinated with my father’s old film camera. The weight of the lenses in my hands, and the way the world looked through the viewfinder.”

Jessica went to college for accounting (she’s a CPA), but in her late twenties, she says she began to feel “out of balance.”

“I felt like the beauty of the world was passing me by,” she remembers, “so I picked up a camera, and the rest is history! I can feel something deep in my heart when I’m behind the camera. When there is a lump in my throat, or tears streaming down my face, I know it’s a good subject.”

Jessica, who is largely self-taught, usually shoots with a Canon Mark III, 24-70 2.8, 70-200 2.8, 100 2.8 Macro, 50 1.4, and 85 1.8.

“There are a few more tricks in my bag,” she admits, “but those are the ones most frequently used.”

Of course, we’re not here to talk about serious camera equipment! So what kind of phone does Jessica have? And does she use it to take some of those gorgeous photos you can see on her website?

This shot and edit reminded Jessica of a vintage Polaroid. "I tried to get a little bit of the tree in the background, but not at an angle where it looks like the tree is growing out of the horse's back."

This shot and edit reminded Jessica of a vintage Polaroid. “I tried to get a little bit of the tree in the background, but not at an angle where it looks like the tree is growing out of the horse’s back.”

“I currently have a Samsung Galaxy S5,” she says. “I actually don’t like the aspect ratio—the photos are very wide. It also distorts the images a bit near the edges, so sometimes people’s heads look out of whack. It over-sharpens the images, making them look a little ‘crunchy.’ (You’ll notice this is in the images I’ve included here.) I really do love the photos that the iPhone takes. The shutter is fast; there’s not a lot of waiting around for the phone to focus.

“Believe it or not, I find taking pictures with a phone much more difficult than my camera, because adjustments are more tedious to make! I can make changes to any aspect I want within seconds on the camera, but if I want to change the ISO, or flash, on my phone, I have to click what feels like 16 times to get to the menus I need. That might actually be a function of not having found the best camera app yet. (Sometimes searching for new apps falls to the bottom of the list when life gets hectic…)

“Lately, my favorite seems to be VSCO Cam. This app does have a pretty decent camera function with advanced camera controls, including manual focus, shutter speed, white balance, and exposure compensation. As far as editing, the VSCO Cam film presets are absolutely stunning. You can edit and tweak them very easily, and the app comes with lots of free presets. Most of the photos here were shot with my Samsung S5 camera app, edited with VSCO Cam, then tweaked just a bit within VSCO Cam app. Instagram photo editing is pretty great too. They’ve updated the features that allow you to customize their presets.”

So when we’re taking pictures of horses on our phones, what are some rules of thumb in terms of composition, handling still shots, handling action shots, and getting perspective right (avoiding the ginormous-head-tiny-rump problem of my film-camera years)? Here are Jessica’s top tips for all the ringside snapping you plan to do:

 

Ÿ1  Try not to cut off feet/ears/tails (Editor’s note: As book publishers, we wholeheartedly endorse this! Nothing is as aesthetically displeasing as horse toes and hat tops disappearing at the edges of a photograph…)

Ÿ2  Keep the horizon level. (You wouldn’t believe the number of photos we have to rotate prior to publication so it doesn’t appear that every horse is stabled on a downhill slant…)

Ÿ3  Tap the phone screen to refocus on your subject (not the background).

 

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Ÿ4  When shooting from the side, always watch out for big-butt-little-head syndrome (you are standing closer to the horse’s rear so it looks disproportionately larger than the head) and vice-versa.

Ÿ5  Most importantly, if you are using a flash, stand back and take a few test shots to see what kind of reaction you’re going to get from the horse.

Ÿ6  If it’s dark, your phone will keep its camera shutter open longer in order to let more light in. The built-in flash on most phones is not powerful enough to compensate for dark conditions, so it’s best to stick to shots of horses standing very still when the light is not bright.

Ÿ7  If you are shooting outside and it’s a bright sunny day, you should have no trouble getting some jumping or galloping shots. Your best bet for capturing non-blurry fast-moving subjects is bright light. (“And I mean full-sun type-of-bright,” Jessica emphasizes.)  If there are heavy clouds, or you are indoors, it can be difficult to get a smartphone camera to ​capture motion, although some phones have a sports mode meant for capturing fast-moving subjects, which can help. (Some apps can add sports mode to your phone.)  Try turning off “image stabilization” if you are having trouble focusing quickly. You shouldn’t need it in bright sun anyway.

 

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Ÿ

8  To get a great portrait shot of your horse (posed), it’s best to enlist the help of a friend with a candy wrapper or a mint. (Jessica says this can take some patience, but it proved to be VERY effective when she was shooting images for WORLD-CLASS GROOMING FOR HORSES.) Have your friend stand just out of view of your photo and crinkle the wrapper after you have everyone else in place and ready to go. The wrapper will usually get eyes and ears perky and forward.

Ÿ9  To get a more candid, natural picture, you have to have the photo on your mind and be looking through your phone camera, ready to snap at the right moment. If you wait to pull out your phone until the moment is happening, you will undoubtedly miss it.

Ÿ10  Don’t be afraid to look at things from a different perspective. Get really low, or go behind the bushes and peer through. This new viewpoint can produce some really interesting shots.

Ÿ11  Although it’s not ideal, you can also crop down an image after you capture it to make it more interesting. Sometimes there is a part of a photo you might not like or that is blurry.  Try getting creative with your crop before deleting it all together.

 

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You can see more of Jessica’s photography by clicking here. And if you haven’t already picked up a copy of WORLD-CLASS GROOMING FOR HORSES, check it out! Here’s what the experts are saying about it:

 

 

 

WORLD-CLASS GROOMING FOR HORSES is available now from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE TO ORDER

 

Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of horse books and DVDs, is a small, privately owned company based on a farm in rural Vermont.

All it takes is one traffic cone to change your riding and your horse's riding experience.

All it takes is one traffic cone to change your riding and your horse’s riding experience.

Every rider knows the kinds of activities and exercises you can do with your horse in the ring—circles (lots and lots of circles), bending lines and serpentines, upward and downward transitions…depending on your discipline and style of riding, the options number many! But what do you do when your circles look like eggs, your horse isn’t bending evenly through the serpentine, or he’s dragging his feet so lifelessly through the sand that you would rather just get off?

In TRAINING AND RIDING WITH CONES AND POLES, author Sigrid Schope provides more than 40 exercises using simple, affordable tools that make your “eggs” round, your serpentines smooth, and your horse energized, to name just a few benefits.

Try this: Place a cone in the middle of the ring (at “X” in a dressage arena). Ride around the ring on the rail, looking toward the cone before asking the horse to turn at the center of one of the short sides (“A” or “C” if the dressage letters are marked) and riding directly toward it. Here are 6 ways that single traffic cone will improve your riding:

1   Your “plan” and focus on the cone will cause you to hold the reins more softly, improving connection and contact.

2  Thinking about where you want to ride and at what gait helps you prepare your horse properly, rather than suddenly “attacking” him with your aids.

3  Your focus on the cone will help you hold your head and upper body straight, and you will find your horse will move on a straight line toward your goal. Your head, shoulders, and body will follow your eyes, and this will also direct your horse.

4  Looking ahead toward an end point will cause a sluggish horse that lacks impulsion to pick up his tempo.

5  Practicing simple lines with a clear goal helps you learn to ride more precisely.

6  Incorporating “props” in your riding exercises adds interest for the horse, improving his concentration while making the training process more engaging.

 

CLICK IMAGE TO ORDER

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For lots of easy ways to become a better rider while ensuring both you and your horse are having fun together in the ring, check out TRAINING AND RIDING WITH CONES AND POLES, available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE

Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of horse books and DVDs, is a small, privately owned company based on a farm in rural Vermont.

Jim Masterson indicating the scapula and the withers on a horse painted by Susan Harris, the creator of Anatomy in Motion.

Jim Masterson indicating the scapula and the withers on a horse painted by Susan Harris, the creator of Anatomy in Motion.

 

Have you heard about the Masterson Method yet? This innovative form of bodywork for horses was created by equine massage-bodywork therapist Jim Masterson. In many cases, all it takes is the tiniest of movements on your part to illicit a significant release of tension, stress, and pain in your horse.

Here’s an example: The Withers Wiggle may sound like the newest equine dance craze, but really it’s a gentle Masterson Method Technique that targets largely inaccessible muscles surrounding the thoracic vertebrae beneath the scapula. Release of tension there improves the horse’s suspension, extension, and fluidity of movement in the front end, and comfort and mobility in and behind the withers themselves.

The withers are the ends of the vertical vertebral processes that project up from the fourth through the eighth thoracic vertebrae. Your horse will tell you if there is tension to be released here by his subtle (or not so subtle) responses to this technique.

 

THE WITHERS WIGGLE

Place your fingers on the first knob of the withers.

Place your fingers on the first knob of the withers.

 

1  Place your fingers on the first knob of the withers.

Gently wiggle your fingers from side to side, using almost no pressure at all, searching for a subtle response such as the lips twitching, sighing, or a blink of the eye.

3  If you get a blink, pause, wiggle again, and pause. As long as you are getting responses, continue this a few more times on that spot.

4  Move on to the next knob of the withers and wiggle-wiggle (you won’t actually feel movement and you aren’t pushing or pulling), pause and move on to the next knob of the withers. With your thumb and first finger on either side of the withers, simply “wiggle-wiggle-wiggle” slowly and gently, using your wrist and fingers, not the muscles of your arm.

5  You only have to do the Withers Wiggle from one side of the horse. Continue on down the withers, following the horse’s responses as you go. Bigger releases will be accompanied by bigger release responses, such as shaking, snorting, and repeated yawning.

This Withers Wiggle thing feels good!

This Withers Wiggle thing feels good!

 

Yes, that really is all there is to it! The Withers Wiggle is almost more of an intention than a movement.

 

CLICK TO ORDER

CLICK TO ORDER

For more great techniques that will make your horse feel good while improving his performance, check out THE DRESSAGE HORSE OPTIMIZED WITH THE MASTERSON METHOD, available now from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE TO FIND OUT MORE

 

It’s hard to imagine some people anywhere else but beside or on the back of a horse. Renowned horseman Jonathan Field, author of THE ART OF LIBERTY TRAINING FOR HORSES, is one of those people. The way he moves when playing with his horses at liberty, the way he and his Quarter Horse Hal clear a fence bareback and brideless, these are images of an individual at one with the herd around him.

So what is his “typical” day really like? Is it all running through grassy meadows and viewing vistas from the back of a horse? When it comes right down to it, Jonathan says each portion of his year can be quite different, whether it is one of the 170 days he spends on the road teaching his techniques and presenting his liberty acts at expos and events, one of the summer days spent leading weeklong camps on his James Creek Ranch, or fall when he and his family host clinics at their farm near Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. As summer winds down in North America, Jonathan gives us a glimpse of what a day in his life might be like, during the months ahead at the Field Horsemanship Centre.

 

Photo by Robin Duncan.

Photo by Robin Duncan.

 

5:30 am – Wake up, start with a coffee. These days, I wake up about as fast as a Kenworth truck! So…another coffee!

6:00 am – Head across the field to the barn. Start with my young horses. This could be a short (15-minute) training session on the ground with three or four of them, or a few 45-minute rides on a couple. In the middle of a clinic tour, I like to get many short sessions on them each week rather then only a few longer sessions.

7:30 am – Run back across the field for “breaky” with the family—my wife Angie and my two boys Weston (9) and Mason (6). We visit about school and the “happenings” of the day.

8:00 am – 12 Clinic Participants start pulling in for Day 1 of a four-day clinic. Each day runs from 9 to 5. I aim to keep the number of attendees at my clinics at no more than 12 so everyone gets lots of direct hands-on help. I have a wide variety of students—from very new horse owners all the way to riders competing at international levels, and pretty much everywhere in between, in every discipline. Equine-psychology-based foundational training is what many riders need to learn when they encounter issues with their horses. I help people set this foundation—the “rock” they can build their “house” (or horse!) on.

 

Jonathan schooling one of his young horses. Photo by Angie Field.

Jonathan schooling one of his young horses. Photo by Angie Field.

 

9:00 am – Clinic starts with introductions and a session on training and riding theory.

10:00 am – Bring horses into the arena for a two-hour ground-skills session. Our key topic on Day 1 is all about leadership, and we learn how everything we do with our ground training either creates or takes away from a great connection while riding.

12:00 pm – Break for lunch. I am off to my office (thankfully on the property!) for a quick bite and to check in with messages.

1:30 pm – The riding portion of the clinic starts. We focus on three key elements in a Course 1 Clinic: Safety when horses become herdbound, spooky, or otherwise worried; rider equitation; and useful exercises to take home.

 

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3:30 pm – A short break—I like to visit with attendees and have a laugh. Who has some good jokes? (Audience appropriate of course!) Want to hear a couple of my favorites?

What’s the hardest part about learning to ride a horse?

The ground!

What happened to the horse that swallowed a dollar bill?

It bucked!

5:00 pm – As the clinic wraps up for the day, I stick around to help anybody who may need a bit of extra time. I grab a snack if I can.

6:30 pm – I arrive at the Boxing Club. This past winter I took up training in a boxing gym three evenings a week. Why you ask?! I like to try different things and this is something I’ve always wanted to do—maybe because I have always been a bit scared to do it! I’m too old (…38…) to become a real boxer, but the training is very intense, and I love being pushed to try to keep up with the young aspiring boxers (mostly age 16 to mid-20s). Also, I go to the boxing gym with my best friend from kindergarten (yep, you heard that right), and we get to spend some great time together.

 

Jonathan in training at the Boxing Club. Photo by Angie Field.

Jonathan in training at the Boxing Club. Photo by Angie Field.

 

8:00 pm – Arrive home for maybe a light dinner (I try not to fill the tank too full when I don’t need it before bed) and time to spend with the kids and tuck them in and do our nightly reading. We need to get those reading minutes up so we can get a sticker from their class! (Well, so they can get the sticker from their class…)

9:00 pm – Last emails and taking care of any office requirements of the day. Plus, I set up anything I may need for the next day’s clinic.

9:20 pm – Walk through the barn, check the horses, and put out the night feed hay nets.

9:40 pm – I shut off my phone! Now’s time to visit with Angie or maybe we start a movie.

10:30 pm – Headed for bed…

11:00 pm – …hopefully sleeping!

 

Read more about Jonathan Field and discover his horsemanship philosophy and the liberty techniques that can lead to connection with your horse like you’ve never known it before in THE ART OF LIBERTY TRAINING FOR HORSES, available at the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE TO ORDER

 

Be sure to read the other installments in the TSB “Horseworld by the Hour” blog series:

EMMA FORD

JOCHEN SCHLEESE

HEATHER SMITH THOMAS

LYNN PALM

DANIEL STEWART

DOUG PAYNE

JANET FOY

CLINTON ANDERSON

CoGCoE

The horse’s center of gravity is indicated by the clear circle. His center of energy and control is shown by the black circle.

As we ride, we hear a lot about getting our horses “off their forehands” or “off their shoulders”—and most of us engage in any number of schooling figures and half-halts with just this goal in mind. But without an inner sense of what it is we are doing for our horses when we shift the balance, playing with that center of gravity and center of energy and control, it’s all just circles and walk-halt-walk transitions. Here’s a quick and easy exercise from Sally Swift’s CENTERED RIDING 2: FURTHER EXPLORATION, to really hit the message home.

The horse’s center of gravity is the balance point of his body, and it is located in the girth area. His center of control and energy, however, is below his spine at the back of his loin, just below the lumbosacral joint. Similarly, our center of control and energy is in our lower back, just in front of our lumbosacral joint. Because we stand vertically, in contrast to the horizontal horse, our center of gravity is not near our shoulder blades but rather is in the same area as our center of control and energy. As a result, when we put our center of gravity over our feet for balance, we also find our center of control and energy in the same spot.

The location of the center of gravity in both rider and horse changes at times. When you are startled or frightened your center of gravity rises above its desired depth, as it does in times of tension, or apprehension. In either case it makes you less grounded. The center of gravity of a startled or actively engaged horse moves slightly back as he tips his pelvis down to bring his hind feet more nearly under his center of gravity.

You can get a sense of center of gravity vs. center of energy and control from the horse’s viewpoint with this short exercise:

1  Get down on your hands and knees. Find a balance with your hands below your shoulders and your knees below your hip joints.

2  Gently engage your center, and allowing your hip joints to slightly close and open, rock back a tiny bit and then back again to balance. Notice how this pelvic rocking motion tends to fill your lower back across the loin. This puts you in a position for balanced, fluid, forward motion.

3  Notice that your shoulders are also part of the rocking motion and since they are not carrying a lot of weight, they are free for forward movement. Shift your balance forward, putting your weight on your shoulders and hands, and you will no longer be able to move forward; your hands will seem to be stuck to the ground. This is how your horse feels when he is too much on his forehand.

 

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CLICK IMAGE TO ORDER

For more riding insight from the legendary Sally Swift, check out CENTERED RIDING 2: FURTHER EXPLORATION, available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

 

Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of horse books and DVDs, is a small, privately owned company based on a farm in rural Vermont.

Judging and Being Judged copy

Over the past decade, on numerous occasions, both top dressage riders and international judges have come under heavy critical fire regarding the treatment and training of competitive dressage horses. The internet is alight with related controversy, and print articles have not been afraid to label judges around the world as “cowards and ignoramuses who are incapable of telling the difference between a horse that is correctly and humanely trained and one that has been forced to perform with dubious methods,” says FEI/USEF dressage judge and former US Dressage Team Technical Advisor Anne Gribbons in her book COLLECTIVE REMARKS.

“How are we supposed to react to this?” Gribbons, who is judging the European Championships this summer in Aachen, Germany, writes. “Ignoring the subject is not an option for anybody involved in the sport. Shrugging it off because we are not personally ‘guilty’ of any sort of deliberate cruelty to our horses is not going to make the problem go away. These kinds of allegations tend to put a dark cloud over the entire dressage community, whatever your position within it happens to be.

“Taking a step back to view dressage objectively is not so easy when you are submerged in the game up to your eyeballs. Still, with some effort, I can see all three sides of this argument, because I wear all the hats at different times.

“To be successful as an international competitor you have to be determined, brave, and incredibly focused on those few minutes in the arena that are the culmination of all your work. If you find and can develop a method that works for you and your horses and gets consistently rewarded by the judges, why should you give it up? In every sport, the pressure is tremendous at the top level, and winning is the object. Since our sport involves a silent partner, the horse, the situation is more complicated. Add to this that the kind of animal that takes the honors in today’s fierce competition is a very sophisticated and high-powered equine, both physically and mentally. Dealing with some of these equine Ferraris, it has been my experience as a trainer, competitor, and judge that anything that is forced or unfair in the training does not come out well in the show ring. It is difficult for me to imagine that training that is one long torture session for the horse could lead to something beautiful to watch in the arena.

“Nevertheless, I know there are some unavoidable conflicts on the road from green-broke to Grand Prix that need to be worked out. Anyone who thinks that a competitive Grand Prix horse offers every movement he has to learn without occasionally questioning the rider has never trained one. The journey from green horse to Grand Prix is a long, sometimes rocky, but mostly inspiring enterprise. It should be a trip horse and rider take together, and they ought to arrive at their destination both proud of their achievements and eager to strut their stuff. Not all horses are comfortable in the show ring—they may have stage fright, or they may not like being in unfamiliar surroundings—but some really enjoy showing off, and those horses are always fun to watch and to ride!

“Being an international judge is a great responsibility and, especially at major events, the pressure can be quite strong to ‘get it right’ according to the riders, the organizers, the audience, and your colleagues. You cannot please all of them all the time. The decision about each score has to be immediate, correct, and fair, and there are thousands to be made in a weekend. The job description of a judge is limited to what occurs in the arena in front of him or her, and it is impossible for him or her to assess what goes on in the warm-up ring. Naturally, most judges can tell if a horse is tense, unhappy, and appears uncomfortable, and there are ways to express your displeasure about that throughout the score sheet. Remember, however, that there is sometimes a fine line between ‘tension’ and ‘brilliance,’ and that a breathtaking performance almost always has to include a certain measure of electricity and tension to become exciting. On this issue, judges tend to disagree more than on the technical aspects, and often it is the amount of tension versus brilliance that makes the judges come out differently in the scoring. Diversity in scores is not usually appreciated by competitors, audiences, or organizers, who want to see all their ducks in a row—even the press will sometimes attack a judge who stands out. It is assumed that this judge is incorrect, while it is quite possible that this was the judge who, at that particular competition, was the only one who had a truly sharp eye and the confidence to honestly express what he or she saw.

“The observer/journalist is the watchdog of the sport, and although neither competitors nor judges cherish criticism, checks and balances are of importance. If the process of reaching the pinnacle of our sport appears to be harmful to our horses, we need to clean up our act. Unfortunately, ‘perception is truth’ to a great extent, and if our equine athletes appear ‘unhappy’ it does us no good to protest and proclaim how much we love and appreciate them. Instead of indignation and lawsuits, riders and judges have to invite both the press and the public to be part of discussion, dialogue, and participation.

“We need to show the world that we are not involved in dressage to make our equine partners miserable but to build strong and proud athletes, which, while they may not be ecstatic all the time, are reasonably pleased with their lot in life as healthy and performing stars.”

 

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For more insight into and history of the sport of dressage, check out COLLECTIVE REMARKS by Anne Gribbons, available now from the TSB online bookstore.

CLICK HERE TO ORDER

 

Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of horse books and DVDs, is a small, privately owned company based on a farm in rural Vermont.

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CLICK IMAGE TO ORDER

In her acclaimed book ANNE KURSINSKI’S RIDING & JUMPING CLINIC, the five-time Olympian and two-time Olympic silver-medalist provides step-by-step descriptions of 20 exercises to improve your position and your feel. We can all—whatever discipline we favor or breed of horse we ride—put the following lesson in lengthening and shortening the horse’s stride into practice:

Once you have the basic tools for controlling speed and straightness, the next step to master is basic lengthening and shortening of your horse’s stride length. I’m not talking about extension and collection here, but simply about developing your ability to get (and to know you’re getting) a longer stride and a shorter stride—covering more ground or less ground with each of his footfalls. For this work, you may find it useful to have a helper on the ground to confirm and correct your impressions about how you’re affecting the horse’s stride.

To emphasize the importance of “forward,” begin with lengthening:

1.     In the working walk, increase the feel in your legs with a “squeeze-soften-squeeze” sequence that almost asks for a trot, then softens, and squeezes again, in rhythm with your horse’s steps.

2.     Let your hips swing forward to follow the walk, as they should naturally do, while you close your legs and feel your horse gaining more ground by taking longer strides.

3.     And yet, your hands don’t allow him to trot, nor do your legs push quite that hard. As he stretches and nods his neck, watch this motion and allow your elbows to open and close, so that you follow with your arms but don’t drop the contact. Don’t smother him so that he can’t lengthen, but don’t let him trot. (Think of him as an accordion, expanding and contracting.)

Now that you’ve pushed your horse into a longer stride (make sure your helper on the ground confirms that you have), teach him to shorten his stride by using your retarding aids more than your driving aids.

4.     With both hands, take more contact in rhythm with the stride, as if you’re going to stop …

5.     … but keep your legs squeezing and softening to tell him, “No, don’t stop. Stay active—take a shorter step but don’t stop, a shorter step but don’t stop, almost stop but don’t stop, almost stop but don’t stop.” Keep the movement rhythmic, so you get regular short steps, not choppy ones.

6.     Keep alternating the length of steps you ask for—short, short, short, then working (regular), working, then long, long, long, and back again, in the walk and then in the trot and canter so that you feel the different lengths and rhythms and develop your horse’s understanding of your aids.

7.     As you squeeze your legs, especially in the trot and canter, be sure your contact with the horse’s mouth is elastic, so that he can stretch into the longer stride. Remember that he can only lengthen his stride as far as his nose is poking out. If he’s overflexed or very short in the neck, he may throw his front leg forward, but his stride will still be short because he has to touch the ground at a point beneath where his nose is.

Listen to your horse’s strides. In each pace, try to make them as consistent as a metronome. With practice, as you get to know how his lengthened and shortened gaits feel and what balance of leg and hand aids produce them, you’ll be able to choose and then maintain whatever rhythm you want.

 

Get more great lessons on the flat and over fences in ANNE KURSINSKI’S RIDING & JUMPING CLINIC, available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE TO ORDER

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