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Archive for the ‘Riding and Training Exercises’ Category

Whether it was the dawdling pony, ignoring our short, five-year-old legs ricocheting off his sides, or the experienced schoolmaster who knew enough to make us earn a forward ride, we have all struggled to put a horse in front of our leg at one point or another. A common mistake when your walk leaves much to be desired, it would seem, is to actually spend time working on the walk. The short of the long is: Don’t do that.

Christoph Hess, FEI “I” judge in both dressage and eventing, gives us these alternatives to developing a good walk in his book BETTER RIDING WITH CHRISTOPH HESS:

 

A good walk is developed by the rider through correct riding in the basic gaits of trot and canter. This sounds paradoxical at first, but practice shows that a good walk cannot be achieved by always “working” the horse in this gait exclusively. Rather, a good walk is developed by having the horse securely on the rider’s aids, allowing himself to be ridden “through” while stretching and in balance at the basic gaits of trot and canter.

TrainingaGoodWalk-horseandriderbooks

Photo by Peter Prohn

At the walk, the rider can check how rideable her horse really is. She can determine if the horse is supple and relaxed, responding to the driving aids—without the horse being lazy and lethargic—and “seeking” the bit, meaning he is stretching toward the rider’s hand. The rider must always be able to ride forward, and also sideways, at any time. The better and, above all, more responsively the horse accepts the rider’s driving aids, the better the results on the walk will be.

 

HowtoGetaGoodWalkpin-horseandriderbooksRide It Correctly

In dressage tests, the walk scores are given a coefficient of two, which means the walk counts twice. For one, the crucial rhythm, fluidity, and ground cover are scored. For another, the judges pay attention to ensure the rider actually rides the walk and does not just go along as a “passive passenger.” This active riding of the walk is an important criterion for assessing whether or not the rider is on the correct path to training her horse. To accomplish this, the rider applies her driving leg aids at the moment the hind leg on the same side is striking off. This is a process during which the horse ideally “picks up” the driving aid himself. The prerequisite for this is a supple hip joint. At the same time, the rider should follow the nodding of the horse’s head and neck with her hands and have the feeling that the horse is framed between her aids. As this takes place, the horse will stretch forward and downward, opening the angle at his throatlatch, and through this, the line from forehead to nose should come just slightly ahead of the vertical. This is the prerequisite for the horse to establish an even rhythm and achieve ground-covering strides.

Though this sounds easy when put into words, it is really not easy to achieve in practice. In the course of her education, every rider must discover for herself the right feel for riding the walk. On the one hand, she needs to allow the horse to walk on without driving him excessively; on the other hand, she cannot become really passive, which can lead to a considerably worse walk.

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An even walk with a clearly recognizable “V.” This is a visual aid for a clear four-beat rhythm. Under no circumstances should the foreleg and hind leg on the same side come close to moving concurrently. This would indicate a pacing walk. Illustration by Cornelia Koller

 

Trot-Canter Transitions

Doing transitions from trot to canter and canter back to trot is one of the most valuable exercises for effectively improving a horse’s “throughness,” willing cooperation, obedience, and responsiveness to his rider—all necessary for a good walk. I recommend you incorporate these transitions very deliberately into the content of every daily training session. Practice these on a big circle, making sure your horse stays on your driving aids, even as he “shifts up a gear” from trot into canter and then “shifts down a gear” from canter back to trot. On the “downshift,” it is especially important that you maintain the impulsion from the canter as you return to trot, without the trot becoming rushed. You should visualize yourself “cantering into the trot” as you begin to trot. This is only possible when you are supple through your hip joint, following the movement of the new gait, allowing it to carry you along. In order to further optimize your horse’s “throughness,” you should just slightly lengthen the canter strides just before the downward transition to trot, then after the successful transition, just slightly lengthen the first trot strides. As this takes place, the horse must maintain a forward tendency. Under no circumstance, should the transition be from an extended canter into an extended trot (which has a tendency to be a “passage-like” gait). As the actual transition takes place, you must always have the feeling that you could offer a release, typically by moving one or both hands forward along the horse’s neck, or allow the horse to “chew” the reins from your hand.

If you ride the transition from a backward orientation, meaning from short canter strides and/or into short trot strides that lack impulsion, you will not be able to ride a rhythmic, fluid, and efficient walk. At the moment of the transition, take more feel of the horse’s side with your inside calf, which will make the transition so much easier; with a well-trained horse, you will then be able to complete the transition without application of rein aids. You’ll feel, respectively, as if you’re only “listening in closely” to the horse’s mouth with your hands (through your reins). In this way, you will avoid applying inside rein. Doing so blocks the horse’s strikeoff from the inside hind, which leads to a failed transition. The canter-to-trot transition, in particular, has a pivotal significance to harmonious and, thereby, sensitive riding in all three basic gaits.

One more useful tip: a few canter strides before your transition to trot, think leg-yield; if you’re more advanced then think shoulder-fore or shoulder-in. The same applies to the transition from trot to walk.

Ride Better with Christoph Hess REV-horseandriderbooksFor more riding and training tips from Christoph Hess, check out RIDE BETTER WITH CHRISTOPH HESS, available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE for more information or to order.

 

Are you looking for new ways to rev your riding engines? Jane Savoie’s bestselling equestrian sport psychology book IT’S NOT JUST ABOUT THE RIBBONS is now available in audiobook format!

CLICK HERE to learn more.

Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of equestrian books and videos, is a small company based on a farm in rural Vermont.

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ridersguiderealcollection-horseandriderbooks

Renowned educator, clinician, and Western Dressage World Champion Lynn Palm says that one of the quickest ways to understand true collection is to try it yourself. Here’s an easy exercise from her book THE RIDER’S GUIDE TO REAL COLLECTION to help you feel what your horse feels when you ask him to collect.

TRY THIS

1  First, get on your hands and knees, with your knees directly under your hips and your hands directly under your shoulders. In this position, you’re going to have your head above your back because it feels more comfortable. Because of the weight of your head and neck, you’re going to feel more weight on your hands than on your knees—the same as the horse in natural carriage.

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Photo by Cappy Jackson.

2  Now, pretend you are doing a canter depart. You should find that you can bring your hands off the ground without difficulty, although perhaps not as gracefully as you would like.

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Photo by Cappy Jackson.

3  When collection is achieved through training and developing the horse’s body, the hind legs engage and move forward deep underneath his body, the spine rounds, and the forehand elevates. To simulate this, bring your knees underneath yourself to round and elevate your back.

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Photo by Cappy Jackson.

4  Try your canter depart again. You should be able to lift your hands easily: This position simulates a horse that is collected.

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Photo by Cappy Jackson.

5  “Set” your head, like a horse in false collection. Put your head down so it is level with or below your topline. You should feel the added weight on your hands at this point. When this happens to the horse, he can’t bring his hind legs underneath his body to start collecting himself. Move your knees far behind your hips.

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Photo by Cappy Jackson.

6  Now pick up your “canter.” It should be extremely hard to lift your hands off the ground. This is what your horse experiences, too!

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Photo by Cappy Jackson.

rider's guide to collectionTHE RIDER’S GUIDE TO REAL COLLECTION is available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE for more information or to order.

Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of equestrian books and DVDs, is a small business based on a farm in rural Vermont.

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DressageTrainingInHandMain-horseandriderbooks

Kathrin Roida is a classical dressage devotee who has learned the value of using groundwork to prepare youngsters for later work and foster the proper, conscientious development of older horses in training. Gymnastic work in-hand is now her specialty, and her new book DRESSAGE TRAINING IN-HAND shares her techniques, exploring how they help horses of different ages, breeds, and training backgrounds.

“Over the course of my riding life, I’ve become more and more convinced of the value of gymnastic work in hand,” says Roida. “This applies both to young horses, who develop good body awareness and the balance necessary to prepare for being ridden, and to older, trained horses where I’ve reached a plateau in their schooling under saddle. In-hand work is also extremely valuable when working with ‘project’ horses that are being retrained or rehabilitated—sometimes, it’s the only way for these horses to get sound again.”

Roida’s work doesn’t stop with the traditional in-hand exercises; she is a proponent for liberty work as a complement to daily training routines, whatever your horse’s “job” might be.

“When working at liberty,” she explains, “all that was learned in hand can be called upon, without even a bridle. This work is a mirror reflecting your relationship with the horse.

“At Frédéric Pignon’s farm in France, I got my first glimpse of liberty work. It brings me great pleasure when I can call upon these exercises without the use of bridle or halter…. In liberty work, shoulder control is the be all and end all. One must be able to control the horse using the whip and body language.

“It’s important to me that the horse does not get dull. I like to see a spark in the horse’s eye during this work—not a dull horse that’s eye gives the impression that he’s trying to be ‘so good.’ Just as with any other type of work, liberty work must be done in the right amount, otherwise the horse will get tired of it and, despite the freedom, it becomes forced. Accomplishing this is an art that only few people understand. In my mind, Frédéric Pignon and Magali Delgado are two such people, and I consider the way they handle and relate to their horses the ideal example. I hope to someday reach their level, so I continually work on myself.

“We trainers, especially, must constantly remind ourselves not to allow our work to settle into a ‘day in, day out’ routine. We can’t just follow a routine, executing our ‘agenda’ for one horse after the next. When this occurs, it’s our relationship with our horses that suffers.

“With occasional liberty work, our horse has the chance to show us, with unmistakable clarity, what he thinks about our relationship. Then, we need, again, to self-reflect, asking how we can work on ourselves. My personal goal is to always see and reflect upon the mirror the horse provides me, and in doing so, to maintain the sparkle in his eye.

“As long as you have the possibility to work with horses, you should see it as a huge opportunity to also continue your own personal development, never ceasing to learn new things or believing that you already know it all. A good trainer sees her horses as a mirror and will continue to confront her own weaknesses over the course of her lifetime. Our horses offer us an incredible opportunity to build character!”

DRESSAGE TRAINING IN-HAND by Kathrin Roida is available now from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE to download a free chapter or to order.

Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of equestrian books and DVDs, is a small business based on a farm in rural Vermont. 

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DontLookDown-horseandriderbooks

We’ve all heard it over the years: “Don’t look down!” And maybe, “You look at the ground and that’s where you’ll end up!”

The real reason we shouldn’t look down while we’re riding doesn’t have as much to do with running into things or falling off as it does with the horse’s ability to perform.

You see, our eyes are heavy!

“Many of us have a habit of looking down while we are riding,” explains founder of the International Horse Agility Club Vanessa Bee in her book OVER, UNDER, THROUGH: OBSTACLE TRAINING FOR HORSES. “We look at the ears of our horse, or the ground, or we lean over to see if we are getting it right when learning to move the individual feet of the horse. But our eyes are heavy! Try the following experiment and you’ll begin to appreciate how difficult we  make it for our horses to move when we look down.”

1 Stand on a flat surface and balance your weight evenly through each foot.

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2 Look down at your right foot.

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3 Now lift your right foot off the ground. How easy does it feel?

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4 Now stand up again and balance your weight evenly through both feet.

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5 Look up to the right.

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6 Now lift your foot. Much easier, isn’t it?

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“If you were riding your horse and asking him to lift his right front foot off the ground, imagine how difficult it must be if you suddenly lean over and peer down to see if it is working,” Bee emphasizes. “So look up and feel that foot lifting. It’ll be so much easier for both of you.”

Over Under Through Cover FINAL-horseandriderbooksOVER, UNDER, THROUGH: OBSTACLE TRAINING FOR HORSES is available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE for more information or to order.

Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of equestrian books and DVDs, is a small business based on a farm in rural Vermont. 

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Wouldn’t it be fabulous if when you bought gifts for the holidays, you were automatically entered to win great prizes? Wouldn’t that put a whole new spin on the Christmas shopping experience?

Oh, wait…that’s EXACTLY what we’re doing!

That’s right, during the month of December, if you buy a copy of THELWELL’S PONY CAVALCADE or LONG-REINING WITH DOUBLE DAN HORSEMANSHIP from the TSB online bookstore http://www.HorseandRiderBooks.com, you are automatically entered to win crazy cool prize packs!

Here’s what’s up:

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Who doesn’t love Thelwell ponies? They are fat, hairy, and smarter than all of us combined. Purchase a copy of THELWELL’S PONY CAVALCADE, which includes the classics Angels on Horseback, A Leg at Each Corner, and Thelwell’s Riding Academy, from www.HorseandRiderBooks.com (CLICK HERE) during the month of December, and you will be entered to win a hilarious set of Thelwell placemats and two pairs of Thelwell riding socks from Inkstables.com! That’s potentially four great gifts for the price of one (or one for them, three for you…).

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And if you are of a more serious turn of mind, how about a copy of LONG-REINING WITH DOUBLE DAN HORSEMANSHIP, a super introduction to valuable groundwork skills that can be used to help create a stronger connection and better communication between horse and rider before you get in the saddle. Long-reining is invaluable for starting youngsters, rehabbing after injuries, and safely dealing with training problems. Buy a copy of LONG-REINING WITH DOUBLE DAN HORSEMANSHIP from www.HorseandRiderBooks.com (CLICK HERE) or DoubleDanHorsemanship.com during the month of December and you’ll be automatically entered to win a set of Long-Reining with Double Dan Horsemanship DVDs, a set of Double Dan Horsemanship Long Reins, and a Lungie-Bungie! That’s a prize pack worth over $230! Woohoo!

Hurry…December (and your excuse for shopping online) won’t last forever…

thel3

CLICK HERE to order THELWELL’S PONY CAVALCADE and be automatically entered to win Thelwell swag!

CLICK HERE to order LONG-REINING WITH DOUBLE DAN HORSEMANSHIP and be automatically entered to win $230 worth of training gear!

#shopsmall

Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of equestrian books and DVDs, is a small business located on a farm in rural Vermont.

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PRINOFRIDING

THE PRINCIPLES OF RIDING by the German Equestrian Federation (FN) was first published more than 50 years ago and now has 28 editions to date. Over 400,000 have been sold, translated into 11 languages.

The ideas expressed in THE PRINCIPLES OF RIDING are based on “classical riding,” which is defined by the FN as:

“A vital and modern training system that builds on the basic principles of the ‘Old Masters,’ supplemented by new insights that serve the welfare of the horse and are purposeful for its training.”

In addition, classical riding:

  • Is oriented toward the nature of the horse–the horse’s needs and each horse’s natural, individual abilities.
  • Considers the physical precondition of the horse and the natural behavior of the horse.
  • Supports the horse’s welfare.
  • Aims toward a balanced gymnasticizing and strengthening of the horse.
  • Is diverse and versatile.
  • Develops and maintains a horse that performs willingly and confidently.
  • Demands from the rider an elastic, balanced seat, a sensitive, fine use of the aids, as well as an understanding of the nature of the horse and its correlation to training, thus leading to inner and outer balance of horse and rider.

So as horse people, why do we need to read the new edition of THE PRINCIPLES OF RIDING? Because it provides a baseline foundation of understanding for ALL areas of equestrian sport and horse management. Because it provides practical guidance to all who want to learn how to ride and train a horse appropriately, as well as comprehend why certain methods have proved correct and indispensable over the years. And because this newest revised edition emphasizes the importance of harmony between horse and rider.

THE PRINCIPLES OF RIDING are an important addition to any aspiring rider or trainer’s equestrian library, and are available now from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE for more information.

Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of equestrian books and DVDs, is a small business based on a farm in rural Vermont.

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Did you know your knees can obstruct your horse’s ability to go forward? It’s weird to think about—but true! Your seat bones and feet  play a role, as well, but they are secondary to the knees.

You can use this easy test with an exercise ball to identify bad habits that may explain why your horse does (or doesn’t) respond to you in certain ways.

“The exercise ball has no brain and only does what you do,” explains biomechanics expert Wendy Murdoch in her bestselling 40 5-MINUTE JUMPING FIXES. “The ball’s movement is created by the student—intentional or otherwise. Therefore, the ball illuminates habits, offers explanations as to why the horse responds as he does, and provides an environment in which to learn new patterns. It also allows both the instructor and the student an opportunity to sort out problems before attempting to resolve them on the horse.”

1. Start by sitting in the full seat position on the ball. If necessary, place a marker to the side to see which direction the ball is rolling. To begin, individually isolate the movements of your pelvis, knees, and ankles, then combine them to determine which has the greatest influence on the direction the ball rolls. At first, you may think your ball is not reacting as it should. But the ball doesn’t lie. Have someone watch you (or work in front of a mirror) to discover what you are doing so that you can control the ball and explore the various combinations accurately.

2. When you maintain a 90-degree angle at the back of the knee without making the knees rigid, you will find that hollowing your back rolls the ball slightly back, while rounding rolls it slightly forward.

3. Beginning from a 90-degree angle at the back of the knees, straighten your knees and the ball will roll back; bend them again and it will roll forward.

4. Now lift the front of your feet and press on the floor with your heels. The ball will roll back. Lift your heels, leaving the front of your feet on the ground, and the ball may stay in place or roll forward, depending on how much you bend your knees.

5. You can override the effect of your pelvis and feet by straightening or bending your knees. Round your lower back, lift your toes, and let your knees bend: the ball rolls forward. Straighten your knees: it will roll back. Hollow your lower back, lift your heels, and bend your knees: the ball rolls forward. Straighten your knees: it rolls back.

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CLICK IMAGE TO ORDER

Note that when you straighten your knees with your feet in the stirrups, you are bracing against your horse’s forward movement regardless of whether your lower back is hollowed, rounded, or flat, and whether your foot position is heels down or toes down.

For more exercises that illuminate riding position habits in interesting ways, check out 40 5-MINUTE JUMPING FIXES by Wendy Murdoch, available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE for more information.

 

Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of equestrian books and DVDs, is a small business based on a farm in rural Vermont. 

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