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The dressage warm-up arena can be a crowded place. Photo by Amber Heintzberger from MODERN EVENTING WITH PHILLIP DUTTON.

Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event 2017 starts today with the first horse inspection, and the dressage phase kicks off tomorrow morning. To make sure everyone’s ready to go, here are five tips for warming up prior to your dressage test from MODERN EVENTING WITH PHILLIP DUTTON:

1  Start in walk on a 20-meter circle if the warm-up area is large enough. Introduce “inside leg to outside rein.” I usually start on the left rein, because most horses go better to the left and it starts them off well mentally. Get the horse walking nicely forward, slightly bent around your inside leg, and encourage him to reach softly down and forward.

2  Use some leg-yielding exercises to reaffirm your training and get the horse listening to your leg in both directions, left and right. Once you have his attention at the walk, go to rising trot. Rather than thinking about the the test, focus more on the correctness of the horse: You want him reaching for the bit softly; obedient to inside leg to outside rein; and with flexion to the inside.

3  Do lots of changes of direction and transitions within the trot to keep your horse’s attention and prevent him from getting “stuck.” Once his back is supple and loose, do a little bit of sitting trot, then ask for the canter. 

4  Do canter-trot-canter transitions on each rein. This is a great way of testing how well the horse is on the aids. I don’t want him to run or hollow out, and he should stay obedient through the transition.

5  You can practice specific parts of the test a few times, but when there is one horse to go before you, go back and work on your horse’s correctness–getting him in tune with your aids. Do lots of transitions, keeping the horse listening and thinking. Also, vary the horse’s frame. This last part of the warm-up is really to reinforce his attention on you.

Find more eventing advice in MODERN EVENTING WITH PHILLIP DUTTON, available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE to download a free chapter or to order.

We’re thrilled to have two TSB authors competing at RK3DE this year: Phillip Dutton and Doug Payne. In addition, professional grooms Emma Ford and Cat Hill, and horseman Dan James, are involved in this exciting equestrian event.

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Long-reining is an incredible type of groundwork that can advance your connection and communication with a horse in ways you might not believe—until you get in the saddle and experience the unbelievable softness and willingness in your horse that long-reining techniques tap and nurture.

But before you pick up a set of long-reins and try to master “feel”—that invisible sense of understanding between you and a horse—with a horse, Dan James of Double Dan Horsemanship recommends practicing with another person. His answer is a simple game that James first learned from fellow horseman and TSB author Jonathan Field (Field wrote THE ART OF LIBERTY TRAINING FOR HORSES). Field and James use the “Bucket  Game” to demonstrate to their students how to become aware of the two-way conversation you have with your horse whenever you work with him, and how to begin to develop “feel”—the ability to read subtle nonverbal communication, innate in us all.

The Bucket Game begins with two people holding the ends of a stretched-out long rein while each standing on upside-down buckets. With this small platform as the base of stability, communication and feel become paramount—any tug of the rope from the other person is magnified. The object of the game, of course, is to either collect all the long-rein or get the other person off her bucket.

bucketgame

At this point, it does not become a simple tug-of-war where you just try to take rein with brute force. Why? On the ground, you can spread your feet, or lean back to brace into an all-out pull. But, on a bucket, you don’t have that luxury and must be more precise with your movements. You have to feel the rein to know when to make contact or when to release a bit of slack before you get yanked off your bucket. Like fishing, you reel in and feed out line, trying to anticipate the other person’s moves. With “feel,” you will be able to pull the other person off her bucket or tug the rein from her hands because you can read her unspoken
communication and time your responses to topple her balance.

How does this relate to your horse? In the book LONG-REINING WITH DOUBLE DAN HORSEMANSHIP, Dan James and his partner Dan Steers explain one possible scenario:

Imagine a horse that tends to march off too quickly when you ask him to go while leading or driving him. You don’t want him to charge forward with too much speed without you having learned feel or it can turn into an uncomfortable situation with you out of balance and possibly out of control. This is somewhat like one car towing another car, they say: When the car in the lead moves, it can snap the second car forward at the moment the slack goes out of the chain that connects them. This is just like getting jerked off a bucket or getting pulled off your feet when your horse moves off before you are ready. But when you can anticipate a horse’s movements, you can react better to them and eventually, modify them.

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Dan James uses long-reining on the ground to develop softness and communication with his horses, before he gets in the saddle.

Remember, the horse is constantly communicating his intentions to you—and horses are always honest about their plans. With long-reining, you will learn to read a slight shift of weight or the tension your horse puts on the rein as a signal to what he is going to do. Gaining this skill on the ground will help you become a better, more in-tune rider in the saddle. And the Bucket Game gives you a head start—it’s an easy way to practice, and ultimately helps ensure a happier horse.

LONG-REINING WITH DOUBLE DAN HORSEMANSHIP and THE ART OF LIBERTY TRAINING FOR HORSES are both available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE for LONG-REINING

CLICK HERE for LIBERTY

 

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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When Dan James of Double Dan Horsemanship was growing up in his native Australia, his father stressed the importance of using long-reining as part of early groundwork when starting colts, as well as using the technique as a safe way to troubleshoot issues when restarting older horses with training or behavior problems. But the influx of American horsemanship methods just as Dan James and his business partner Dan Steers began their careers meant the popularity of traditional long-reining techniques waned.

It was when Dan and Dan trained with Heath Harris, one of the world’s elite liberty trainers and the man behind the horses in blockbuster films such as The Man from Snowy River, Phar Lap, The Young Black Stallion, and The Legend of Zorro, that they discovered the true value of long-reining in a horse’s education.

“Heath mounted us up on green Warmbloods that had just come in for training,” Dan and Dan remember in their new book LONG-REINING WITH DOUBLE DAN HORSEMANSHIP. “If one of those ‘giants’ wasn’t well broke and ran away, it could get scary really fast. It became quickly apparent that the more we had these horses bridled up and working well from the ground, the easier it was when we got into the saddle.”

So yes, long-reining is a fantastic intermediate groundwork step that bridges the gap between leading a horse and riding him.

“There are a lot of horses that get ‘lost in translation’ when making that leap,” say Dan and Dan, “so the simpler and smoother you can make the transition, the better. We’re not saying that everything a horse can do when being long-reined he will automatically be able to do with you on his back, but we do find it drastically reduces the level of fear and confusion for most horses. And, colts that are taught long-reining progress much faster starting under saddle than horses that are taught everything from their back.”

Heath Harris also had Dan and Dan work with off-the-track Thoroughbreds and “problem” horses that needed to revisit earlier training to fill in holes in their education. These horses taught them that long-reining is equally useful for building a foundation, working through issues, or refining skills the horses might already possess.

“Since we started teaching long-reining to the public, we’ve learned that the magic it works with horses is only half of its benefits,” say Dan and Dan. “We’ve also discovered it helps people gain confidence with their horsemanship—no small thing.”

Long-reining rapidly builds from basic skills to performing high-level exercises. Many classically trained dressage riders at the Olympian level use a lot of long-reining in their programs, as do some elite Western riders. And of course, we’re all familiar with famous Lipizzaner stallions from the Spanish Riding School in Vienna, Austria, who–alongside their trainers–take long-reining to its highest level of difficulty, entertaining the world with maneuvers that once prepared horses for the immense challenges of the battlefield.

Whether you are into Western or English riding, the long-reining concepts taught in LONG-REINING WITH DOUBLE DAN HORSEMANSHIP are well worth trying!

“If you have ever seen the Double Dans perform a long-reining demonstration, I am sure that you have been amazed by their skill and talent,” says Jen Johnson, Chief Executive Director of North American Western Dressage (NAWD). “At North American Western Dressage, we understand that good horsemanship begins on the ground. Long-reining can help you and your horse develop a great deal of harmony before you ever get in the saddle, and your horse can learn to use his body in a beneficial manner—without the added weight of a rider. Working your horse from the ground enhances physical and emotional fitness, and this is a great step-by-step guide to help you, with lots of terrific exercises.”

“Dan James and his partner in Double Dan Horsemanship, Dan Steers, are very well suited to offer advice in achieving success with long-lining techniques in a friendly, easy-to-follow manner,” agrees FEI 4* judge and long-lining expert Bo Jena.

You can download a free chapter from LONG-REINING WITH DOUBLE DAN HORSEMANSHIP or order a copy of the book from the Trafalgar Square Books storefront, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE for more information.

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CLICK IMAGE TO ORDER

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We’re packed and ready to head to Springfield, Massachusetts, for EA 2015. Join TSB this Thursday-Sunday, November 12-15, at the Eastern States Exposition, for fabulous clinics from top trainers, riders, and equine experts, as well as a terrific pre-holiday shopping experience. Stop by the TSB booth #846-847 in the Better Living Center for our perennial bestsellers like CENTERED RIDING by Sally Swift (which we published 30 years ago!); brand new titles, such as THE ESSENTIAL FERGUS THE HORSE, COWBOY DRESSAGE, and THE MESSAGE FROM THE HORSE; and great show specials like contests, sales, and a limited supply of TSB exclusive Fergus the Horse coffee mugs!

We’re thrilled to be there, along with six of our authors who are featured clinicians:

Dan James, one half of the famous Double Dan Horsemanship training duo and co-author of the forthcoming LONG-REINING WITH DOUBLE DAN HORSEMANSHIP, has clinics Saturday, November 14, at 9:30 am (Mallary South) and 4:15 pm (Coliseum), plus Sunday, November 15, at 11:15 am and 3:45 pm (both in the Coliseum).

 

Phillip Dutton, five-time Olympian with two gold medals and author of MODERN EVENTING WITH PHILLIP DUTTON with Amber Heintzberger, has clinics Saturday at 9:30 am and 1:15 pm, and Sunday at 9:30 am and 1:00 pm (all in the Coliseum), plus an “Ask the Expert” session at 4:00 pm on Saturday on the Seminar Stage in the Better Living Center.

Meet Phillip Dutton in person at the TSB booth #846-847 in the Better Living Center on Sunday at 2:00 pm! He’ll be answering questions and signing books.

 

Bernie Traurig, celebrated jumper rider and horseman, and creator of THE AMERICAN HUNTER/JUMPER FORWARD RIDING SYSTEM DVD SERIES, has a talk Thursday, November 12, at 10:00 am (Equine Fundamentals Forum/Mallary South), and clinics Thursday at 1:15 pm and 5:15 pm, and Friday, November 13, at 9:30 am and 1:00 pm (all in the Coliseum), plus an “Ask the Expert” session at 5:00 pm on Friday on the Seminar Stage in the Better Living Center.

 

Susan Harris, co-creator of ANATOMY IN MOTION: THE VISIBLE HORSE and THE VISIBLE RIDER DVDS, and artist contributor to THE DRESSAGE HORSE OPTIMIZED by Jim Masterson and Coralie Hughes, is presenting Friday at 2:00 pm and 4:30 pm, Saturday at 12:30 pm and 6:00 pm (all in the Young Arena), and Saturday at 3:00 pm (Demo Ring/Mallary North).

 

Dr. Joyce Harman, veterinarian and saddle-fitting expert, and author of THE HORSE’S PAIN-FREE BACK AND SADDLE-FIT BOOK, is presenting Thursday at 2:00 pm (Seminar Stage/Better Living Center) and 5:00 pm (Demo Ring/Mallary North), and on Friday at 1:00 pm (Demo Ring/Mallary North) and 11:00 am and 6:00 pm (both on the Seminar Stage/Better Living Center). On Saturday she speaks at 10:00 am at the Equine Fundamentals Forum (Mallary South).

 

Dr. Allen Schoen, pioneer in integrative veterinary medicine and co-author of THE COMPASSIONATE EQUESTRIAN with Susan Gordon, speaks on Saturday at 1:00 pm (Demo Ring/Mallary North) and on Sunday at 10:00 am (Seminar Stage/Better Living Center).

Meet Dr. Allen Schoen in person at the TSB booth #846-847 in the Better Living Center on Saturday at 2:00 pm and Sunday at 11:00 am! He’ll be answering questions and signing books.

 

We look forward to seeing you at Equine Affaire this weekend!

 

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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