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sitonhandds

We all want to communicate with our horses in ways they can understand. When riding, that communication is dependent on our aids. What we might not realize is just knowing what the aids are and in what order to apply them isn’t enough to “speak” clearly to your horse. It is important sit centered, straight, and even in the saddle.

In the book 50 BEST ARENA EXERCISES AND PATTERNS, we learn how to get a feel for a seat that is centered, straight, and even.

1  Take both feet out of the stirrups and let your legs hang.

Allow your upper body to swing gently from front to back. After repeating this several times, you will notice that you instinctively find your center.

3  Round and hollow your back in order to get a feel for a correctly upright upper body. This is important as only then can your spine compensate for the movement of the horse and remain in balance.

4  Now, have a friend hold your horse as you shut your eyes for a moment and concentrate on the feel of your seat. You must develop a feeling for both seat bones and whether they are evenly bearing weight. If you are having trouble sensing both seat bones, drop your reins and sit on your hands: place them under your rear end with the palms facing toward the saddle and the top of the hands under your seat bones. This should enhance the pressure of the seat bones and help you distribute your weight evenly left to right.

Note: If you have continued difficulty evenly weighting your seat bones in the saddle, you may have natural crookedness or movement patterns in your body that need attention from a physical therapist or biomechanics expert.

For a terrific reference of schooling ideas for English and Western riders, check out 50 BEST ARENA EXERCISES AND PATTERNS, available now from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

 

CLICK HERE to download a free chapter.

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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Rio2016

Who doesn’t get bored going in circles? Olympic Equestrian and TSB author Ingrid Klimke says that riding over cavalletti on circles and half-circles can be a welcome change, not only improving the rider’s seat so it is more secure and balanced, but developing “feel,” as well. And there are many benefits for the horse.

“Cavalletti work on circles and half-circles helps to loosen the horse, and can rectify stiffness on one side or the other, so the horse bends and flexes equally in both directions,” she writes with her father Reiner Klimke in their bestselling book CAVALLETTI. “If a horse is not straight, he will often lose rhythm – this where cavalletti work can help by restoring elasticity and encouraging the placing of the hind feet under the center of gravity.

“Over poles, the horse does not have the chance to step out to the side with the hind legs. The length of stride and placing of the feet is so precise that the horse maintains rhythm by himself. It takes very little practice before the hind feet step into the tracks of the front feet—and the horse becomes straight.

“Riding over cavalletti on circles is especially beneficial for training the horse’s inside hind leg to take weight. Because of this it can be quite strenuous, so avoid doing it for too long.”

Cavalletti1

Set up cavalletti on a circle. One exercise Ingrid recommends is on either end of a figure eight. Pick up a working trot, circling in your horse’s stronger (better) direction, keeping sure your seat light.

2  Just before the cavalletti, move your hands slightly forward, and ride exactly over the center of the cavalletti. If all goes well, change direction, and ride over the cavalletti in the other direction. The aim is to work the horse evenly on both sides, to work on lateral bend and suppleness through the ribs.

3  After working on the circle, do some exercises on the straight: ride forward on the long sides of the arena to re-establish freedom of movement. Riding forward helps overcome any stiffness or resistance.

Cavalletti2

Ride over the center of the cavalletti again, but now on each subsequent circle, make the circle bigger, moving out to where the space between cavalletti is larger, so the horse has to stretch more, making his steps bigger. This means that the inside hind foot must push off the ground with more energy and at the same time take more weight. At this point it is easy to cross the boundary between training to build muscle and straining muscles. For this reason, this exercise should only be repeated a few times, riding each circle just once in each direction every time.

5  Gradually bring the lesson to a finish. It is important to ride some easy exercises that the horse is familiar with at the end of the session. Finishing on a good note makes work the next day twice as easy. After working on circles a few times, allow the horse to stretch.

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For more cavalletti exercises from Ingrid Klimke, check out her book CAVALLETTI, available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

And if you are a dressage rider, don’t miss Ingrid’s new DVD series TRAINING FOR DRESSAGE HORSES—the first level is now available!

TSB wishes Ingrid Klimke and all Olympic equestrians the best of luck in Rio 2016!

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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PILATESDR10

A lot of things can happen in 10 years of riding. Common goals shared by most riders are to have improved their seat; advanced the training of their horses while maintaining soundness; and nurtured connection and communication with their equine partners—that is, find harmony.

There was a time Janice Dulak couldn’t sit a trot. She had great riding instructors, but as one teacher put it, “You just don’t have harmony yet.” Terribly frustrated, Janice realized something was wrong. How could she, a former professional dancer, a Professor of Dance, and a Certified Romana’s Pilates Instructor, not be able to learn how to sit a trot?

 

There was a time when Janice Dulak couldn't sit the trot--all that changed when she developed Pilates for the Dressage Rider.

There was a time when Janice Dulak couldn’t sit the trot—all that changed when she developed Pilates for the Dressage Rider.

It dawned on her that a dancer’s vocabulary was much more specific than riding vocabulary. A riding instructor says, “Use your leg.” A dancing instructor says, “Turn your leg out and lift it to the side with the foot flexed and knee bent.” Exacting vocabulary to create exact movement. This “ah-ha” moment led her to begin asking her mare India “questions”: Janice would create a feeling or movement in her body and listen for India to respond. Within a week, Janice understood how she needed to use her body so her horse could be comfortable, and at last, Janice was able to sit the trot.

Janice began teaching her work to riders around the country, and PILATES FOR THE DRESSAGE RIDER was published in 2006, establishing a new vocabulary that helped riders understand how to use their bodies to create a more harmonious ride. As her methods caught on, Janice was invited to teach Linda Parelli and her students, and to co-present clinics with USDF Gold medalist and Certified Instructor Sarah Martin, which propelled her to the frontlines of a new form of training that ensured happier, more comfortable horses, as well as better, more satisfied riders.

“From Intro to Grand Prix riders, I see that my work elicits change,” Janice says today, reflecting on the past 10 years. “I see horses stop swishing their tails. I see riders learn how to open their hips and stay in the saddle at the sitting trot and canter. I see horses round up without being cranked down with the hands. I see riders learn how to have a steady contact. I see happy horses. I see happy riders.

“In the 10 years since PILATES FOR THE DRESSAGE RIDER was published, my riding and my life has changed. I’m now a USDF Bronze medalist, working toward the Silver this year, and with all the wonderful comments I have received on my books, DVDs, and clinics, I am inspired to continue researching and sharing what I learn. Moving up the levels, it becomes apparent that my work is not done. There is so much more to explain and teach to help riders. For all of you struggling dressage riders, there is hope.”

Janice’s Pilates for Dressage program took her from being unable to sit the trot, to within reach of her USDF Silver, as well as helping thousands of others. She gives us more than hope…she gives us a way forward.

In honor of the 10th Anniversary of PILATES FOR THE DRESSAGE RIDER, the book and DVD are both 20% off from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE. (Offer good until June 15, 2016.)

CLICK HERE for more information or to order.

 

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CRThoughtsFB JD

Last week, TSB author and acclaimed dancer and choreographer Paula Josa-Jones explained how CENTERED RIDING transformed how she thought about and felt her body while on horseback. Another of our authors comes from a professional dance background: Janice Dulak, dressage rider and Pilates instructor, and author of PILATES FOR THE DRESSAGE RIDER and NINE PILATES ESSENTIALS FOR THE BALANCED RIDER. Dulak says that Sally Swift’s ideas were part of the inspiration behind her own book and DVDs.

“As a professional dancer, I studied the Alexander Technique for years,” she explains. “The work enhanced my technique and allowed for a freedom of movement that changed how I danced. In becoming a rider, movement became new again, and challenging in a way that I hadn’t imagined. When Sally’s book was published, it was a breakthrough moment—for all riders. Understanding that one could translate this method to riding was brilliant…and in part, an inspiration for my work, PILATES FOR THE DRESSAGE RIDER! Thank you, Sally Swift!”

Share your own CENTERED RIDING memories and “aha” moments online and tag them #CenteredRiding30! And remember, all CENTERED RIDING books and DVDs are 30% off, the entire month of November.

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

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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.

 

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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.

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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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Yes, you read that right: dynamic buttocks are the secret to moving fluidly with your horse, whatever your riding discipline. “Sitting on a horse is never rigid (static),” write sports physiologist Eckart Meyners, Head of the German Riding School Hannes Muller, and St. George magazine editor Kerstin Niemann in their book RIDER+HORSE=1. “It is always dynamic.”

You can break through the stereotypical static sitting pattern with these two exercises from RIDER+HORSE=1, intended to improve sacroiliac joint and pelvic mobility in the rider.

 

You can mobilize your pelvis by lifting and lowering your buttocks on each side of the saddle---riding is never static, it is always dynamic!

You can mobilize your pelvis by lifting and lowering your buttocks on each side of the saddle—riding is never static, it is always dynamic!

 

1  While sitting on your horse, slide one buttock down the side and out of the saddle, then gently lift and lower this side of the body 8 to 12 times. Repeat on the other side. You will feel this exercise pleasantly reorganize your entire body structure when you again sit centered in the saddle.

2  Again sitting on your horse, imagine you are sitting on the face of a clock: when you lower your pelvis to the right, you are sitting on three o’clock, and when you lower it to the left, you are sitting on nine o’clock. Lower your pelvis to three o’clock only several times, then nine o’clock only, and then combine them in one fluid motion. Vary the pace of your movements and do not strain.

 

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You can find more exercises to improve your balance and aids, and identify and respond to the motion sequences of the horse in RIDER+HORSE=1, available 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.

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