A series of educational articles written by Lesley. If you have any requests for topics, please send them to: email@example.com
Do you find that you have SO many different things that you need to work on and improve upon in your riding, that it is hard to keep track of them all?? You correct one issue, and move on to the next, only to find that you have now lost the progress that you made on the first one??
Let me give you an example of what I am talking about. It is quite common for riders to have many or even all of these bad habits when riding on the flat - looking down, rounded shoulders, slumped posture, an incorrect pelvis position, an incorrect hand position, tense arms/shoulders, and hands that acts in a backward manner.
Since the human brain can only think about one distinct thought at a time, the way riders usually address these issues is to make one correction at a time. First they remind themselves to look up. Then to square and relax the shoulders. Next they think about their overall posture and alignment. And finally, the focus moves to their hands... They make whatever specific correction is necessary to put their hands in the right position, and then make an attempt to make those hands "forward thinking."
The problem is that by this point in their checklist, all of the earlier corrections may have already unraveled. Here is a trick that will help with this! (Click on Article Title above to read full article)
Have you ever noticed how much better our electronic devices such as our smartphones and computers seem to run after we refresh or reset them? Letting go of all the data overload and junk files, and closing all of the unnecessary apps that were running in the background allows our devices to work as good as new much of the time. The same is often true in our riding. Refreshing or reseting our aids "wipes the slate clean", so to speak, allowing the horse to better focus on and hear our light aids. Continue reading to find out how and when to reset your aids! (Click on Article Title above to read full entry)
The Triangle Exercise is a fun and challenging exercise to test the precision and fluidity of your turns. It also teaches riders to do a better job of planning ahead, and executing that plan accurately, to set themselves up for success.This exercise will help you to be more accurate in the Dressage ring, and will improve your jumping as well! Read on to learn all about it! (Click on Article Title above to read full entry)
Have you ever noticed how the turning aids of many of the top riders are amazingly effortless and practically imperceptible? And how their horses seem to turn smoothly and accurately, almost seemingly of their own accord?? It is something that all riders should be striving for, to be able to turn so easily and effectively that no one can even see the turning aids being used.
The way you turn your horse is definitely a good example of "less is more", as the stronger and more crude your turning aids are, the more resistances and loss of balance you will likely encounter. The best way to ensure a balanced, smooth turn is for the rider to keep their aids precise yet as light as possible. Here is an exercise that will help you to refine your turning aids, so that YOU can be one of those riders with effortless and invisible aids! (Click on the Article Title above to read full entry)
Does your horse need some motivation over fences?? Here is an exercise that will rev him up, and make him more game about jumping! (Click on Article Title above to read full entry)
Horses tend to mirror their rider's posture. A horse is much more likely to carry himself in balance and self carriage if his rider is poised and balanced in the saddle. Tension in the rider creates and perpetuates tension in the horse. And tense riders are notorious for holding tension in their shoulders! Rounded and slumped shoulders are a big problem too.
Poor posture leads to muscle imbalances in our bodies. When you slump, your chest muscles shorten and tighten, making it more difficult for you to properly use your core and back muscles. You are also then much more likely to want to grip and "hang on" to try to stay in position (especially on the bigger moving horses!), often using your hands more than your seat to try to control your horse. All of these things effect the horse negatively - the imbalance, the tension, the gripping, and the overuse of the reins.
This should be an easy fix, right? Just square your shoulders! But here's the problem… I find that just telling riders to "keep their shoulders back" rarely solves the problem. Why? Because in trying to force the shoulders back while riding a horse (along with the 50 other things that you need to be thinking about at that moment), many times the tension in the shoulders remains. Which usually means that they will creep forward again as soon as you are focusing on something else! Here is a quick, simple fix that you can incorporate often into your riding, to help you find relaxed and square shoulders in the saddle. (Click on Article Title above to read full entry)
The Volte is an old school, classical movement that is invaluable in developing lateral suppleness in the horse. Although it can be utilized on a basic level for horses and riders that are fairly solid at First level, it is particularly essential for the more advanced Dressage horse. Read on to find out why and how! (Click on Article Title above to read full entry)
Here is an exercise that will help you to show your horse how to carry himself in a better way within the confines of the Dressage ring - making him more ready to perform any movement that might be coming! (Click on Article title above to read full entry)
In discussing different training methods, and the use of various training gadgets such as draw reins, it is common for those defending their methods to say that as long as we get to the same place in the end, it doesn’t really matter how we get there. But those who jiggle the reins to bring down their horse’s head, or use strong bits or draw reins to force the horse to become more obedient, so that he is more likely to keep his head in the right place no matter what the rest of his body is doing, will not end up in the same place as those who take the time to teach the horse to correctly seek the connection. If Rome is where we want to be, the road they are on will NOT take them there! Read on to find out why! (Click on Article Title above to read full entry)
This is a subject that so many people have strong opinions on… with one end of the spectrum saying that we shouldn’t be working young horses until they have fully matured, and others saying that a certain amount of work in those formative years is important to build a truly strong athlete. As is often the case in the subject of horses... the middle ground is usually the best. Horses that are pushed too hard or too fast (at any age) can easily suffer negative physical and mental consequences. But young horses in particular require a careful program, as their internal support structures (bones, tendons, and ligaments) are rarely as developed as their muscular bodies might be suggesting. (Click on Article Title above to read full article.)
The Counted Walk is an "old school" Dressage exercise that I find to be highly overlooked and under utilized! It can be effective in improving the horse's balance and carriage, and to help him to better understand how to remain active behind even when going slowly.
It will also strengthen the horse, and address suppleness in the body in a unique way. Riders can use this exercise to teach their horses to respond to feather light aids. It can also be quite useful in improving Dressage movements such as the turn on the haunches, pirouettes, and the halt. And it can be a great way to build into half steps, the piaffe, and higher levels of collection. Read on to learn more about it! (Click on Article Title above to read full article)
Generally a good, smooth, clean show jumping round happens when you have the right quality of canter, and your horse is rideable and adjustable between fences. If your horse is lacking in rideability or adjustability, it does not matter how great the canter is that you start off with - as you will find that the quality of your canter will likely diminish as your round goes on. And because your horse is not easily adjustable, you will probably be unable to truly fix it while on course.
I will start by defining and discussing the difference in the meaning of the two terms, and will then give you an exercise that will show you exactly how much of either quality your horse currently possesses! This exercise can be adapted to suit all levels of horse and rider, and all disciplines of riding. (Click on Article Title above to read full entry)
Raise your hand if you get nervous before horse shows!
If you are like many riders, the act of performing in front of others will make you at least somewhat nervous, whether you realize it or not! Don't despair... there IS something you can do to help you deal with this uncomfortable feeling when it happens! Read on to find out what it is! (Click on Article Title above to read full article)
Despite the best of intentions, many riders have a hard time maintaining the correct hand position when riding. This is often because we have so many different things to think about! It is one thing to maintain a perfect hand position at the halt, or when riding on loose reins. But when trying to give your horse the aids for various movements, dealing with any imperfections of the connection, or just focusing on another part of your anatomy for just a moment, it is common for the hands to go astray! Here is a highly effective exercise, that will fix any hand position flaw that you may have! (Click on Article Title above to read full entry)
What makes for a smooth show jumping round? Balance, rhythm, and rideability come to mind. If your horse is rideable, he is responsive, obedient, supple, and in balance at all times. This is, of course, usually a work in progress! As much of our daily training is aimed at developing our horse's rideability, and it can take many years to achieve! Here is a great pole exercise to help you improve your horse's rideability on course! (Click on Article Title above to read full article)
The Box Exercise is one of my absolute favorites for both Dressage and Jumping riders. This clever exercise will ensure that your horse is listening precisely to all of your turning aids, and you can use it to teach your horse to listen to the lightest of aids. It will also teach you how to ride truly accurate figures, and by doing so will naturally improve the balance and carriage of your horse's gaits. This one is suitable to riders at all levels because of the many different possible levels of difficulty. Read on to find out all about it! (Click on Article Title above to read full article)
This fairly complex jumping exercise is most suitable for Event horses that are at the Training level or above, although it can be modified for more green horses and/or riders. It will test your ability to make accurate turns onto angled lines, while keeping an even jumping pace. Read on to learn all about it! (Click on Article Title above to read full article)
Have you ever stopped to wonder how your driving habits might be affecting your riding?? Many of us spend quite a lot of time behind the wheel. And since we are such creatures of habit, many of the things that we habitually do while driving can easily become somewhat "normal" for us, showing up in other situations as well. Since we have to be able to sit in a completely centered and balanced way when riding, with have equal awareness and control over both sides of our body to get the best out of our horses, we should look into every possible situation that might be developing the wrong "muscle memory" in our bodies. Here are some things to think about and practice when driving your car, that might help to improve your position and effectiveness on your horse! (Click on Article Title above (in blue) to read full article)
In Dressage, we use bending both to develop and to prove our horse's lateral suppleness. When the horse is laterally supple, the rider will feel that it is easy to keep the horse straight, and that it is easy to change the bend back and forth when changing directions. Lateral suppleness will also allow the horse to conform his entire body to the shape of the circles and turns that we ride him on... which means he can perform those figures in balance.The caveat here is that to achieve this suppleness, the horse must be giving you TRUE bend throughout his body (more on that here.) So you need to make sure that your horse is actually responding to your bending aids correctly! And one of the keys to this is to make sure your horse is truly listening to your inside leg - giving you an immediate response to even the slightest of leg aids just behind the girth. Here is a very basic exercise, suitable for horses and riders at all levels, that will help to improve the horse's response to the rider's inside leg: (Click on Article Title above (in blue) to read full article)
Some horses have a hard time really swinging and engaging their entire backs, due to tension or stiffness. Many of these horses show signs of improvement with good dressage training, but often continue to carry an area of tension - usually in their lumbar region or lower back. This is a great exercise to break through the tension or stiffness in this area, and improve the level of throughness over your horse's entire topline, and the overall quality of your connection. Read on to find out how to do it! (Click on Article Title above (in blue) to read full article)
"Stair stepping" your lateral work when schooling your horse has enormous benefits! It helps to teach your horse to stay more truly connected throughout all of your lateral movements. You will become more aware of and be better able to fix any straightness issues that you may encounter. And it will help you to maintain more hind leg activity and impulsion throughout any lateral movement or exercise. Read on to find out how to do it! (Click on Article Title above (in blue) to read full entry)
It is such a common problem for horses to fall in on the circle when lunging. Many horses do it mostly in one direction (usually when circling to the right), but others do it both ways. Why is this such a problem?? Because not only is your lunging not productive at that point, but it is very hard on the horse's body and joints to be traveling so incorrectly. And most importantly, if your horse does this on the lunge, he probably has a tendency to try to do this under saddle as well! Read on for a specific exercise to help teach your horse to stand up straight around his corners and turns. (Click on Article Title above (in blue) to read full article)
(Photo credit to Catherine Norman)There are a huge range of possible different releases that a rider can use when jumping a horse over a fence. All the way from a "negative" release - which means the rider is actually pulling back on the horse's mouth in the air, like this: (Click on Article Title above (in blue) to read full article)
Riding is supposed to be about developing a harmonious partnership between horse and rider. When done extremely well, the horse appears to be performing entirely on his own, just following the thoughts and desires of his rider by apparent telepathy.More commonly, we see riders doing lots of strong driving, kicking, spurring, pulling, yanking, and overall using aids that are just... shall we say, a bit crude??So, if the "crude aids" category sounds frighteningly familiar to you... how do you go about changing to the more "harmonious partnership" mentioned above, with a horse that is responsive to feather light aids??It CAN be done... and with just about ANY horse! Any horse can be taught to be alert, attentive, and responsive to nearly invisible aids. The key is to... (Click on Article Title above (in blue) to read full article)
(Photo courtesy of Catherine Norman)Even though I already have an article about how to ride jumps at an angle, and how to teach the green horse all about angled jumps (check that out here), I wanted to further discuss some of the benefits of jumping at angles - of which there are many! And I also want to cover what level of horse and rider should be working on angled fences on a regular basis. Read on to find out! (Click on Article Title above (in blue) to read full article)
About 10 years ago, I was coaching the very talented young rider in the above photo at an Event at the Carolina Horse Park in North Carolina. Her horse absolutely loved cross country, and could get very strong with her. So, as we were warming up for that phase, I was trying to show her how to better control her strong horse in a galloping position. And to use this technique well, a rider has to have a fairly flat back (as that makes it possible to push your hips back.) Since this rider was noticeably rounding her back, I kept telling her to... (Click on Article Title above (in blue) to read full article)
This very basic (and often overlooked) jumping exercise will improve your horse's rideability, as well as the overall harmony between you and your horse when jumping courses. It may not be easy to do well at first, but it will get better and better with practice! Here's how to do it: (Click on Article Title above (in blue) to read full article)
An Advanced Trot Pole Exercise to Improve Suppleness, Strength, and RideabilityIt can often be helpful to have some NEW exercises to try to improve the issues that you spend every day working on. Many times something brand new and a little out of the norm can really push you past the slump you are in! Here is a trot pole exercise, best suited for horses and riders that are working at second level Dressage or above, that will increase your horse's suppleness, engagement, and rideability. It will also help to make him stronger, which will make everything that you ask easier for him! (Click on Article Title above (in blue) to read full article)
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