To achieve correct alignment on circles and turns, think of keeping your shoulders aligned with your horse's shoulders (or where you want them to be), and your hips aligned with your horse's hips (or where you want them to be.)
If you regularly ride using a lot of leg pressure, you will usually find that you need to keep using more and more leg to get things done. This is because many horses are looking for the opportunity to let their riders do as much of the work as possible! If this sounds like you and your horse, you need to make the decision that from TODAY forward, you will not ever try to physically "push" your horse along with your leg. Teach him to respond to light aids!
"Many riders have expectations that are too high and they ask too much of their young horses too quickly. The remount in the cavalry had two years of primary school to become a riding horse. For today’s young horses this has become a luxury rarely enjoyed. The drive for success and money is not only restricted to our sport, but excessive ambitions can do lasting damage to young horses." ~ Susanne Miesner
In addition to the great suppling benefits, this exercise has the added benefit of improving the quality of your canter departs! It is most suitable for horses that are already at or above First level Dressage. Although those that are not quite there yet can play with a baby version of this exercise. Both horse and rider need to have a solid understanding of the lateral aids. And things will be coming up quite quickly! Read on to learn all about this challenging exercise! (Click on Article Title above to read full article)
"Collection should make the horse more beautiful than he was beforehand, not less beautiful. If the horse loses the expression, the elevation, the beautiful contact, the energy, the fluidity of the gait or the way his legs are animating, we can’t be satisfied that we’ve achieved collection." ~ Scott Hassler
Try this little experiment: Spend some time doing a turn on the forehand in hand (on the ground), so you can really watch what happens to your horse's body when he steps underneath himself with his inside hind leg. While he may remain hollow at first in tension, as he relaxes into the exercise you will usually see him naturally becoming "rounder" in his body, and therefore lowering his head and neck. You will also likely see him chewing the bit softly. This is an example of how changing how the back and the hind legs are working positively affects the front end.
The fastest cross-country horses are not necessarily the fastest horses in general, but the ones that are the easiest to set up for the jumps. So make sure you are always working on improving your horse's adjustability.
When working with a horse that does not have a great natural lengthening, make sure that you don't ask for too much too soon. Compare this to a singer who is training their vocal cords… they gradually expand their vocal range until they hit their limit. This helps to prevent them from overextending themselves, and builds up confidence in their abilities.
"The horse's back is like a bridge that carries him and you, and the neck completes the bridge. All the energy created by going forward from the hindquarters to the bridle makes your horse's back strong and develops those muscles that create the bridge. Without energy through the neck, the bridge is out and you can't do anything." ~ Jennifer Baumert
"If you aren't sure [when jumping], ride forward, because being under paced is not only harder for the horse, it can make the fences dangerous at the higher levels... Fences are made to be taken at a certain speed, not much more and certainly no less." ~ Catherine Norman
Take your time when riding transitions. Many riders seem to rush through them just to get them done. Be conscious of preparing for each one, and feeling all of the details while you are making the transition - being ready to abort the transition if things start to go wrong.
When riders stiffen their shoulders it can cause them to also have tense, tight arms and hands. To relax your shoulders, take a deep breath in, and exhale fully... looking for the feeling that your shoulders and elbows drop and become supple.
The more contact you hold on your horse's mouth between jumps (and of course, on the flat as well), the more work you may have to do to half halt or stop. Try to be as light as possible, so that when you do ask for something, your horse will hear you.
"Use your leg!".... "Put your leg on!".... "More leg!" Do these commands sound familiar to you?? I'm willing to bet that they are. There are many different ways a rider can use their leg. Do you know precisely how to use your leg in each individual situation, so that you are most clearly communicating your thoughts to your horse?
You certainly need to, if you want to get the best results! Read on to learn (or confirm your knowledge) about all of the different leg aids, and when and how they should be used. (Click on Article Title above to read full article)
"Our job is to prepare the line and canter, then ride forward to the jump. Riding forward to the jump is NOT accelerating to the jump. There is a difference. When riders get to a longer or shorter distance than ideal, the emphasis should be on the rider staying in the moment and conveying confidence to the horse." ~ William Fox Pitt
With horses, just like with people, let your actions speak for you. For example, you may think you are rewarding your horse when you say "Good boy" or "Good girl"... But if you do not also release the aid, your horse will not really feel rewarded for their effort.
When a rider does not have that classic straight line from their elbow to the bit, it is nearly impossible to have a quality contact. This is just one of the many reasons that having eyes on the ground is SO important. As many riders tend to ride with their hands either above or below that line, and have no idea that they are doing it. A good rein connection will elude you until you have found just the right alignment.