With young or untrained horses who conformationally have a high set on neck (which is a good trait to have for a jumping or Dressage horse), you have to be particularly careful that you don’t work them in a frame that is too advanced for their strength level. It takes enormous strength in the horse’s lumbar back to carry a rider in a higher frame for any length of time. Ride for too long in a higher frame, and they will get sore in their lumbar back, and often resentful.
"Just as the sculptor at first chisels the future outlines of his work of art with powerful blows out of the crude block of stone, and then lets it develop in increasingly finer detail in all its beauty, the aids of the rider must also become more and more delicate in the course of the horse's education. Every rider should always keep this strictly in mind and especially avoid destroying with crude aids, out of impatience or other reasons, what he has built in his previous work." ~ Alois Podhajsky
A real collected trot should feel like a contained medium trot. Not just slower, with shorter strides - but with enough stored energy and contained power that you feel that all you have to do to get medium trot is release it. And the same for collected canter.
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)
"Riders are very often but mistakenly glad to see their horse arch his neck, regardless of how it is arched (whether too high or too low or behind the bit or stiff). Have you ever seen a horse with an arched but stiff neck, looking as though he were nailed to the bit ? That kind or arch does not imply a horse on the bit." ~ Charles de Kunffy
For those of you with horses that want to "run" into the canter when working on walk to canter transitions (accelerating and taking a trot step or two before picking up the canter), think "halt" as you are applying your aid to canter from the walk.
When the rider attempts to give the horse "support", it doesn't help a horse learn to balance. Instead it gives them something to lean on, and actually USE for balance. Correct and soften, and your horse will learn to balance itself without relying on you to hold them up.
Always keep in mind that you do not necessarily need to slow down to rebalance your horse between fences when jumping. A horse can be balanced at just about any speed. You can also change the shape of the canter stride without changing the speed. And most importantly, the rhythm.
"One can never, I believe, strive for a lack of criticism in riding – because I don’t think that there is such a thing as perfect riding. I don’t think anybody’s performance is beyond some sort of criticism." ~ Tad Coffin
"You cannot get a quality jump with a bad approach – and the quality of your approach comes back to the way you work your horse on the flat. If you get a quality jump from a bad approach then you are a very lucky rider." ~ Andrew Hoy
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)
"Since the criteria of a correct seat are the same as the criteria of good posture in general, being constantly attentive to one’s bearing when standing or walking is excellent training. A correct vertical posture of the head and the trunk on horseback is not a special posture applicable only to riding." ~ Kurt Albrecht
"Contact doesn't only refer to the hands, reins, and bit, but to the whole rider. A rider must give the horse contact through his entire seat. This means that his legs must lay gently against the horse's body, his seat must be balanced and supple, and his arms and hands must follow the horse's movement quietly and evenly. This create a smooth cycle of movement as the horse takes the rider with him. Only this then creates contact." ~ Klaus Balkenhol
If your personal bubble is sufficiently opaque, if after your test ride you go right back to the barn and feed carrots till the rest of the class is over, the following probably doesn’t apply to you. If you watch other rides and score them in your head comparing them to your own, then you may have once or twice mumbled to yourself, “I didn’t have any mistakes in my test. She made a couple of big ones, but she still beat me!” The implication, of course, is how unfair that is. (Click on Blog Title above to read full entry)
"It’s important that the rider doesn’t disturb the horse – leaning this way or that – and that is the same with this pulling and pushing. You give a half halt, but half halt is not just pull back and then let go. First of all you have to push the horse into your contact, and while you do a half halt, the horse should not get tighter in the neck and not get slower in the hind legs. Actually we want to engage the hind legs. It’s something you have to work on all the time, and get to feel it. When you tell the rider, now this, now that, you are already too late. You have to practice this, so that the riders get to feel it themselves." ~ Monica Theodorescu
"It takes ten years learning how to sit on a horse without getting in his way. It takes another ten years learning how to influence the horse, and then a further ten years learning how to influence him without getting in his way!" ~ Unknown
When doing a turn on the haunches or a pirouette, the rider must keep their weight centered over the horse, with an engaged inside seat bone. I see far too many riders (at all levels) letting their weight fall to the outside, which is a hindrance to their horse in those movements. Every step or two within the movement, think of sitting over and engaging your inside seat bone.
For a horse to be really good at jumping out of a deep distance, they need to have an understanding of how to shorten their stride without losing any hind leg engagement. This is why it is SO important that you do NOT pull on the reins when you feel you are meeting the fence on a tight distance. Encourage them to wait with your body, but keep your leg on rather than pulling, which only stops or stiffens the horse’s hind legs.
Not unlike the cicadas hatching out, every four years we are treated to a new set of dressage tests to complain about, habituate ourselves to, and then act like they’ve been this way forever. With some cycles there are big changes, but if the older ones were generally satisfactory, the rewrites are small. This year’s versions generally fall into the latter category. Some tests are virtually unchanged. Others are modified in such minor ways that they are likely just to keep the judges’ whistles busy calling people off course.
Let’s start at the beginning. Rest easy—the patterns of the new Introductory tests are identical to the old ones. (Click on Blog Title above to read full entry)
Any excessive closing of knees or thighs takes the rider's lower leg off of the horse. I feel it is more correct to wrap the entire leg around the horse for half halts and downward transitions - as if giving the horse a hug with your legs. This encourages the horse to keep the hind legs stepping under in the downward transition, and invites the horse to keep their back up as well. A tight upper leg will stop the horse, but it will tend to make them stiffen their back and stop their hind legs - almost as much as pulling on the reins.
Bend is NOT created with the inside rein. All that does is turn the horse's head and neck to the inside. The rider's inside leg should send the horse up into the outside rein - filling it up. That will create bend in the middle of the horse's body... putting a tiny bit of slack in the inside rein.
My horse's natural stride length is ten feet, so for all our courses I've been setting distances to his stride, not a twelve foot stride. But I know that all the courses we ride in competition are based off a twelve foot stride. So should we work on developing a stride length to match, and should we ride in that all the time? (Kayla)
This is a great question! As MANY riders have horses that don't have a natural 12 foot stride! Some riders are on huge horses with a natural 14 foot stride. And many others are on smaller horses or ponies who have a natural 10 foot stride, or even smaller! So do all of these riders have to make their horses conform to the normal 12 foot striding to make the distances happen smoothly on course? And do you have to school over 12 foot distances at home if that isn't the length of your horse's stride? Well, yes and no... (Click on Question Title above to read full answer)
I am a big believer in a system of continuity when training horses and riders. I think that the correct foundation should be laid out even at the most basic level. So that the rider does not need to go back and re-learn things as they progress. So much easier and less frustrating for riders to learn the right way to begin with.
"That they stay loose is the most important, the most mistakes are made when the riders start to collect them. Collection is not slower or shorter, collection is more cadence, more energy behind, and that only works with a really loose back, with suppleness – and that is what they lose. We have so many super super good three and four year old horses, you see them moving at the Bundeschampionate, and it is unbelievable how many super super good horses – but how many go on to the sport later? Because most riders when they go to collect them, make them too stiff, too tense, too often it is only with the hand, that they only make the neck up, short, instead of making them lower behind. To collect them, you have to start behind, and not in front." ~ Hubertus Schmidt
With any game that involves strategy, there is usually a "best move", a "second best move", and so on, that you could make at that possible moment. The same is true for training a horse. The trick is knowing what the "best move" is, right at the moment that your horse does something wrong.
When your horse gets too low with his head, it is NOT an effective correction to attempt to lift his head with your hands. Even if that does succeed in raising your horse's head, it creates a hollow back. Only lowering the quarters raises the front end correctly.
"Lateral work to achieve straightness: My horse was backing off instead of accepting the left rein so we rode renvers to the left and shoulder in to the right. As soon as he was accepting the left rein we could go straight - and actually succeed at being straight." ~ Annette Gaynes