Need some inspiration for your flatwork this season? Our Equine Marketing Team asked our client’s professional riders for some pro schooling exercises to try with your horse. Designed to keep you, and your horse focused, here are 5 of our favourite exercises…
If the thought of going out to a dressage competition and riding a virtual dressage test fills you with dread, Equetech Sponsored Rider, Amy Stovold has some great pro schooling exercises for beating nerves and riding a better test:
“Practise elements of tests in your everyday schooling at home. Ride 20-metre circles, 15-metre circles and give and take the reins in canter are all movements, which if ridden regularly, will become much easier in a test situation. Look through all the various tests at your level and incorporate those movements into your regular schooling. Have regular training as much as you can afford, so things like your posture, straightness and effectiveness doesn’t fall by the wayside as you focus on your horse. Videoing yourself regularly in the saddle is also a good way to review your position and make mental notes to improve going forward.”
Straight To The Point
Straightness is not the only key to your dressage scores, but it is fundamental in your building blocks of training and also in the long-term soundness of your horse, as Golly Galoshes’ Sponsored Rider, MBE & Gold Paralympic Dressage Rider Natasha Baker explains:
“Most horses are one-sided and are stronger on one rein than other, and as riders, it is our job to train both sides of the horse equally, so make sure that you always ride all exercises on both reins. You will find as your horse’s training develops that your horse favours one side more than the other, but by working on strengthening exercises we will look at in this feature, you can help build muscle correctly and effectively.
One exercise I use a lot is shoulder-in down the fence line to help straighten up any crookedness and encourage my horse to soften. I use Leg-yield to encourage my horse to step up and underneath with the hind leg. When you ride in trot, this also helps develop and build the trot too. Remember the emphasis is to keep the forward momentum, if you feel you’re falling through the shoulder, straighten for a few steps before asking again. I think it’s important to remember that when you are training any horse, be it young or novice, you have to take each step at a time when teaching something new. Never expect perfection at first, and if the horse is showing willingness – reward, regardless of how good you thought it was!”
Olympic Event Rider Gemma Tattersall is an Ambassador for bespoke saddlery brand, Childéric Saddles UK. Gemma’s pro schooling exercises offer variety and focus for horse and rider.
“This exercise is perfect for anyone wanting to add variety into their everyday schooling and also for developing rhythm, fine-tuning your rider aids and rider position.” Explains Gemma.
“This exercise is excellent for creating a good rhythm, control, rider position and footwork. On a curve at the end of the school set up a raised pole, one stride to a small fence, then one stride to raised pole. One canter stride, then repeat (raised pole, a small fence, then raised pole) all again at one stride. Use this sequence as canter poles initially, but once your horse is going well in a nice rhythm with control, put one fence up then add in a second fence when you are both confident, and the sequence is flowing. This exercise is super to use as part of a schooling session, i.e., canter round the whole school and incorporate exercise, or you can just focus entirely on this exercise. Make sure you keep the fences small.”
Give Them The Shoulder
“Shoulder-in is a fantastic exercise to incorporate into your everyday schooling. It supples, straightens and is a super exercise for collecting work” Explains International Dressage Rider & Aloeride Sponsored Rider, Sarah Rogers.
“I always teach the horse along the fence line to give them a little help, but shoulder-in can be ridden on another line, such as three-quarter or centreline, but this is harder to ride correctly, so best left until the horse understands the movement correctly.
To prepare for shoulder-in, ride in a straight line and start to incorporate some 15-metre circles on the line, reducing them down to 10 metres. This will get the horse flexing around your inside leg and off your seat aids. As you come around the corner, think about the bend. However, instead of riding a circle, keep the three-track position and ride down the long side in this position. You need to position your body as if turning, but your aids ask the horse to move forward on the line. Your shoulders should be parallel to your horse’s shoulders.
You don’t want to flex your horse to the inside over, but there should be some neck bend. Too much neck bend to the inside, and the horse will start to fall in through the shoulder.
Maintain the rhythm and quality of the step. If your horse gets stuck or becomes stuffy, put him back onto a straight line and ride him forward then attempt it again. When riding this movement in trot, the pace should always be collected.
Let Stretch Be Your Friend
Never underestimate the value of teaching your horse to stretch down before and after work. Stretching over the back is so vital for the horse and should be an essential part of your training. Getting them to stretch sounds simple but teaching a horse to stretch correctly comes with its own challenges. These fabulous schooling exercises are an essential for all horses.
Austin O’Connor is an Olympic Event Rider, respected trainer and Childéric Saddles UK Ambassador.
“I use this exercise as part of my everyday training.” Explains Austin.
“The most crucial aspect of any exercise is that the horse remains in front of your leg. If your horse is finding the exercises hard, then look for quality rather than quantity. Keep your horse in front of the leg. Make sure you always give plenty of walk breaks in-between and adapt according to ability and age.”
“After your horse has worked, take the rising trot on a circle and put the hand forward and see if your horse follows the contact. If your horse is seeking more stretch, then allow for more rein, but don’t throw away the contact. You want to keep that connection with the horses’ mouth but don’t be tempted to allow the horse too much rein so that he snatches for more length of rein, then comes up and hollows through his back. This can be a surprisingly difficult schooling exercise for some horses, so build up the length of rein as they become more confident. You want to ride this exercise with the emphasis on maintaining suppleness, softness and rhythm. Eventually, you should be able to allow your horse to stretch at intervals during your training sessions and be able to pick up the contact for work maintaining that softness and rhythm.”
*Banner Image Courtesy Of Aloeride by Lucy Merrell
Feeling Inspired By These Pro Schooling Exercises? You Might Enjoy Reading Some More Expert Advice In The Pursuit of Happiness: The Rider’s Essential Guide.