Transform your horse’s way of going with four exercises using straight lines
Dressage rider and trainer Dan Greenwood challenges you to ditch the circles and try his exercises using only straight lines. Give them a whirl to transform your horse’s way of going and make you a more effective rider. How often do you find yourself riding endless circles in your training sessions? There are lots of […] The post Transform your horse’s way of going with four exercises using straight lines appeared first on Your Horse.
Dressage rider and trainer Dan Greenwood challenges you to ditch the circles and try his exercises using only straight lines. Give them a whirl to transform your horse’s way of going and make you a more effective rider.
How often do you find yourself riding endless circles in your training sessions? There are lots of benefits to riding circles; however, they can encourage your horse to fall onto their inside shoulder, rather than stepping through from the inside hindleg and pushing forwards into a good uphill balance.
To correct this, you need to work on improving the engagement and check your horse is bending through their body, not just their neck. This is much easier to do on the straight than on a circle.
When you’re riding a circle or making a turn it’s all too easy to pull your horse around the corner using your inside rein. All this does is place your horse’s head and neck around the corner while their outside shoulder drifts in the opposite direction.
To ride a turn correctly, you need to use your outside aids. Move your outside rein so that it’s against your horse’s neck and apply gentle pressure, then use your outside leg to steer your horse around the corner. Your inside leg is there to keep the impulsion, while your inside rein guides and creates the bend to the inside, but it doesn’t pull.
Learn to ride corners from your outside aids and you’ll have much more control over the position of your horse’s shoulders. This makes riding circles much easier as you’ll be able to maintain the shape and quality of the circle by riding the outside of your horse’s body rather than just the inside.
Exercise 1: Boosting balance
The first exercise involves riding a large square shape. Pick a place in your arena to ride the shape and begin by riding it in walk a few times so that you can get a feel for riding an accurate square.
Now ride it in trot. Make a transition to walk just before one of the corners, go around the turn, then ask for trot again.
Ride this several times and you’ll begin to find your horse will start to anticipate the walk transition and their upward transition to trot will become more balanced too.
Mix it up and ride a near walk transition at every other corner – a great way to develop your half halt.
Points to focus on:
- Make sure that the lines of your square are straight. Keep your horse’s head and neck straight.
- Just before you turn, position your shoulders to the inside and put a little more weight to the outside.
- Ride a slight leg yield through the turn and picture pushing your horse’s tummy to the outside.
Exercise 2: Steps to collection
The next exercise involves riding a half diamond shape in canter. It’s a good way to start teaching your horse to shorten their stride without you using too much rein and holding onto them.
On the right rein, for example, turn off the track at B and ride straight forward towards the centre line. Ride a right-hand turn at the point of your diamond on the centre line and ride another straight line back to the track at E.
Points to focus on:
- Keep your horse’s neck straight and use your legs to keep their body straight.
- Just before you turn at the point of your diamond, turn your shoulders in the direction of the turn.
- Keep your horse’s neck straight through the turn and use your outside aids. Resist the temptation to pull them round with your inside rein.
- Ride your horse’s inside hindleg through the turn.
After a few attempts, you’ll feel as if you can let go of the inside rein. To test your horse is in self-carriage and that you’re not holding onto your inside rein, try giving and re-taking the inside rein.
Exercise 3: Engaging the outside hindleg
If you stay on a constant circle your horse is likely to become heavy on your inside hand. This exercise of riding leg yield in canter away from the track encourages your horse to listen to your outside leg and also improves engagement of their outside hindleg so they become lighter in your inside rein.
Points to focus on:
- Leg yield away from the track by about 2m, then continue down the long side.
- As you ride off the track, have a little more weight on your outside seatbone.
- If you’re riding this exercise on the right rein, the aim is to have the right side of your horse straight and the left side in a slight curve.
- As you ride the leg yield, you’re aiming for equal weight on all four feet, not on the inside shoulder as can sometimes happen.
Exercise 4: Improving connection
Another exercise to encourage your horse to be reactive to your leg aids while remaining straight in their body is a turn on the forehand.
Ride a large square in walk a little off the track and at each corner ride a turn on the forehand. You don’t need to halt – just steady the walk before each corner before riding the movement. Once you’ve mastered this in walk, add a trot transition out of the corner.
Points to focus on:
- Shorten the stride until your horse almost halts.
- Ask for a little flexion to the inside.
- Have your inside leg at the girth and your outside leg a little behind the girth.
- Use your inside leg to ask your horse to move their inside hindleg to step under their body. They can now pivot around their inside front leg, which steps ever so slightly forward, and move their quarters around their front end.
- Look up where you want to go.
- Keep your hands level as you turn.
- Your inside rein gently leads, balanced by your outside rein to avoid too much bend in the neck.
- Once you complete the movement, ride your horse forward in walk.
- Repeat in the next corner.
Meet the expert: Dan Greenwood is a dressage trainer and rider. He’s won numerous national titles and has competed for Great Britain in small tour and big tour. Based in the Cotswolds, Dan is in great demand as a trainer for riders of all levels and he hosts regular clinics.
Check out our subscription offer
Find out what’s inside the latest issue of Your Horse
The post Transform your horse’s way of going with four exercises using straight lines appeared first on Your Horse.