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The World Equestrian Games in 2010 will be held at the Kentucky Horse Park. This is the first time, the FEI World Equestrian Games will be held outside of Europe. The Games will take place during two weeks in the fall of 2010 and have an estimated ticket salses of 300,000. The games will be broadcast live from the Kentucky Horse Park to 40 countries nad reported worldwide by more than 1,000members of the international media.
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“One should endeavor at all times to strive for a state of Grace between oneself and one’s horse, where communication is discussed with a thought and a slight shift of weight or pelvic angle, maybe backed up with the leg or hand. However, all attempts to ‘ride’ a horse result in a greater loss of performance as a horse despises interference and agitation. The more calm the rider, the finer the horse will go and indeed step into a joy in the energy, which he will never display with a busy and confusing rider. It would be better if the word ‘ride’ had not been invented pertaining to horses, because people think they must ride…I am thinking that perhaps, maybe by staying on with the balance, the slightest tip or pressure of weight here or there could indicate the balance to go that way and if a rider is quiet with his body and hands then the horse will move quietly under him, where the balance is transferred. However, a rider who cannot give up on the reins and kicks indiscriminantely blocks out the horse who has no idea what is being asked of him, while the rider’s busy-ness creates a stiff back.”
Please address rider asymmetry for example, all my horses have always been short on the right side due, in large part, to my own position and asymmetry which places them to the right regardless of the direction we are going in. What are the main issues causing this imbalance and how do I, the rider, correct my own position?
This is an important question. The first thing is for you to be aware of your position. Since you know all of your horses are twisted to the right, you must be very tight and collapsing your right side. The second goal is to reprogram yourself to correct the imbalance.
Take a video of yourself riding normally in both directions at the walk, trot and canter. The best angle to analyze your postion is from behind up the long side. Once you visually see what you are feeling, you can begin to correct the error. If you collapse to the right, check your leg position, is it in alignment, i.e.shoulder, hip and heel in a straight line? Is your heel down, legs relaxed, not gripping? Lifted in your sternum centered equally over both seatbones? Once correct, walk in both directions thinking about lengthening from your right hip to the shoulder, growing your upper body upward, always remaining centered in the saddle.
You will need someone on the ground telling you when you are not straight. Bring awareness into each step and breathe. By taking it very slow, and concentrating on your body, you will soon come into balance with your horse and ride correctly. When you are feeling more correct, take another video and analyze the differences.
Even better, video the collapsed postion and then slowly correct it with the excercises above and watch the video in slow motion. This will help you become very clear with your postion.
An excellent reference book to assist you is called Balance in Movement by Susanne von Dietze.
A reader writes; I have been working with my TB (off the track). He has progressed quite well except for his right lead canter. He is sound, however, he seems weak stepping under to pick up the correct lead. When he picks up the lead correctly, he cannot sustain it for more than a few strides. I have been using spiraling, shoulder-in and haunches-in to try to strenghten him and/or restore some flexibility. Is there any other exercises I can do with him. He generally has no problem on the straight line, just the circle.
There are many other excercises you can do to help strengthen and build up the correct muscles for your horse to canter right. Horses off the track tend to be very one sided on the left as a result of running in that direction. The first thing to do is check for any unsoundness which sounds like you have already done. Next, check you positon and make sure you are riding balanced and light.
Since he can canter on the straight line, I would introduce counter canter which is an excellent excercise to balance your horse. Start with counter canter on the long side of the arena, transition to trot on the short side, counter canter the next long side and repeat. Remember you have to be patient and slowly build up his confidence and strength so that he can maintain the right lead canter.
Next introduce shallow loops from true canter toward X and back to the wall, eventually cantering all the way to X and back to the track at the end of the long side.
You may have introduced the spiralling excercise too soon, your horse must be able to maintain counter canter all the way around the arena several times before beginning this excercise. Continue with shoulder in and haunches in at the walk and trot. If you have the opportunity, canter up hills on the both leads several times a week to help build up new muscles.
Another easy excercise is to leg yield right from the long side to X, 10 meter half circle right from X to the long side, ask for canter as you hit the track. Riding relaxed and balanced, continue cantering until your horse breaks. Repeat on the other side. Your goal should be to add a few strides each time. Be patient while your horse is finding new muscles.
After working with these excercises for a few weeks let me know the progress or any problems if they appear.
This is an excellent excercise to teach your horse feel. Once mastered, this simple excercise will supple and relax your horse, lightening his forehand and preparing him to perform all of his movements with ease.
While mounted, take your leg back an inch or so and apply pressure to ask him to move his inside hind across and in front of the outside hind while keeping his front feet in the same place. Once he responds to your leg pressure, release the leg contact as a reward. Remember, you are only asking for one step at a time, take the time to show your horse what you want and be patient while he is learning.
Take care to check your position, sit up straight and balanced, do not lean to one side, your heels are down, your legs relaxed, you are lifting your upper body, head and neck relaxed. Maintain light contact with the bit.
Ultimately you want him to drop his head, thus raising his back, but the first attempts may not result in that. So the first goal is for him to step his leg over. Once he understands this, supple his neck and show him the way to lengthening his neck downward and outward.
Remember, be quite clear about what you are asking. You must always be balanced and relaxed.
Do this excercise in both directions several times each day until you achieve an immediate response with very little pressure.
Some common problems:
The horse does not respond to the leg pressure, he just stands still.
Simply ask quietly and if he does not shift his weight in response to your leg, reinforce what you are asking with a quick tap from the whip. Then try again asking from the leg pressure only. He should understand what you want with one correction. If not, tap him again to help explain what you want.
The horse moves forward away from the pressure, not sideways.
If you find him walking forward, use a wall or fence to stop him. Once you master the excercise facing a wall, find a place in the center of arena to test your aids.
There are many horse trainers, however, there are very few true horseman. The sign of a genuine horseman is one who feels his horse. They shine like stars among the average trainers because their horses are happy and obedient. Becoming a true horseman should be the goal of anyone wanting to work with horses. There is no magic involved, simply patience and understanding the nature of the horse will allow you to achieve greater success with few problems. First of all you must listen to your horse, recognizing when he is paying attention to you. This is essential for clear communication. Once you have his undivided attention, be very clear about what you are asking him to do. Always remember to prepare him for the question, setting him up for success. The first thing to focus on is where your horses feet are. Learn to move with your horse, influencing each footfall so that the timing of the aids achieves an immediate result. Spend time with your horse observing when each foot is on the ground in each gait. This will take patience and practice, ultimately becoming highly rewarding when you successfully influence his movements. Remember, horses want to please, and it is up to us to understand how to communicate clearly. Problems almost always result from lack of preperation or understanding, not because the horse wants to misbehave. Each horse is an individual and a great teacher, so all you need to do is learn to listen and feel your horse.
What exactly is engagement? Your trainer or dressage judge is constantly telling you to engage your horse, what does she mean? Engagement is the increased flexion of the lumbosacral joint and the joints of the hind leg during the weight bearing or support phase of the stride. Thus the croup is lower relative to the forehand, in other words lightening the forehand. Carefully observe the withers of your horse raise as he becomes more engaged. Think of engagement as the “carrying power” rather than the “pushing power” which is a prerequisite for upward thrust or impulsion. There are many excercises to achieve engagement such as shoulder in, leg yield, travers, renvers, and transitions. Experiment with these excercises to achieve a greater degree of engagement and enjoy the benefits of a lighter, more supple horse to ride.
Take advantage of winter to spend quality time with your horse in the stable or paddock. Learn to listen to his voice as he communicates with you. Watch his ears and eyes for alertness, watch the tail for signs of relaxation or unhappiness, and watch his mouth for signs of tension. The more you pay attention to your horse and how he reacts in everyday situations such as grooming, leading around the stable, tacking up, or in the stall, you will quickly be able to determine if he is sick or uncomfortable. One sign of muscle soreness or Lyme disease is extreme tenderness on the immune points on the chest when grooming. Another is extreme flinching when groom the back and shoulders. Take time to note how your horse reacts every day and tune into his mood. You will develop more trust and a better partnership under saddle.
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Riding in the winter can be challenging at times with inclement weather and inconsistent footing. Take advantage of fresh snow fall and ride your horse cross country galloping up the hills and across fields. Always take care on ice, and be sure your horse is shod properly with winter shoes of snow ball pads and studs. Wear a quarter sheet if your horse is clipped or heavily blanketed to keep him warm and comfortable. Make sure you cool your horse out before dressing him up in heavy blankets after a solid workout. Riding your horse in the snow is an excellent opportunity to practice all your movements, transitions and accuracy. This is an ideal time to check your geometry and count your strides. The fresh foot falls will allow you to visualize the patterns and movements. Remember, do not allow your horse to become bored and stale by riding all winter indoors, he needs to play and have fun outside on occasion.
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There are several positions available every summer for working students, there is no limit on how much time they are here. It varies depending on how long the student wishes to stay. There are opportunities to compete at jumper and dressage shows as well as local events depending on the skills of each rider. Each year there are more and more applicants with limited postions available, so if you are interested in this unique opportunity, you should contact the farm immediately. Each applicant must send a video of themselves riding, as well as an essay explaining why they wish to work at the farm and what they hope to learn from the experience.
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