In this movement the horse is slightly bent round the inside leg of the rider. The horse’s inside foreleg passes and crosses in front of the outside leg; the inside hind leg is placed in front of the outside leg. The horse is looking away from the direction in which he is moving. Shoulder-in, if performed in correctly, with the horse slightly bent around the inside leg of the rder, is not only a suppling movement but also a collecting movement, because the horse at every step must move his inside hind leg underneath his body and place it in front of the outside, while lowering his inside hip. If the rider is having difficulty keeping the hind legs on the track, think renvers to move the haunches out. If the rider is drifting off the track use the inside aids to block the horse from falling in, thus keeping him on the track with the correct angle.
This weeks question is from a rider who has a problem riding her horse straight from free walk to medium walk. In the transition, the mare swings her haunches inside the track and does not travel straight. First of all, check that the riders position is correct, relaxed and balanced. Any tension in the rider will be mirrored in the horse. The connection must be elastic with the horse’s neck soft and relaxed. If this is true, try to maintain the same rhythm of the free walk into the medium walk. If the shoulders are constricted by a tight or uneven connection, the horse will slow down and lose the forward march. If the haunches tend to swing in, the rider should think renvers to straighten the haunches. A simple excercise to learn to control the haunches is to ride up the long side 3 steps straight, 3 steps leg yielding toward the quarter line, 3 steps straight, etc. until reaching the center line. The horse is parallel to the long side while flowing forward and sideways. Any problem will be clarified if the horse is not moving forward in a clear rhythm.
In a recent lesson, a student requested we work on her sitting trot. She has a lovely Selle Francais, with correct gaits that are easy to ride to, however, she found herself unable to sit the trot. First, we checked the riders postion. The upper body must remain stable, lifted and relaxed. She tends to lean forward thus throwing off the balance of the horse. Once we established a correct postion, we slowed the trot down and began by posting several strides then sitting several strides, repeating the excercise until the rhythm and tempo did not change. Gradually we increased the sitting strides until she could maintain the correct postion. Be careful that when you slow the trot down, you are not allowing the horse to fall behind the aids, he must still remain active and in front of the riders aids.
Many farms offer working student positions throughout the year at varying intervals. First of all identify what you want to learn and then find a farm that teaches your disicpline. Be prepared to ask some basic questions, what are the farm’s expectations of you and what do you want to learn out of the experience. Are accomadation and meals included? Are there other students at the same time? Windrock Farm offers this opportunity to day students as well as those from other countries who stay at the farm. During the summer there may be as many as 6 students at one time. In addition to barn chores and riding several horses each day, we take field trips around the region as well as into NYC for some cultural outings. The riding experience includes lessons in dressage, jumping, cross country and occasionally swimming in a nearby pond. Many students travel from France and Germany to visit the farm and learn about horses in America.
A mother writes, my daughter is too big for her pony and I need to buy her a horse, where do I start?
First of all, you must be realistic about your daughters riding skills and goals are before searching for a horse that suits her. I would look for an experienced older horse to teach her the basics and build her confidence. Some things to consider are the size of the horse, the age, temperament,
and experience. When trying a horse, ride him in the ring and outside on trails to confirm your daughters comfort level on him. Remember, there may be an adjustment period when you bring your new horse home, so give him a few days to settle in. Have fun and good luck with your new horse!
Elasticity is the qualtiy that makes a horse look vibrant and powerful, yet balanced and controlled. The horse looks loose and relaxed in all the gaits, yet excited and explosive. The rider must have an elastic seat in order for the horse to achieve and maintain the relaxed rhythmic footfall of each gait. If the seat is not stable, the rider will balance off the horses mouth or bounce on the back making it impossible for the horse to remain supple and look relaxed. At the beginning of every training session, tune into your horse and listen to how he is feeling. It is important to find the correct tempo and balance as quickly as possible. Test your horse to make sure he is laterally and longitudinally flexible. The ultimate goal is that your horse swings forward in a relaxed rhythm, reach and stretch toward the bit and into the hand. When these qualities are achieved the horse and rider will look as one and they will be a pleasure to watch in any discipline.
A rider writes in that she has a horse who is very tense in the warm up, but relaxed once in the dressage ring, however, the rider wonders how to prepare herself in the tense environment. Find someplace quiet to do simple excercises. If there are too many horses in the warm up go to another area. Use breathing excercises to relax the nerves and mentally ride your test several times. The most important thing is to mentally calm your nervous system. Try riding many transitions and helping your horse focus on you and not the other distractions in the warm up.
My trainer is always telling me not to float my foot in the stirrup, I am having a hard time keeping it on the ball of my foot. First check your seat, are you sitting centered and balanced, an open relaxed hip, feeling your seat bones sink into the saddle. Each of your legs should work as two separate parts(thigh and lower leg). the easiest way to keep your weight in the stirrup is to allow the inside of the foot to be slightly lower than the outside.
Horses need variety in the training. Find a field and take him for a gallop, plan to hack him cross country at least once a week. The horse has a skeletal structure which is supported by many different muscle groups. The muscles used in play when in turn out, the muscles used to gallop, the muscles actived when climbing and descending hills and even other muscles developed in your training regine in the ring. The stronger your horse is all around, the easier his work is for him. More importantly he will enjoy the variety of doing different things.
My horse is confirmed in flying changes, however I have a diffiuclt time changing from left to right, what do I do?
Check your postition to be certain that you are asking with the correct aids. A good excercise is to ride counter canter to a simple change,
many times and then ask for the change as if you were going to do the simple change. The quality of your simple change will tell you where
your position is weak, and when it is seemless you will perform a successful change. You must have a clear rhythm, straighness, impulsion and most importantly a relaxed canter stride before achieving a change.