Tag Archives: Horse Training

Dressage4Kids Tips, by Lendon Gray

I recommend spending a little time staring at the picture and thinking about where all the joints are and how they move. Check out the website: www.horsesinsideout.com. There is some wonderful educational content there.

One excellent exercise that I think many people do not use enough is the turn on the forehand. For beginners this is a wonderful exercise for learning coordination of the aids – how much leg, where to put the leg, and just enough hand to discourage the horse from moving forward, but not hanging on the mouth. For the green horse, it’s a wonderful way to introduce moving away from the leg as opposed to going faster to the leg. For the advanced horse it can be an excellent tune-up.

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Dressage4Kids Tips, by Lendon Gray

I always tell my students that they can’t tell me they can truly do something with their horses unless they do it the best they can do it the FIRST time they do it each day. If you have to practice several times you are still learning it/working on it. So, when you ride today, what can you do the best you are capable of the FIRST time? Sometimes riders just allow themselves to sort of do it and then make it better. Challenge yourself to do “it” the best you can the first time. This could be a walk to trot transition or a schooling canter pirouette.

And if you can’t ride at the moment, sit in a chair and visualize the things you have been working on. Close your eyes and feel yourself on your horse and go through every thought process for every tiny part of doing the movement correctly. Then open your eyes and double check what your instructor has been reminding you – are you doing it the best way you can or the way you tend to do it that is not necessarily your best. Then look at it as the judge sees it – get online and look up tests or tutorials on that movement. Does yours look the same? And if you are riding is there someone who can video just one or two movements that you are doing the best you can the first time?

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Dressage4Kids Tips, by Lendon Gray

I am amazed at how often I have to have riders get off at the beginning of a lesson to adjust their helmets. In brief, your helmet should be steady on your head, not able to wobble (especially if you put your hair under it). The brim should be just above your eyebrows. The chin straps should be just tight enough that if you open your mouth wide it pulls the helmet a bit tighter on your head. There are many online tutorials about helmet fit and the safety of various brands of helmets. Remember they do not last forever and also if you have had a fall where your helmet hits the ground you must replace it. This might also be a good time to look into cleaning the inside of your helmet.

I would love for those of you exercising at home to share your exercise routine with us. Hopefully you are working to strengthen your core, and working on your flexibility and balance. Write us a note or share a video on Facebook.

For those riding

What a great time to do all your riding (except your warm-up) without stirrups (your horse is safe, right?).  Surely I don’t need to talk about the value of riding without stirrups, do I? You should ride without stirrups enough that it is your preferred way of riding. Make sure you aren’t gripping with your thighs and that your legs are hanging long and of course that you aren’t using your horse’s mouth for security. If you’re nervous about cantering, practice at walk and trot. If you are nervous about trotting, practice at walk until your confidence grows.

What happens if while you’re cantering you take your leg off your horse’s side. Does he break? If so that tells you that you are holding hm in the canter. You are using up your leg aid just to keep him going. If this is the case, get your canter, give him a little push forward, and then take your leg away (let your heel down). Two strides later give him another little (big?) push and take your leg away. Gradually you will be able to keep your leg off longer, but even if you have to push him every third side, so be it, but make sure your leg comes off in between. It’s fine to have your leg close at all times, just make sure you’re not clutching. And of course, this is the same at walk, and trot.

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Dressage4Kids Tips

Photo credit: Harry Furey.

This suggestion is for those riding and those who are not able to ride. I find it surprising how often I have to teach riders how to shorten their reins. Seems easy, right?

First of all, normally one should not shorten the reins by dropping and grabbing the rein with the hand on the same side as the rein – right hand jumps forward or even crawls forward on the right rein to make it shorter. This causes the contact to be dropped and then often grabbed back or at the very least to wobble. One should reach across with the thumb and top finger of one hand, pull the rein through the other hand – taking the rein on top of the thumb and first finger of the opposite hand. And when you shorten the rein your hand should slide forward on the rein. Usually we do not shorten the rein to make it tighter, but to have the hand further forward. The hands should normally be in front of the pommel. If you hold your hands too wide or too low, this will be impossible to do easily. Your hands should be held near each other.

So my challenge to you is to play with shortening your reins and think carefully about what he horse feels on his mouth; remember the bit at the end of your reins lies on his bare gums. He should not know you are shortening your reins. Those of you in the house, get some narrow belts or twine or reins if you have them, and have someone else hold one end, or tie them to the back of a chair. Now see if you can shorten the reins without the other person feeling it or having the reins get looser or tighter as you do it.

As I was looking for a video to share I was surprised to find people telling you to shorten the reins the way I tell you NOT to – and you can see in the videos how the contact gets tighter and looser as they do it.

This one explains it the way I think you should shorten your reins: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TUCvR0gIR5E.

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Dressage4Kids Tips

Meghan Benge Photography.

If you have your boots at home, check these things out. Look at the wear on the inside of your boots. Are both boots the same? Is the wear on the inside or does the wear go into the seam on the back, which tells you that you probably ride with your leg turned out too much? It means your toes are out, but that most often starts at your hips. If that’s the case, start some hip opening exercises.

A quick thought for those riding

OK – today’s subject is s big one – half halts! But in a nutshell. Half halts are a prompt call to attention and rebalancing or reorganizing. Before you can do a half halt you must have a prompt go from the leg – as in, you say go more with your leg and the next stride is bigger or faster. And you say whoa with your hand/back/weight and the next stride is shorter or slower. Without that quick response you will not have a half halt (I wish that was all there is to it, but first check that out). Then can you make exactly one step bigger/faster and one step slower/shorter. Check that out today and then we’ll add to this.

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Dressage4Kids Tips

Here is one of my favorite teaching tools off the horse. Your ability to follow the motion of your horse’s head and neck and to separate your arms from whatever your body is doing is extremely important. You can do this with a bridle as I did here or just with lead ropes or even twine. The “horse” (me in the photo) holds the reins on one end and the rider hold the reins in the normal fashion – as if she were riding with elbows bent and very slightly in front of her waist. The “horse” moves the reins forward and back both together and then each independently. If the rider has that teeny, tiny pull that enables her to keep the rein from ever becoming loose, but never tight, just taut, she can keep the same feel throughout. Then the rider walks in place, trots, and canters while the “horse” keeps moving the reins back and forth a bit. We do this on the trampoline for even more difficulty, but it can certainly be done on solid ground. Keep a soft fist. You will find it nearly impossible to do with a tight, hard fist.

A quick thought for those riding

Those of you lucky enough to be riding – first try the exercise above on the ground. Now get on your horse and just walk with long, not loose reins – can you stay with the horse’s mouth with exactly the same pressure throughout the stride? Does your rein get looser and tighter? Can you maintain exactly the same amount of pressure on both reins, so the bit is exactly centered in the horse’s mouth? It doesn’t matter at this moment where your horse’s head is. Just see if you can become part of him without ANY communication with him. Your arm and hand are an extension of his mouth and neck (and back). Some of you may find it very difficult to “do nothing” not fussing with the bit in some way.

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Dressage4Kids News

Thank you, D4K family, for being patient concerning our upcoming activities. We will keep you posted as decisions are made. In the meantime, stay well and let’s all help each other get through this challenging time.

We have already cancelled the first three TEAM clinics of 2020. I know we must be careful keeping each other safe and healthy, but that many of you are still able to ride your horse in your back yard or are at a stable where you can keep six feet away from all humans at the stable. Best of all we can still hug our horses. One of the parts I’m sad about is that many of you were looking forward to getting some instruction. So I thought I would regularly send out some very simple ideas of things that riders of all levels could check on in their own riding. Nothing deep in theory — just little check-ups that any rider can do that will improve your riding.

  1. In one way the easiest, but we know bad habits are hard to break and this is a VERY bad habit for many. Keep your head up at all times. Have anyone watch you (they don’t need to know anything about riding). Can you have your head up and your eyes up no matter what you are doing (picking up your reins, transitions, looking at the spot you want to reach in a leg-yield or a half pass)? We know this has a big effect on your upper body and your ability to develop a strong back.
  2. Keep a soft fist – if your fist is tight your arm will be tight and it will be extremely difficult to keep an elastic arm and to follow the motion of the horse’s neck. Your rein is stabilized by your thumb and top finger and your other fingers should be able to open and close slightly to speak to your horse – to give an aid. Remember the idea of holding a child’s hand? Don’t let the child run out in traffic (with an open hand) but he’ll be screaming if you squish his hand too tightly.

I would love to hear from you with other suggestions I can share with everyone. Those of you who have used my goal sheets know my favorite questions: “What have you worked on all year that you should have fixed by now? Why haven’t you fixed it?” Share with me what that is and go out and fix it.

Stay well and happy riding.

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USET Foundation and US Equestrian Mourn Loss of Patrick “Packy” McGaughan

Patrick McGaughan and Tanzer at the 1987 Pan American Games. Photo by Margaret Kaiser/USEA Archives Photo.

In addition to McGaughan’s competitive achievements, he was an esteemed coach and trainer in Area II, advancing horses and riders to the highest level of the sport. McGaughan ran Banbury Cross Farm in Clarksburg, Maryland, which grew into a leading training, breeding, and boarding facility for eventing, dressage, hunter, and equitation riders. One could often spot him at numerous events across the East Coast, instructing athletes across all levels of the sport.

The USET Foundation and US Equestrian extend their condolences to McGaughan’s family, friends, and students, who were touched by his love, humor, and teaching. His presence will be greatly missed.


Contact: Emily Randolph

Motivation from Moshi, by Jane Savoie

Being different can be tough. While on one hand we all want to stand out and be unique, we also are programmed by our very nature to want to fit in. We want to belong. If you’re different than the crowd, sometimes you can feel left out or “wrong.”

I have a good friend in Tennessee who shared his experience in being different. You see, Chester was a very accomplished hunter/jumper. He is very brave and has springs for legs. He is also a leopard Appaloosa, so he has spots all over his body. Some of the fancier European warmbloods he met at the horse shows used to tease him about his spots, calling them “zits.” It hurt his feelings.

Chester admitted that being made fun of caused him to withdraw. He became a bit of a loner. He expected other horses to make fun of him, so to stop any unkind, snarky comments, he’d attack first. When he met a new horse, he’d immediately look for something wrong with THEM to use as an emotional barrier. Sometimes he’d make fun of anything different he could find, so the focus was on them, and not on him.

As Chester matured, he realized that this kind of behavior was not effective. All it did was give him the reputation for being a grump, and caused him to be very isolated and lonely. It took him years to realize that the spots on his coat did not define who he was. He was so much more. His natural talent for jumping, his ability to grasp and follow his rider’s subtle requests, his bravery in new situations… THESE were the things that made him a great horse.

With determination, Chester made the decision to focus on the things that made him special. He refused to listen to those who criticized what he looked like, and put all his mental energy on his talents and successes. Since he naturally got more of what he thought about, he carried his rider with great pride and confidence, and won many blue ribbons.

When Chester stopped looking at the world through the lens of being a victim of his differences, he discovered that most people and horses didn’t dislike his spots at all. In fact, his spots were one of the things about him that many found interesting and intriguing. Chester discovered that the problem was in his OWN MIND, not in the minds of others.

When Chester retired from jumping, he got a job at a therapeutic riding center. At first, he was really nervous, because it was all new to him. He withdrew inside himself and refused to interact. He quickly got labeled a “loner.” But he stayed observant. It didn’t take long for him to see that the young humans he was working with had many of the same issues he had. He saw himself in these kids, noticing that many were in a state of protective withdrawal or a state of “attack first to prevent hurt.” He could feel their fear and pain, and knew that they felt the same way he had when he felt “different.”

Chester had an idea. He realized that he could help these kids by recognizing them as perfect beings and accepting them exactly how they are. He knows they may be different from most others, but that doesn’t make them wrong or less-than, any more than his spots make him bad or less-than. Concentrating on what these kids CAN do, allows Chester to acknowledge and support more of their successes. And he found a new strength in himself. He became a favorite and most beloved mount.

I remembered how I felt about being teased about my leg feathers. Being a draft breed with hairy legs made me feel different. I didn’t like the feeling. But when I embraced my differences and took joy in my unique appearance, I felt good about myself. No one else’s opinion mattered.

Are you different in some way? How does that make you feel? Can you concentrate on the wonderful things you like best about yourself? Give it a try. How you feel starts inside of YOU.

Love, Moshi

Jane Savoie
1174 Hill St ext.
Berlin, VT 05602
Jane’s Website

A Masterclass with Isabell Werth

London, U.K. – Feb. 24, 2020 – Horse & Country (H&C) is proud to bring their subscribers an exclusive new series featuring German Grand Prix dressage legend and five-time Olympian Isabell Werth. The series, “A Masterclass with Isabell Werth,” will boast four half-hour educational episodes during which Werth will provide unique insight into her training philosophy and what has propelled her to the very top of equestrian sport.

Raised on her parents’ farm in Germany, Werth was exposed to horses from an early age. She competed in showjumping and eventing before being exposed to dressage by her neighbor, renowned dressage expert Dr. Uwe Schulten-Baumer, at age 17. Werth and her mentor worked together for 14 years before Werth established her own training facility near her home village of Rheinberg, Germany. Her career took off and now, with six Olympic gold medals and numerous world championship wins under her belt, Werth is the most decorated equestrian athlete of all time.

Even more impressively, Werth currently can be found three times in the top ten FEI World Dressage Ranking List as she holds the top spot with Bella Rose 2, second place with Weihegold OLD, and ninth place with Emilio 107.

“I love what I do. To go out into the stable and to go out and work with different horses and improve horses – in the end, it brings me great emotions. There is no question of motivation. I really enjoy being competitive,” says Werth of the sport.

Don’t miss the opportunity to watch and learn from the queen of dressage! The first three episodes are available on demand now for your viewing pleasure, while the final episode will be broadcast Feb. 26 at 3:00 p.m. EST.

Subscribe now to watch ‘A Masterclass with Isabell Werth’.

H&C TV broadcasts in Europe, Australia, and in the United States on cable, satellite, and broadband television, including Roku, and online at www.horseandcountrytv.us.