Dressage riders tend to be a very driven group of folks. It’s such a demanding sport, it’s natural that it attracts Type A personalities. It takes a real work ethic to be good at something this challenging, so those who get into the competitive part of the sport tend to over do much more than under do. Jane and most of her friends and students work very hard and have a difficult time taking time to just RELAX!
I’m not like that at all. Being a Friesian, it is natural for me to be fairly laid back. Sure, I get excited sometimes, but for the most part being quiet and easy going is natural for me. My gift to Jane is reminding her that someone can be relaxed and go with the flow of life, and still be very successful.
There is a time for work, and there is a time for play. There is a time to be driven and give it all you have, and, there is the time for rest and recharging.
If your horse’s shoulders are stuck, it’s like having a kink in a water hose. The energy can’t flow from behind, over the back, into your hands where it can then be recycled back to the hind legs.
Here are two shoulder suppling exercises for you to try with your stiff horse.
1. Make a 20-meter box with 4 corners in the walk.
To give you more control of your horse’s shoulders, do the exercise in counter flexion. (That is, you’ll just barely see his outside eye or nostril.)
If you’re going to the left, ask for right counter flexion with your right wrist. Stay in counter flexion during the entire exercise.
At the first corner, bring both hands to the left to swivel your horse’s shoulders around the corner.
Then, soften the contact without letting the reins get loopy.
After the corner, walk straight ahead in counter-flexion.
At the next corner, bring both hands to the left again.
Do this in all four corners.
As your horse’s shoulders become more supple, it’ll get easier to spin his shoulders around the turn without meeting resistance.
You can tell there’s no resistance when the weight in your hands stays the same as you swivel your horse’s shoulders around the corner.
2. Ride down the long side of the ring, and move your horse’s shoulders slightly to the left and right.
Walk down the long side of arena.
Flex your horse at the poll opposite the direction you’ll be moving his shoulders. For example, when riding to the left, ask for a counter flexion to the right by turning your right wrist. Then, take both hands to left to slide your horse’s shoulders over. Move the shoulders over only 1-2 inches.
Now change to correct flexion by turning your left wrist.
Move both arms to the right to pop the shoulders back out to the track.
Smoothly and fluidly move the shoulders back and forth as you work your way down the long side.
Wanna know what’s so cool about the Happy Horse course? People from all over the world have told me that it’s helped them sort out so many common problems quickly and easily.
See if any of these common problems sound familiar to you.
• You’re just plain confused and frustrated because trainers tell you what to do but don’t tell you HOW to do it.
• You can’t find anyone to explain things in a CLEAR, step-by-step, easy to understand training system.
• Sometimes you find training to be a struggle, exhausting, or a tug of war rather than a joyful process that creates a happy, athletic horse.
• You can’t get your horse consistently on the bit.
• You can’t afford to work with a trainer on a regular basis.
• You can’t find any decent trainers in your area.
• You can’t afford a fancy warmblood so you think training will be more difficult with your Quarter horse (Arabian, Haflinger, Friesian, Morgan, Saddlebred, Fjord, Thoroughbred, Draft Cross etc).
Do any of those issues sound like what you’re dealing with? Then the Happy Horse course was developed for you.
When your horse tilts his head, it’s often a sign that he isn’t “through”. So, if you’re tracking right and his right ear is lower than his left ear with his mouth going to the left, you’ll need to supple the left side of his poll. (Supple the right side of his poll if he tilts the other way with his left ear lower.)
Remember, you can’t use your connecting aids successfully if he’s locked anywhere including the poll. (Suppleness comes before Connection on the training scale.)
Shoulder-in is the father of the advanced lateral dressage movements. It does many wonderful things for your horse. Here are just some of them:
Shoulder-in is a suppling exercise because it stretches and loosens the muscles and ligaments of the inside shoulder and forearm. During shoulder-in, your horse passes his inside foreleg in front of his outside foreleg. This motion increases his ability to move his forearm gymnastically in other movements.
It’s also a straightening exercise because you should always straighten your horse by bringing his forehand in front of his hindquarters. Never try to straighten him by leg yielding his hindquarters out behind his shoulders.
Can you feel when your horse’s hind legs are on the ground? This is an important skill to develop because you want to time your leg aid so that you give it when your horse’s corresponding hind leg is on the ground.
In fact, the exact moment to influence a particular hind leg is just as it’s getting ready to push off the ground.
You can learn to feel where the hind legs are by feeling your horse’s hips. When a particular hind foot is on the ground, your horse’s hip is higher on that side. It feels like your corresponding seatbone is being pushed forward.
My New Years resolution is to improve my riding. If you share a similar goal or resolution, I can recommend an incredible tool that I have been using, Program Your Position. This is an amazingly effective “program”, and I can honestly say it has helped my position immensely.
The program, developed by Ruth Hogan-Poulsen and Jane Savoie, has three components. These include 5 DVDs, 3 audio CDs and an illustrated pocket guide.
No matter how you absorb information most effectively, Program Your Position has you covered. Personally, I like all the audios and illustrated pocket guide the best. But I must add that the DVD segments are like attending a clinic.
For me, Program Your Position is better than a clinic because the series teaches you to use a simple set of buzz words to “program” your position corrections. I ride around saying the buzzwords and correct my riding position almost effortlessly. The buzzwords are easy to remember and effective and the program also encourages you to add your personal buzzwords too. Read more> http://www.horsesinthesouth.com/article/article_detail.aspx?id=9632
Several of you have asked me if there’s any value in counter-flexing your horse while in true canter so I’d like to discuss that here.
1. Generally, you want to flex your horse in the direction of the canter lead he’s on. That goes for true canter as well as counter canter. So if you’re cantering on left lead, position his head so you just barely see his left eye and/or nostril.