I taught my first lessons in a month recently and the lesson I found myself repeating often, and I hear other instructors repeating a lot, is the importance of the outside rein. This is a huge subject, but in brief… The concept of inside leg to outside rein is mega important. BUT that doesn’t mean one hangs on the outside rein or allows the horse to lean on the outside rein. If you were to give the outside so it goes loose for a stride, nothing should fall apart. On the other side is the importance of the use of the outside rein in general. The inside rein is generally the suppling rein as needed and also turns the horse’s head and neck. But the outside rein connects the horse’s body to his neck. (Many of you have been in the situation of trying to turn the horse where he doesn’t want to go and you pull his head practically to your knee and the horse continues to go in the opposite direction – just because his head turns doesn’t mean his body goes in the same direction.) So your most important turning aids are the outside rein and leg and the most important bending aids are the inside rein and leg. This is mega important on circles and corners to ensure that when you are bending the horse his shoulder doesn’t fall out.
Excerpt from Cavalletti for Dressage and Jumping (4th edition) by Ingrid and Reiner Klimke
Thank you to Martha Cook and Trafalgar Square Book for providing the below excerpt!
Cavalletti for Dressage and Jumping (4th edition) is available at Trafalgar Square Books. D4K friends can use the code D4K2020 and receive 25% off.
Cavalletti Work on Circles
Riding over cavalletti on circles and half circles makes a welcome change for young riders. The horse should already have a sound basic training and be used to working over cavalletti on straight lines. When working on both straight and curved lines, the horse must be straight. This means the hind feet must follow the tracks of the front feet. On circles, the horse is not straight if he makes the common fault of lifting his hind legs and moving them out to the side rather than stepping forward under the center of gravity. In order to avoid this, he must be flexed to the inside.
Cavalletti work on circles and half circles helps to loosen the horse, and can rectify stiffness on one side or the other, so the horse bends and flexes equally in both directions. If a horse is not straight, he will often lose rhythm – this is where cavalletti work can help by restoring elasticity and encouraging the placing of the hind feet under the center of gravity.
Over poles, the horse does not have the chance to step out to the side with the hind legs. The length of stride and pacing of the feet is so precise that the horse maintains his rhythm by himself. It takes very little practice before the hind feet step into the tracks of the front feet.
A figure of eight works the horse equally on both reins. Each circle requires four cavalletti set in a fan near the short side of the school. It is important to leave the track free so you can ride around the whole school on the track. In trot, this exercise is known as “changing direction through the circle.” It is not as useful in walk as it is in trot, but it is best to ride it in walk to start with, and you can revert to walk if you have problems.
Riding over cavalletti on circles is especially beneficial for training the horse’s inside hind leg to take weight. Because of this it can be quite strenuous, so avoid doing it for too long. Always tailor schooling sessions to the stage of training the horse has reached.