Focusing on one section of your horse’s body at a time in your schooling sessions is the best way to make sense of challenging movements and exercises. Once you begin to think about and influence each part of his body independently, you’ll find you no longer muddle through tricky movements, but ride them methodically, thinking about how each part of his body should be positioned throughout. That’s what dressage comes down to – it’s all about putting each part of your horse’s body in the right place and riding him positively once he’s where you want him to be.
Have a plan
These exercises can become a valuable tool in your training toolkit, particularly if you struggle to plan schooling sessions. You can make them the focal point of your sessions or incorporate elements of them into your warm-up to help create a supple, elastic horse before you progress to more challenging work.
Exercise: Shoulder-in to half-pass
A canter half-pass flows into shoulder-in, followed by a 10m circle in travers (haunches-in) and leg-yielding back to the track.
This pattern challenges you to influence the different parts of your horse’s body separately. As well as being a useful exercise to improve your control of his quarters, travers on a circle is the foundation for teaching pirouettes.
How to ride it
- Establish a rhythmical, balanced canter, then start on the short side and prepare your horse through the corner by riding a series of half-halts.
- Aim to begin half-pass at K.
- Ride a few steps of half-pass, then adjust your horse’s body position so he’s in shoulder-in. Performing shoulder-in for one or two strides will encourage him to listen to you and get your inside leg working.
- Next, maintain the bend and start to ride a 10m circle to the right. Introduce travers so his quarters are working on an inside track and you’re bringing his shoulders around them. Turn your shoulders to the inside of the circle, sit deep and keep your outside leg active to ask him to really engage behind and turn around his hindlegs. Support him with your inside leg on the girth.
- When you’ve completed the circle, maintain the inside bend and leg-yield back to the track.
Web extra: Watch Dan riding this exercise bit.ly/HR_DAN_HALFPASS
For more exercises, which introduce advanced lateral work, pick up the August issue of Horse&Rider, on sale 28 June.