Every dressage test you’ll ever ride, no matter what level you’re competing at, will require the same basic qualities. The judges will want to see a harmonious relationship between you and your horse, with the pair of you completing the desired movements with ease and fluidity.
Making everything look this easy is a lifelong goal for most riders, and it can only be done if you’ve broken down your horse’s training into a series of building blocks, called the scales of training. As you master each block and begin to stack them on top of one another, you create a foundation from which you can tackle more complex movements, more advanced concepts and more complicated tests.
Even if you never plan to tackle a dressage test, the scales of training are the basis of everything you’ll do with your horse. Whether you hope to jump fast clear rounds or polish your rides out showing, or you just want to produce a well-mannered, pleasant hacking partner, getting to grips with the scales of training will give you the tools you need to do anything you hope to achieve.
Exercise: identifying the hindleg
What’s the point? This exercise is a great way to solidify the rhythm of your horse’s trot, especially if contact issues have made him a bit hoppy or inconsistent in this gait.
What will I need? A schooling mirror or a friend on the ground to help you get it right.
What do I do? You have one simple task in this exercise – to try to identify which of your horse’s hindlegs is moving forward in each stride. It’s much easier to do this in sitting trot – and no, you’re not allowed to check by looking down – but don’t worry if it takes you a few tries to get it right. It’s all about building awareness of your horse’s hind end, which is easier said than done, but is a skill that can really impact your riding.
Once you’ve identified the correct leg, and are saying ‘left, right, left’ and so on in time with your horse’s rhythm, reduce the circle to 15m and aim to maintain that rhythm, like a metronome.
For more great advice from Charlie Hutton on the first two scales of training, rhythm and suppleness, pick up a copy of November Horse&Rider, on sale 20 September.