If you’re experiencing a schooling issue with your horse, don’t panic. While it’s frustrating, it’s a normal part of the training process and something that happens to everyone, no matter how experienced a rider they are.
Although there are no magic fixes for your flatwork, there are ways to navigate problems and get back on track, whether you’re struggling to master a movement or you feel you’ll never make it to the next level. What you need to do is identify the cause so you can work out the right solution, which could mean brushing up on your horse’s skills or your own.
Refine your aids
Many riders focus too much on getting their horse to work in an outline, but a true, correct contact can take years to develop. At the lower levels, your horse won’t have the same consistency as a more advanced dressage horse, but you can take a step in the right direction by always ensuring he’s on your aids. This means he immediately reacts to your requests to go forward, come back or move sideways. So, right from the start of your warm-up, make sure your horse is listening to you and responding, and keep checking he stays that way throughout your schooling session.
It’s a good idea to revisit your schooling basics on a regular basis, making sure your horse works forward with impulsion, and that he’s straight and has correct bend on circles. This will cement his training so far and fix any bad habits that may have set in.
The problem: He lacks enthusiasm
What?Your horse isn’t as responsive as he used to be and he’s switching off in your schooling sessions.
Why?He could be feeling jaded due to spending too much time in the school or, if you’ve recently stepped things up a level, consider whether he’s finding it tough, either physically or mentally.
How to fix itMix things up to make your horse’s ridden work fun and interesting, rather than boring and repetitive. Incorporate polework or small fences into your schooling sessions, split your riding between schooling and hacking, or why not school him out hacking?
For more advice on how to conquer other common schooling issues with Lucy Pincus, pick up a copy of October Horse&Rider, on sale 23 August.