Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Get your balance and Keep it!

I have been taking several clinics with Lientje Schueler, which has really made a difference in my riding.

I have had over the years a global problem asking my horses to go into an uphill frame and to stay there.  I see many horses at horse shows with flat backs and high necks doing all of the movements but in a really stiff way.  I know I have always hesitated to push my horses past where the point that I lose the feeling of their back swinging.  I have always felt that an uphill balance with a frozen back is not what I am looking for.  It turns out I was right but had no idea how to get uphill without losing the swing of the horse's back.

Many clinicians have you force the horse to work uphill - but then you get an inactive back in your horse.  Others never try to help you with longitudinal balance because it is simply too hard.  Lientje has step by step process on how to keep the topline relaxed while riding your horse in an uphill dressage balance.

Step one is to be able to push the haunches in whenever you want to and whenever you need to.  This needs to be there not because it is the fix but because it supports the solution.

Step two is to ask the horse to move its shoulders to the outside of the circle and flex the neck at will. (Note that if you nave no influence on the haunches - they will just sneak to the outside of the circle.)  Another part of step two is to be able to move the shoulders to the inside of the circle at will.  Note that in this situation the rider must still be able to hold the haunches where they are needed.

I was doing 1/2 pass in my last lesson in the trot and we played with speeding up the shoulders or slowing them down. (In the past I just stabilized the shoulder and adjusted the haunches.)  The ability to ride more lateral flexibility into the shoulders allows the horse to have a more supple topline overall. WOW!

The horse I have been riding has a very good trot and I seem to be able to teach her about collection there and then transfer it to the canter.  For example, she is willing to Piaffe and that helps her understand that she needs to use her belly for collection.  Anything you can get your horse to understand in one gait will help the other gaits.

The two most important things, teach them in the gait where they can hear you the best and very importantly, find a way to access the lateral flexibility of the shoulder!

Have a great ride every time!

Friday, December 9, 2011

What is nagging and what is overcorrecting?

I teach a lot and I had a student say she did not want to nag her horse.  What is the difference between nagging and correcting your horse?

Nagging is a funny word, not one I usually use.  I usually say the hardest working rider is the one that corrects just under the amount required to make a change in the horse.  This is usually done by someone who is a little more sensitive than their horse.  Once the rider understands that the sensitivity of the ride is determined by the sensitivity of the horse, they usually increase their correction to an appropriate level.

Over correcting is a problem with some riders as well.  This is the rider who wants respect and they want it now.  There is no discussion and that is final.  The problem is that the horse will do what is asked of him or her but they end up looking mechanical and dead in their eyes.  That is not really what we are after either.

The rider who makes appropriate corrections is the rider who uses enough correction to get the job done but does it in a conversational way.  Basically telling the horse he or she is not trying enough and they should consider using themselves a little more.  For example an assertive rider will touch lightly with the whip and if no response is felt will go to a medium touch before going further up the scale.  In this way the horse knows he or she needs to try harder but is not afraid of the rider.

Sometimes we see very skilled riders coming in with very hard corrections.  When they do this most of the time and their horses look mechanical at best.  If the rider is very skilled. they may do the requirements very well but their horse never seems to enjoy their job.  The advanced riders have a huge responsibility to correct in a proper amount. The beginning and intermediate riders copy your behavior. 

Have a great ride every time - both rider and the horse!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Flying changes for stocky horses

I have always felt more comfortable doing flying changes on my warmbloods.  They have a flexibility about them that makes that movement very easy for them provided they are properly aligned.

I always have had a little more trouble with the stockier horses getting them to change leads properly and cleanly.  I have been taking several clinics this year and made a point to take a stocky mare that was ready to start her changes.

In preparation for changes I really showed the mare how to narrow the base of her shoulder so that she could carry herself better and swing through and have an uphill balance.  Many stocky horses are quite base wide in the shoulder and this causes trouble in the flying change.  It seemed like the best way to narrow the base of the shoulder was to do haunches in with my whip in the inside rein and use it at the shoulder is she became wide in front.   If you are not sure if your horse is base wide in the shoulder, try increasing the bend a little within  a haunches in or half pass.  If this is hard, then the shoulders probably are a bit wide.  Just work to get a little better bend and this will help.

The horse I was riding in the clinics liked to carry her haunches to the right all of the time a little bit.   This caused problems in the flying change too.  So the haunches needed to be aligned before a proper change could occur.  It the trot I would do renvers into shoulder in to help solve this.

In the canter when the rider is ready to do the flying change, the rider must align the horse.  When traveling right to left lead, the haunches had to be pushed to the left and the shoulder moved to the right and then ask for the change.  This required me to keep close track of my canter alignment and have a better diagonal connection.

In the canter left to right I just had to ride a little shoulder in to the right to get the right hind under the horse and then the change could come through easily. 

Figure out any lateral imbalance in your stocky horse and you will have better flying changes. 

Good Luck and have a great ride every day!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Quadrille - What is it? Why do it?

Quadrille is most simply defined as team riding.  Riding as a team is great for green horses and riders and can get horses and riders used to showing without the high pressure of showing.  There are no qualifying requirements to show quadrille and no non-member fees.

If your quadrille team chooses to show there are tests ranging from basic through third level on the USDF website.  The quadrille teams in these tests will consist of four riders.  Each team will ride the same test and be compared against each other on cohesiveness and spacing (both longitudinally and laterally).  This is a more formal type of quadrille.

Many folks put together quadrille teams for exhibition.  These can be 4,6,8 or 12 members.  Many exhibition teams are more freestyle in nature and put to music.  These freestyle quadrilles are what we do at Hay River Equestrian.  We really try to make it fun and help our horses are riders get comfortable in a busier environment.

Our farm is putting on a 6 horse freestyle quadrille at the MN Equifest on 10-15 and 10-16.  I hope to see some of you there. 

Enjoy every ride every time!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The New Era of Musical Rides - Otter Creek Farm

Last weekend I attended a horse show with Amedeus and Hazel.  Both horses were very good and did very well.  I was so proud of them both!

Otter Creek Farm was a great place to get out and show off their training.  The weather was fabulous and the hosts were welcoming.

I learned something this time about musical freestyle.  I previously thought that making a pleasant pretty ride showing off your horse's best attributes at each level was the way to go.  Don't get me wrong, I still think that.  But I have also come to learn that your score goes up when you increase the degree of difficulty. I guess I always kind of knew that but it seems even more important than ever.

The rules have changed in musical freestyle and you are now allowed to do some things above your level of freestyle.  This was clearly forbidden before.  This makes for an interesting change and a little confusion at first.  I am pretty sure I get it and am on board!

Have a great ride every ride!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Musical Dressage is great fun!

August should be called the month of the musical rides around here.  There are two events coming up that are requiring the creativity of putting together a musical ride.  The first is a formal dressage competition at Otter Creek Farm in Wheeler on August 20th and 21st.  Humble Hazel is going to do her first competitive musical ride.  She will be doing a 1st level Kur.

The next is the West Central Roundup in Glenwood City, WI on August 27th.  There Hazel and Amore are going to do a musical ride together.  I chose these two because they are rescue horses from Trempealeau County and are just regular horses.  I think sometimes people think that dressage is only for warmbloods, Hazel and Amore help people understand - dressage is for every horse.

Hazel is also going to be an advanced horsemanship demo horse in Glenwood City. 

I am going to attempt to attach a photo to this blog so you can see Hazel and Amore getting used to each other to help their musical ride go smoothly.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Uber Alpha Horse

I thought I should write something about the very very alpha horse.  This horse is the leader of the herd.  This horse would rather die than lose a disagreement.  This is a horse that needs a professional to train him.  My uber alpha horse was in such a significant pasture fight that another horse kicked him in the haunches and ripped his muscle.  The big fella won the disagreement but has a permanent irregular look on his haunches.

My Uber Alpha horse was a free horse to me.  I think that these horses are often misunderstood.  This gelding is 17.1 hands and weighs about 1500 pounds.  Just his size can be intimidating.  He is a horse that needs to be reasoned with and not forced.  I had an interesting winter with him and he is much better this year.

This winter I played with him with obstacles designed to be weird and his reaction was agression.  It was at that point I actually understood the unknown is fearful and he reacts to fear with agression.  Once I understood his fear and agression were the same thing, it became way easier to train him.  I spent some time showing him obstacles that were scary to him.  Because we worked through the obstacles together, he found out that I would help him when things were not going as he had planned.  This made a huge difference to our working relationship.

The natural horsemanship folks would describe this as a squeeze game.  I do believe that a squeeze game that has built in success is a very good way to get an alpha horse to understand that you can be an effective leader and help him in uncertain times.  So for an alpha horse, the squeeze game is about allowing the human to be the leader and as a result making the partnership work.

As a side note an insecure horse relaxes and learns to bond to the human in uncertain times.  The insecure horse had already accepted the human as his leader.

The squeeze game means different things to different brain types.

I am really a dressage trainer but enjoy figuring out what makes each horse tick, it makes the training go so much smoother.  I must say some of the ground work is very helpful to understand how the horse processes information.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Horse and Human Relationships make Riding Fun

This last week a little horse on the farm found his Human.  This guy arrived on the farm in 2008 severely underweight and untouched as an adult horse.  He was always trying to interact with people right from the start.  His journey of understanding humans started with a bucket of grain and a halter slipped over his head.  He gradually learned how to be led and move away from pressure by following the grain.  He seemed to like being brushed and fussed with.  Basic ground manners took about one year to accomplish, I was not in a rush I had plenty of grass. 

The next step was training under saddle.  He took to this quite easily and was willing to listen to his young rider.  I taught lessons to the pair along the way and Amore really picked up that there was a structure to this riding thing and that he should follow it.  I was pretty happy with him and his willingness to try.

I rode Amore over this last winter and refined his knowledge of structure.  He really did get comfortable with things and I taught a lesson on him in late winter.  He did o.k. but worried about his rider a little bit.  Amore liked a little more direction than he was getting.

I then introduced him to a rider who had been taking lessons and understood the basic dressage structure this last week.  He immediately relaxed and enjoyed the lesson.  It was not even the technical part of the lesson, he just really liked her and tried to do whatever he could for her.

It is the mental compatibility that was really the most impressive.  I love it when that happens.  I know many of us as riders have had our favorite horses to ride, but it is so neat when it happens.  We all think it is because we finally understand how to ride better.  When sometimes it is just the fact that the horse and rider really like each other and try harder for each other.

I hope you all have that special horse you are willing to go above and beyond for, because if you ride such a horse, he will go above and beyond for you too.

Have a great ride every day!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Loosening a Musclebound Horse

For me personally it is easier to stabilize a flexible horse than loosen a muscular horse.  This past weekend I attended a Lientje Schueler Dressage clinic and took a muscular mare.  This was very helpful to me in my overall understanding of loosening up the movement.

The fist thing I have to say is that the riders knee can be very helpful in this.  The knee seems to be very effective at moving the shoulder.  I have been using the knee to fine tune tempi changes on a flexible horse but not in basic movements.  Now I wonder why I did not make this connection before. 

The muscular horse is stuck in the shoulder more than I would have ever guessed.  Loosening the shoulder was done with moving the horse off the knee in shoulder in and leg yielding very effectively.  This helped the shoulders immensely.  As did Renvers on the short side.  The frequent repositioning of the shoulder helped the movement relax and develop.
The other obvious maneuver was transitions within the trot.  They were more effective though after the lateral movements. 

The half pass on this mare just felt tight all over.  After the shoulder loosening, the half pass flowed more like you would expect it to flow.

The canter on the other hand was loosened more effectively with haunches in.  I had also always asked a canter rhythm each stride.  I changed my request to close my legs around the horse without a rhythm  but to ask the horse to come up under me more.  I did set a rhythm with my whip instead.  Then allowed my mare to canter in good balance with quiet soft legs.  I came in with both legs and the whip rhythm if she lost her balance.  This allowed my legs to be quieter and allowed the mare to hear the directions more clearly.  I am thinking clearer communication may be critical to advanced canter.  I am going to try to change my canter approach for all of my horses so I can get better communication!

I have lots of things to think about but I am thinking I will see an improvement in my horses and I am super excited to play with these refined concepts.

Sunday, May 1, 2011


When I think about balance I think about emotional  balance, longitudinal balance and lateral balance.  They are all very important and as riders we cannot forget any of them.

The earliest training starts out with emotional balance.  It is very common for horse owners to play with their foals and maybe hold them until they relax and then pet them and release them.  This is soft resistance but teaches the foal to calm itself and relax without having to break free and run off.  When we ride them as adult horses - riding is soft resistance as well.  The lessons the foal learns as a baby are invaluable to them as adult horses.  We also teach our foals to lead, we place a rope arround their butt and ask with the halter but they learn to lead behind their mothers and then on their own.  This is also soft resistance.  We take the time to teach our foals to allow us to touch and pet them all over.  We introduce them to picking up their feet and allowing us to pick them out and trim them.  These are all very important lessons.

We maintain these lessons as the foal grows into an adult horse.  As a young adult (3 years) we expand on the ground work and improve our communication with our horses.  There are many folks who have written many books about their theories about ground work.  There are many variations but the mechanical technique is not the most important it is the application of the groundwork that really makes the most difference to the horse.  The basics the horse needs to understand on the ground is to move away from pressure, to move through tight spaces and be o.k. with it, to come forward and back away from you when asked.  To be willing to explore toys or unknown objects and lean to calm themselves even if the object scares them.  At this point we are ready to start the riding.  The saddle and bridle are a part of the unknown objects.  Getting used to girth pressure is also an unknow for the young horse that needs to be addressed.

At this point you are ready to ride your young horse.  Riding is maybe a loose term.  Placing pressure in the saddle and retreating may be all that is done on the first day.  Gradually moving towards placing weight on the young horse is the direction you want to go in.  Once the horse allows you to sit on it we then ask it to move forward.  Forward may not look like what you are doing.  Riders usually over bend the horses neck and ask it to move sideways off their leg.  This disengages the horse and helps him understand he can  move with the least amount of risk to the rider.  I say this because in this way of traveling, the horse is least likely to be able to dislodge the rider.  If the horse stays relaxed, he is then allowed to travel in a looser circle which looks more like riding forward.  The earliest riding reminds the horse to move away from pressure.  They have already learned this lesson on the ground.  This is emotional balance in the earliest stages.

As the horse progresses, being fair to the horse maintains the emotional balance you have worked so hard to achieve.  The horse gains confidence as we show them how to keep their balance longitudinally and laterally.  Longitudinal and lateral balance become intertwinded with emotional balance from here on out.

Some horses are muscular but not so flexible, others are flexible but not strong.  Once in a while you are lucky enough to have a horse that is both flexilbe and strong.  A strong horse benefits from lateral movements like leg yeilding, shoulder-in, haunches in and half pass.  A flexible horse benefits from up and down transitions.  Transitions from the walk to the trot and the trot to the canter and the canter to the walk.  The flexible horse also benefits from tansitions within the gait like working trot to legthening trot and back. 

One of the most common mistakes I see is a young horse who has progressed from the beginning stages of riding to basic walk trot and canter.  The rider is doing quite well and then the horse stresses a bit and either shies or tenses its back.  The rider then immediately disengages the horse.  The problem is that the disengagement is an aggressive manuver that takes the horse off balance.  The disengagement that helps teach the beginning horse now scares the horse and takes him off balance.  The young horse should be able to make a mistake and not be disengaged as a result.  The young horse needs to trust the rider will help the balance, not panic and totally undo the balance.  Longitudinal balance is needed if we as riders are going to ask our horses to walk trot and canter.  The optimal bend for good longitudinal balance is a slight bend throuout the whole body including the neck when it is needed.  This translates into no more than 1" of inside flexion in the neck.  More than that and the rider looses the shoulder to the outside and compromises longitudinal balance.

All horses I train learn to spiral in and out on a circle as well as leg yeild.  This helps make the horse easier to direct.  For the muscular horse it loosens their muscles and begins to improve the gaits.  For the flexible horse it helps them learn to coordinate their body parts and get them going in a unified direction. 

Protect the willingness to move forward and sideways on the horse without resorting to disengagement and you will build confidence and trust through emotional, longitudinal and lateral balance.

Have a great ride every day!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Canter Influence

Infuencing the walk and trot is fairly straight forward.  Influencing the canter is another matter.  The canter can be influenced the most at the point of engagement.

First and formost is finding the point of engagement.  When the horse canters he starts out with his outside hind leg followed by the diagonal pair of the inside hind and outside front and finishing with the inside front leg.  At the point where the inside front leg hits the ground the rider will find their hips in the forward position.  This is the point of engagement or where most of the influence happens in the canter.  It is at this point where the rider must apply leg to ask for another canter stride and can apply a half halt in the rein for collection.

First lets talk about longitudinal influence.  It is common for a horse to either canter too quickly or too slowly, most of them do not land just right in the longitudinal balance.  Count your lucky stars if they do! 

A horse that canters too quickly could use help with balance.  To help a horse balance and slow down its canter, the rider should resist with the muscles in their torso and lower back during the time the horse is swinging them forward and then half halt in the reins when their hips have been fully swung forward.  Along with the half halt the rider applies lower leg to the horse to ask for another stride.  The half halt and the leg happen at the same moment.  Then when your hips are swinging back freely follow with your hips.  This will help your horse slow down and balance better.  Be very careful to only flex your horses neck slightly, if you overbend your horses neck, your horse will have trouble balancing longitudinally. 

As your horse progresses and is later in his training expected to have a more uphill balance to his canter, you will want to modify your upper body support of his balance a little.  For example, when your horse canters uphill, your hips will not swing back past your shoulders, they will swing from the vertical line forward.  You can help your horse further collect by only allowing your hips to swing as far back as your shoulders.  So your torso swings forward and upward to help your horse stay collected.  It feels like you are doing situps but the horse is the part that comes forward and up in his canter.

For a horse that is too slow or sticky in its canter, the rider can push at the point of engagement and then swing their hips stronger than the horse swings them.  The hip is in addition to the leg, not instead of it.

A few other points of interest is that when asking the horse to turn in the canter, the rider must ask at the point of engagement when the rider has its leg on for another stride.  So when asking for a turn, the rider asks when his leg is on the horse.  This is the most effective way to ask.  Asking for a turn while confirming forward makes for a better turn.

When asking for a down transition, it is also best to ask at the point of engagement.  If the rider asks at that moment the horse swings itself into its best balance as it comes down to the trot, walk or halt.

Happy riding!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Let the Show Season Begin!

Every year about April in Wisconsin the final plans fall into place for which shows I want to go to for the season.  I talk with students and coordinate schedules.  But more importantly than scheduling the shows is deciding which level you want to show your horse.

Remember that you will be nervous at the horse show or your horse may get a little stressed at the show.  Think about showing a level under where you are schooling at home.  That way you can manage show nerves for you and your horse without pushing or overstressing. 

With gas prices as high as they are, staying close to home does make everything more affordable.

The training changes too.  We do not push for more as much as we push the horses to get really good at what they will have to show.  Getting good at the level that is being shown is worth it in the long run.  Even though it seems like the horse is not making progress, they really are.  They are getting very comfortable and strong with the required balance.  In dressage making a jump from one level to the next is alot about balance. 

Have a great season everyone!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Lengthening or Extending the Trot

Lengthening or extending the trot is not just about sending your horse forward and hoping for the best. It is a combination of two things. The abitilty of the horse to hold his longitudinal balance and lengthen his strides at the same time. To start teaching your horse to lengthen his trot start by assigning a number to his prefered trot. For example, you could assign it a 5 and say o.k. this is his normal trot. Then work to create transitions within the trot. Try to ask with a half halt (downward transition that is not completed - but functions to improve the longitudinal balance) to have a slower more elevated trot. Then allow him to return to his prefered trot (number 5). You have already created a little range in his trot. The next step is to push him forward to lengthen his trot to a number 6 trot. This number 6 trot is a little longer without getting quicker. As a rider be very careful not to allow the tempo speed to increase. If the speed of the steps increase, then the lengthen is decreased. When the horse speeds up his trot he is dropping his energy lower to the ground in front and cannot lengthen. The 1/2 halt is what keeps the horse balanced in his back longitudinally. So in a nutshell, a lengthening is a blend between a down transition and an up transition. When you are posting slow down your posting and add leg at the same time. The slower posting helps the longitudinal balance and the extra leg asks for the lengthening. If your horse rushes and gets quick you need less leg and more emphasis on the slow posting. If you get no forward response you have to increase your leg. Remember at the beginning we are trying to create range 4 to 6. Later for an advanced horse he will Piaff at number 1 and be in full blown extension at number 10. When sitting the trot and asking for a lengthening you add leg and increase your stomach and lower back resistance. Blend these aids so you get longer strides without getting quicker strides. Spend the first week just working towards 4 to 6 and then try to take your horse to 3 - 7 the next week. By the time you have a range of 3 to 7 you will have some lengthening and some collection. You will be surprised. Also, if your horse has a vacation, gradually go back into the lengthenings to allow him to regain his strength and flexibility. Lengthening is a combination of strength and flexibility. He needs to be strong enough in his back and torso to hold his longitudinal balance while being flexible enough to lengthen his strides. Have a great ride every day! Karen

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


Clarity in riding sounds simple but can really be a hard to achieve. Many people believe that they should use only one aid at a time. For example, just a rein aid or just a leg or just some support in the riders body. The truth is that most of the time riders blend their aids and are then way more clear to their horse.

This is a big deal in young horses or a horse that is confused for any reason. In a young horse the rider may ask the horse to move sideways off their leg and as a result the horse looses longitudinal balance and then rushes an gets on the forhand. The young horse scared him or herself. The horse then thinks that moving off the leg laterally is difficult and will be resistant to doing that movement. If your young horse has a tendency to rush when asked to move sideways, the best thing you can do to help him or her is to blend your aids.

A horse that rushes when moving sideways benefits if the rider uses his or her body to post slower than the horse wants to travel to help the horse maintain longitudinal balance while moving sideways. Longitudinal balance really does help the horse stay quiet and focused on his or her job. I am not suggesting that the rider always hold the horse up. I am suggesting the rider show the horse where to go and then move out of the way. The horse learns from the softness after the balance correction, not during the correction.

The other aid to blend while traveling sideways is the rein aid. If the rein restricts the shoulder too much the haunches of the horse will lead the sideways movement which will disturb the lateral balance. If the rider leads too much with the reins the horse will lead with his shoulders and not really engage in any sideways movement. The reins really have to be blended well with the legs to keep the horse aligned and evenly bent for basic lateral movement. Again the horse learns during the release of the aid that he or she did the right thing.

The combination of a supporting rider torso and rein aids help show the horse how to balance longitudinally. The combination of the leg and rein aids keep your horse evenly bent and aligned. Alignment and longitudinal balance are critical to the horse if he or she is going to develop confidence in their work. Take care of them both and your horse will relax into the work happily.

Blend your aids for clairity. Show your horse what you want and thank him or her often by softening your aids.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Riding Inside the Muscle

Riding inside the muscle of the horse is a concept that is very hard to explain but very worth taking the time to learn how to do. When you ride if your lower body from your hips down is a part of the horse's barrel - a continuation really, then you are in a position to ride inside the horse's muscle.

It takes much more than a quiet seat, it takes blending of the aids to ride inside the horse. The first part of my journey to ride inside of the muscle started at Charles deKunfy clinics. In those clinics we were riding advanced movements , extensions, flying changes, canter pirouettes, and passage with no stirrups. This made me really good at feeling the muscle of the horse and predicting movement as a result of what I was feeling. I will always be grateful for this information. The other thing that was talked about rather at length was isometric stiffness. What that means is controlling the upper body enough that as a rider your upper body was quiet.

Now years later I think I have a better understanding of riding inside the muscle. I think it includes the blending of the lower body being so close to the horse you can feel the muscles changing. The rider must be willing to use the legs to affect lateral balance and understand how to blend the leg aids with torso control and the rein aids.

The key to riding with great feel is to know how to blend the above and what combinations of blending are required to solve what is going on underneath the rider. I wish someone could have explained that to me as a younger rider but I am also thankful for the people who have been giving that information to me over the years in pieces.

Lunge line lessons are a great help and can move that process along faster. Slow down folks and invest in some lunge line lessons. Riding inside the muscle is hard. Performing the advanced dressage movements is way easier. If you want to do it with elegance, work on yourself. Your horse will thank you and ultimately progress faster.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Goodbye Can Be a Great New Beginning

Today I sold a horse called Shrek but I think he is going to get a new name "Snickers". He is a 10 year old gelding that is a great guy that knows basic dressage. He is super honest and loves attention. His new owner "Sarah" is so excited and I am excited for her. I think they are going to have a great time growing together.

Congrats Sarah and Snickers, best wishes for a great 2011!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Shoulder Influence - you can't ride well without it.

Shoulder influence is not talked about very often but really should be.

In the most basic way the ability to influence the shoulder is required to be sure you can ride your horse on purpose from point A to point B. And maybe it would be easier to think of shoulder influence as front end influence.

When riding the horse it should be evenly bent from the tail to the ears. When you are riding that can be really hard to judge. The most common mistake is not having influence on the horse's neck or shoulder area. The horse either over bends its neck to the inside or counter bends.

If the horse overbends to the inside, it will feel like its shoulder is stuck on the wall and you will have a harder time starting a circle. On the otherhand if the horse is carrying his neck to the outside the rider will talk about the horse falling in on their inside leg.

I have actually stoped asking riders to bend the horse's neck. I have actually started asking them to flex the horses neck (about 1") and then if they need to turn the horse's front end to move both reins with equal pressure to the direction they would like to move the horse. This really helps if the rider then also pushes the horse with their legs. Really the reins act as a frame in and the legs push the horse into the frame the reins have established.

If a rider overbends the horse to the inside or counterbends the horse to the outside the shoulder is free to do whatever it wants and more often than not - the shoulder blocks the goal of the rider.

The hint is ride the whole front end of the horse for better shoulder influence!

Enjoy your horse every single ride!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Saddle Fit Issues May Look Like Training Issues

Training young horses is challanging for sure but the most challanging part about it is that as they build muscle and change shape they can have saddle fitting issues that creep into your everyday riding. A young horse has basic muscle but nothing added from riding which can significanlty change the shape of their backs.

Timid horses that are starting to have trouble with their saddles may want to run away from the aids or buck and brave alpha type horses may have trouble focusing and start acting pushy. The changes can appear gradually but once you notice the change, take a good look at saddle fit right away. The saddle you started with may no longer be appropriate.

Dressage saddles that are made to a specific horse in a custom fashion still need to be monitored. Even if your horse stays somewhat the same shape, as the saddle ages the stuffing can change and become hard and inflexible. So having your saddle restuffed and reshaped to your horse's b ack can be invaluable.

Our horses are generous and want to please us. Lets make it easy for them! Happy riding!


Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy NewYear! Riding resolutions!

Welcome to 2011. January 1st is a time for new years resolutions. This is the day I ask myself what I resolve to do and follow up on with riding goals.

What are your riding goals? Sometimes it is really hard if you just have long term goals and do not break the long term goals down into short term goals. One of the largest pitfalls is to set a goal that is too large and takes too long to obtain. If you do that the goal may seem too overwhelming and may not get done.

Keep your goals attainable and fun for both you and your horse. Remember to have a great time while you work towards your goals.

One of my goals this winter has been to help my dressage horses relax in their work. I have several obstacles in my arena I use on a regular basis. This is so not dressage like but sure does seem to make a difference in the horse having confidence when faced with something unexpected.

O.K. I am off to pencil in the clinic and show schedule for the year.

Happy New Year!