Trying too Hard to Finish?

Posted by in 1/2 10m circles, accurate, attention, back, balance, bend, Blog, body, contact, dressage, dressage test riding, engage, falling in, falling out, fingers, hand position, hands, hocks on Jul 28, 2012



When you start a test from inside the arena you turn onto the centre line at A – right? So why – when you have to ride a ½ 10m circle from E/B to X at the end – does it seem twice as difficult? The simple answer is you don’t have the fence to help you. The root of the problem? You’re probably trying too hard.


If you haven’t ridden 10m circles before it’s understandable you find ½ circles to the centre line difficult. If your horse is young or green he may struggle to stay balanced.

Make things easier by practising them in the other direction – from centre line to the track. Having the track to ride to takes the worry out of getting the size right. There’s nothing like having something solid to aim at to make you ride forward either!


Practise in walk and trot until you feel confident about the size and happy your horse can cope. Then move onto the track. Before you try from E/B ride a few turns down the centre line from A as you would in a test.  


It’s easy to get too focused on inside bend and turn your horse with your inside rein, pushing him out with your inside leg but don’t do it! He should bend through his body not from his head. Get his head and neck straight in front of you and you’ll keep control of his shoulders. Do that and you can put him onto any line you want to – curved or straight.


The most common problem with any small circle is loss of balance. Your horse may fall in or out. He may lose balance and lean on your hands or hollow and rush. All these problems are caused by your hands yet the chances are they’re the first things you resort to when things go wrong.


If your horse leans you probably lift both hands up and back to lift him back up. Do that and he’ll tighten his back against the pressure on his mouth. His hocks will stop working and his weight will fall onto his shoulders. Result? He’ll lean harder to stay balanced.


Your horse leans because he can! Move your 2nd and 3rd fingers on your reins (as if you were texting) so you don’t give him something solid to set against. Use both legs to drive his hocks under his body and his weight will fall back to his hips.


If your horse hollows and rushes you probably check your outside rein to slow him down. Do that and you’ll slow the outside leg/shoulder down – which should actually be covering more ground than the inside fore on a curve. As that leg slows down the rest of his body will pivot around it and his quarters will swing to the inside. When you get to the centre line he’ll be crooked.


When you ask your horse to slow down use even pressure on both reins and push him forwards to it. An even contact acts as a barrier. Push forward and you’ll push his quarters towards his shoulders and his back will round not hollow. If you need to slow down use your upper leg and both reins at the same time. Slow both shoulders together and he’ll stay balanced and straight.


Do you lift your inside rein up to ‘help’ your horse stay upright as the circle? He’ll copy your hand position with his mouth. If the inside of his mouth is higher than the outside his nose will tip to the inside. His shoulders will be unlevel too. If his inside shoulder is higher than the outside his weight will fall to the outside. When you get onto the centre line you’ll spend three or four strides trying to get him straight again. By which time you ought to be halting and saluting.


Remember less is always more. As you pass E/B turn your shoulders and hips to the inside – your horse will do the same.  Push on to drive his quarters up behind his shoulders so he rounds his back and stays balanced. Look round towards C so you can judge your turn.


As your horse steps onto the centre line straighten up. Square your body up to C and he’ll do the same. Don’t give yourself – or him – time to think. Get your legs on and push him forward towards G.  


The most important part of any schooling is pushing your horse forward from both legs to an even contact. Never freeze and take your leg off if you anticipate problems because that’s exactly what you’ll have!


Good luck and enjoy your schooling.

For a more detailed look at how to improve your test riding check out Get Started 3 At 99p it’s affordable, instantly downloadable and it could find you a few more %. Or check out the other schooling guides in the Teach Yourself and Read to Succeed series.

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