athletes need to warm up their muscles
before working in and this includes your
horse. Stretching the back and muscles
increases the flow of blood and
produce more oxygen in the blood stream .
We must effectively warm the muscles up
prior to introducing more blood into them.
important to know why you do this and
equally important to know HOW TO DO IT !!
that is insufficiently worked in risks
injury when asked to perform and the same
goes for your horse. You cannot expect your
horse to walk, trot and canter and jump if
he is stiff in his back. and his muscles are
cold and his blood lacks the necessary
oxygen levels to perform the tasks you
ask of him.
following exercises are used to supple
and stretch your horse prior to commencing
the more serious stuff.
first mount your horse, make him stand still
and wait for you to ask him to move off.
This is important as it establishes a basic
ground rule right from the start . You are
in charge - not your horse.
Ginger Bits always tries to tear off into
the sunset the minute I get on her back. I
always get off her again, take her back to
the mounting block and make her stand until
I am ready - she is getting better at this,
gradually. Always use a mounting block
if you have one -it is far kinder to your
horses back and it does not drag the saddle
over and unbalance you and the horse.
vertically challenged myself, passing my BHS
Road Safety test was a challenge - I find it
hard to mount anything over 14.2 from the
ground !! )
first get on your horse, make him wait
quietly before asking him to move off from
your leg. At this stage , have your horse on
a long rein.
only be in walk but this first "free" walk
is still important - it must be brisk and it
must be forward. The horse must obey the leg
aids to go forward, the reins are long and
you are using your driving aids to maintain
the forward movement.
In the first corner or circle and by pushing
from your inside leg, ask your horse to bend
into the shape of the circle or bend
and take a feel of the outside rein and at
the same time, soften your inside rein. As
your horse accepts the outside rein, allow
your hand forwards a little but keep a
The horse should follow your hand forward
and at the same time, move down. The aim is
really to make the horse's poll( top of his
head) come below the height of his whithers
. This allows the horse to relax and stretch
through his "top line" and his back. By
stretching down, we are encouraging the
horse to arch his back upwards in order to
achieve our "humped-back bridge" so he is
comfortable carrying our weight and we are
comfortable sitting on him.
of changes of rein to stretch the muscles on
both sides and when you feel the horse is
obedient in walk, move up to a rising trot
and do the same exercises . This part of the
working in phase is complete when you sit
down and the horse's head stays down and
remains down and the pace is even in tempo.
When the horse has accepted this way of
going, you can progress to taking up a rein
contact going from a long and low outline to
being arched in his neck and engaged behind
- this can mean returning to the walk.
your legs to "ask" for length bend through
his body and neck, if the head comes
back up and the back stiffens, it's
important not to get tense your self
but to just encourage the stretch by driving
the horse forward and at the same time,
encouraging the downwards bend.
A tap from the schooling whip can always
back up your leg aid if your horse is
slightly reluctant. If the horses head comes
up and the back stiffens, do not worry so
much as this is your chance to put the horse
back down again which gives you loads of
valuable practice in doing so.
Take up a contact on the reins only when the
horse is forward off the leg and moving down
.I tend to take the contact up gradually by
degrees so that I don't get MGB bringing her
head up and stiffening through her back
which defeats the purpose. It's important to
remember that taking up the contact must be
backed up with your leg and seat aids.
It's no use taking up the contact if you
don't then put your legs on as the horse
will stop and run backwards. It's also no
use taking up the contact and then not
allowing your hand to move forwards with the
motion of the horse because this will block
the very possibility of forward
When the horse accepts the contact and moves
down into the bit, you must be prepared to
offer your hands forward into the contact -
this is your horse's reward for obeying your
instructions - you have taken a bit of
pressure off by allowing your hand forwards.
contact is vitally important - the contact
must be even in both reins and the reins
must not be too long or too short. Reins
that are too long may mean that you will
compensate for the unnecessary length by
pulling them backwards or across the neck to
Too short and the forward motion will be
blocked and the horse will stiffen and come
off the bit and the back will go hard and
tense and all your work will be
undone. You must practice taking the rein
contact up without disturbing the horse and
I do this six or seven times throughout our
training sessions using a halt transition.
The first one can sometimes cause tension
until the horse knows what you want and
eventually, you will be able to stand with
your horse on the bit, waiting for the
signal from your legs to move forward and
on. Even a gentle half halt in the halt
stance will now put my aged old beast in a
position with her nose eighteen inches off
the ground and listening for the next signal
to move. The walk to halt transition will
indicate to you what the walk to trot one
will be like, ie. if it's bad, then
the trot one will be even worse.
from halt is very important (all transitions
are critical really). The horse should never
get tense and throw his head in the air and
stiffen his back and neither should he
plough on through the pace in a rolling
unbalanced motion. Even during the loose
rein phase of the warm up, the horse must be
forward in the motion but this does not mean
he must also be FAST !!
walk at this stage is usually a very
unbalanced walk and you must be able to hold
the horse in an even four time rhythm
between your hand and leg - this is not as
easy as it sounds. Walking is very
hard to do properly which is why
in a dressage test ,a great many marks are
to be gained from teaching your horse
to walk well.
The half halt is used to slow down the walk
and re-balance the horse's weight onto
the hind legs (the engine) . A half halt is
generally achieved from squeezing the
outside rein for two seconds whilst driving
your horse into the outside rein with your
inside leg. It's important also to sit
straight and down in the saddle, brace the
back and to hold your legs close to the
horse's side in the motion. You must be able
to do all these things in a miniscule amount
of time and it ain't easy !!
One of the
reasons why it is so important to work
slowly in walk is that any problems
encountered in walk will be magnified in the
trot and impossible in the canter . Walking
slowly and well, will encourage your horse
to take more weight onto the hind legs and
re-balance himself. Riders who find it hard
to "sit" well on their horses will find this
kind of slow work will help them to
establish better feel and more control.
of many reasons why riders don't sit well is
because they are nervous of what the horse
may "do". Another reason could be because
the lower leg is too far forward in the
saddle and the rider's centre of gravity is
not directed properly through the head, hips
Many saddles have a tendancy to push a
rider's legs too far forward or offer no
support at all. This is generally true when
riding "school " ponies and horses where
tack has to fit the pony or horse but cannot
possibly be suitable for all riders. Sadly,
this sometimes means that it's impossible
for many people to even begin to feel what
on earth I am talking about !!
rough, tough or angry with your horse or you
will destroy his trust and faith in you
(herd leader) to guide him through his
exercises (and his indeed, his life )
working in in walk , takes me roughly 15
minutes (yes, 15 minutes in walk - I know it
sounds like a lot) and another 10 in trot
before I even contemplate the serious
schooling stuff. Sometimes, it takes me only
ten minutes and five respectively - it
very much depends on how quickly we have
established our communication levels and how
either of us are feeling .
and people are different so the only rule is
that there are no rules - the only really
important thing is that we
must never work a horse from "cold" and
expect it to work well or safely.
lesson we will look at how the position of
the rider affects the horse's back and it's
ability to move.
have any questions, don't be afraid to
contact me via World of Horses and I will
either answer them myself or use one
of my very clever BHSI friends to
help answer them. The Boss holds the BHS
Order of Merit and Small Boss has a degree
in Equine Science - these people know a
thing or two and both compete regularly.
I am a little
down at the moment which accounts for my
unusual lack of humour. MGB has had COPD
indications for some time and at the moment
is unable to work or compete. She has shown
quite a resistance to the high pollen count
this year and is very wheezy and snotty and
"heavey" despite high doses of Ventipulmin
and anti-biotics. Although my lovely Vet has
told me that we will get her
better, it's a long haul at the moment and I
have nothing to ride !!(Arghhh- I am
going mad here !!).
would like to email their horse to
me, I would like something about 16.2;
to 17.2 hands, Chestnut, gelding or mare,
age immaterial preferably ex-Grand Prix -
on, there's a message coming in -
Oh No - Oh WOW !! - It's only Anky van G
offering me Bonfire for the summer!!
can't ride but I can
still dream eh!!)
Guys & Gals