Hello, and welcome to the first of our ‘Schooling Sunday’ features. Every week we will bring a common schooling problem and an exercise to help you correct it to the blog.
First up – straightness in the contact. Straightness is key, not only to the dressage horse – but or happy hackers, showjumpers and eventers alike. Straightness simply means the horse is straight through its body from nose to tail and that the hind legs are stepping behind the front leg. When the horse is straight, the rider should feel equal weigh or contact in both reins and even weight in both stirrups and both seatbones.
Horses aren’t naturally straight – like us they’ll often have a dominant side so its important we work them to help them become more even, straighter and balanced.
In the arena you can influence the straightness by riding away from the fence and around a metre or two in from the track – this encourages the horse to rely on itself rather than the fence and tests the straightness between your hand and leg.
Practice coming down the 3/4 line and riding a shallow leg yield off the inside leg – you don’t need to hit the track quickly, just aim for a sideways reaction off the inside leg and into the outside rein towards the track.
You can start this in walk if your horse is young or green and progress up to trot and canter once the exercise is more established. Really concentrate on controlling the outside shoulder with a feel down the outside rein to stop the horse pushing out through the shoulder and taking over.
Down the next long side, ride slightly in off the track and ask for some outside flexion – rewarding your horse by allowing it straight when it offers the flexion if its young or green. If its more established, you can ask for more steps in the outside flexion.
Repeating this exercise a few times will help the horse come up through its outside shoulder and you should feel a steadier, more even contact down both reins.