A while back I took one of my horses, Folly, to do a spot of dressage. It's something I've always liked the idea of and I thought, why not give it a go along side showjumping? So off we went.
This was where I ran into a rather large problem realizing that my horse wasn't going to play ball and suppleness through the paces was not going to be achieved. To address this, here are a few bits we've been working on recently.
Firstly, Folly gets very bored very easily so schooling in particular has to be kept exciting and interesting. Here are some of the ways I do that while still working on getting her to engage and become supple through her back.
Now there is nothing I love more than transitions. They really do keep the horse guessing. Personally, I always warm up for a good 20 minutes prior to getting the horse to start working properly as I feel it gives them the best chance at protecting their muscles but transitions on a loose rein never hurt anyone. Get your horse's attention and start with transitions between paces and within the pace itself. This will help the horse engage their hind end, too.
Next, we all do our 20 meter circles but how about do some 20 meters and spiraling down into 10 meters and then back out to 20 meters, which can be done in all paces. I also find serpentines are fabulous for getting the horse softened and working from behind. Try transitions within your serpentine can help to make sure your horse is listening and that he is concentrating.
Another great one to do is circles around x's when changing rein on a long diagonal. I've often found that horses try to start powering through on the diagonals and this can be where we begin to lose out our straight lines. By adding a circle, we're asking them to listen and get their hocks back under them before continuing to change rein.
I've found poles to be really helpful to keep horses interested. These can be anything from your average trot poles to circle cavalletti.
I plan to do an entire blog post on pole work so stay tuned for that! I'll share some ideas on how to set them out and outline different ways of approaching pole work.
Photo courtesy of Flickr creative commons.
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