This was an ongoing email from a young rider in Australia. These are often the most fun!
Question: I have been riding English for about 7 years now. I think I’m a pretty good rider, and I do take lessons in the cooler months. I’m trying to learn about down transitions. I can’t get them and I’m confused from what my coach tells me. I have to keep my legs on and bring my hands back, but my mare just slows down and gets bouncy and doesn’t stop. I don’t understand what the reason for having my legs on the horse to stop is? My coach can’t tell me in a way that I get, and was hoping you could.
Answer from April Reeves: Well Alli you are not going to like my answer much, because it goes against everything your coach is telling you.
First, lets address legs on. If it confuses you, it should. It is the signal for forward and, done correctly, to bring the hindquarters under the horse, and although a lot of teachers believe you should have your legs on for downward transitions, I don’t and here’s why.
Think about how it feels to have someone speak to you in a foreign language. If you don’t know the language, you can’t understand them. If they speak slower, you still won’t have a clue what they’re saying. If they shout at you, you still won’t understand.
That’s how it is for your horse. When you train, you’re developing a non-verbal language with him.
When you learn a foreign language, you first need to learn the letters of the alphabet. Once you know the letters of the alphabet, you can put them together to form words. Then, eventually you can put the words together to form sentences. Your horse has to go through this same process as you develop your non-verbal language with him.
1. The letters of your equine alphabet are the different actions of your seat, legs, and hands.
2. When you put the letters of the alphabet together, you form words. For example, you’ll see in Lesson 6 on Connection that the combination of the driving aids, the bending aids, and the rein of opposition create the word “connected” or “on the bit”.
3. Finally, you’ll put words together to make sentences. For example, if you want to do a transition on the bit, you’ll form a sentence by using two sets of aids at once. You’ll give both the aid for “on the bit” and the aid for the transition itself. In your horse’s language, you’re saying, “Do this transition on the bit.”
Here’s what we’ll be covering:
Jane Savoie – Should I Ride My Dressage Horse ‘Deep’ or ‘Up’?
You’ve probably heard lots of discussion about whether or not to work your dressage horse “deep.” There are a variety of opinions on the matter. Some riders warm up and cool down their horses “long and low” to stretch and loosen the muscles. Others always school in a balance and frame appropriate to the level at which they are working; they never stretch their horses. Many trainers school in a deep frame only during the movements when the horse habitually comes above the bit. Still others do all of their work “extremely deep” with the horse’s nose almost on his chest; they bring him up only when they are getting ready to compete.
So what should you do with your dressage horse? Use benign antagonism to help you decide.
One of the most frequently asked questions I get is, “Can you help me sit the trot better?”
So here are some quick tips to help you with this all too common challenge.
1. First and foremost, your horse needs to be on the bit. If his back is hollow, stiff, or tight, you’ll find it impossible to sit comfortably. (And, in turn, you’ll make your horse uncomfortable too!)
To put him on the bit, review the “connecting half halt”. If you missed it, there’s an article on it in the August archives of my blog at wordpress.
2. Slow the trot down. Ride “sub-power” and when you can sit easily, increase the impulsion for just a few strides at a time. Then slow down again.
How do I Get My Horse To Pick Up the Correct Canter Lead Every Time?
Jane Savoie and 'Moshi'
Do you struggle getting your horse to pick up one of his canter leads? If so, here are some tips and exercises to help you with this all too common problem.
The first exercise is done completely in the walk. It’s great rider coordination exercise. You’ll practice positioning your horse alternately for the left lead and then switch to the right lead after
a few strides.
Let’s say you decided to pick up left lead:
Jane Savoie and Moshi
Answer by Jane Savoie: People often ask me to explain the difference between “running” and “lengthenings”. In fact, in this article I’m also going to describe the difference between running, lengthenings, medium gaits, and extended gaits.
1. Running– When you ask your horse to lengthen his strides and frame, and you hear his tempo (the rate of the repetition of the rhythm) get QUICKER, he’s not lengthening. He’s just running.
2. Lengthenings– In a good lengthening, your horse lengthens his stride and frame to the utmost he can at this relatively early stage of training (around 1st Level) WHILE staying in the same rhythm and tempo. He ends up covering more ground with each stride.