Tuesday, 4 March 2008


Echo has been going really well this week. I have only been riding her for about half an hour each time I’ve ridden, but this is plenty, as she is still a bit lacking in strength through being young and having had a holiday. I have been feeling very emotional towards the end of the week (it’s up and down!) and felt that I needed something specific to work on with Echo, to keep me focussed and sane. My theme for this week has been working on getting her to work into the outside contact. I felt that I was using too much inside rein and decided to do something about it!

Working in walk a lot to begin with, I started by asking her to flex her neck dramatically to the inside, while still walking in a straight line. Once she worked out what to do, she immediately felt more flexible through her body. I then started to ask for leg yielding from the three-quarter line to the track. She knows what to do with this, but is sometimes keen to not take the outside contact. I find myself over-using the inside rein, which is not good.

I then started to ask her to leg yield along the track. When I came round the corner before the long side, I asked her to bring her hind-quarters in and leg-yield along the track. She finds this difficult, but I find it a more successful way of getting her to work into the outside rein (albeit the ‘wrong’ outside rein each time!) I then started to ask for these movements in trot, which she finds easier in some ways, but does then have a tendency to rush. I worked hard at using half-halts in the leg-yielding to control the pace, which in turn got her to work more into the outside rein.

We are making small steps with this, but I feel that she is starting to understand what I am asking her to do. The other interesting thing with all of this is that on Sunday I managed to get a walk to canter transition for the first time – and on the left rein, which is notoriously our worst for striking off on the correct leg. I was really pushing her into the corner in walk, asking her to really reach in to the outside rein and step under with her inside hind, and on a whim, I decided to ask for the canter transition, as she felt very connected. She just sort of popped up through the transition and the actual canter then felt amazing and balanced. What a result! John tried to get us to do walk to canter in our last lesson and we didn’t manage it, so I am really seeing progress now.

It isn’t that I want her to be able to do this all the time, but it is a great way of balancing the transitions and stopping her falling onto her forehand when going into canter. The other thing I felt able to do on Sunday was actually ask a bit more of her in the canter. I was able to sit up and really ride, using my inside leg to engage her. This is a good step forward, as previously I have been satisfied with just getting into canter in the first place. I now need to work on the downward transitions. She still really falls into trot and then runs along on her forehand, so I have decided not to trot after cantering at the moment. I bring her back to a walk straight from canter, which I am hoping will instil a desire to balance herself after the downward transition. I am not sure on this point though, so any ideas would be appreciated!


dressagemom said...

Try asking for shoulder-fore at the canter. Then just as you approach the corner, still in shoulder-fore, ask for the downward transition. This way she will already be engaged and (hopefully) off of her forehand by doing shoulder-fore and the corner will help to slow her down so she doesn't run off at the trot.

She might not get it at first because this will put a lot of pressure on her inside hind and she might want to run from the pressure. She'll need to build it up, but using your corners and her body positioning will help you create nice downward transitions.

This is a nice short article about shoulder-fore -


Let me know if this helps!

jme said...

it sounds as if you are on the right track. just a thought: i have found that exaggerating the inside flexion, particularly just the neck, to achieve the outside rein connection can make the horses a bit defensive of their balance, and can result in the habit of losing either the hind end or the shoulder to the outside, particularly in transitions.

i usually school horses to take the outside rein like this: walk on a circle on a loose rein; adopt a 'turning seat' (inside leg at girth, outside slightly behind, inside seat-bone forward and weighted, outside slightly back, inside shoulder BACK, outside shoulder slightly forward to follow the rein being taken forward on that side); use the inside rein very lightly behind the wither to indicate direction as needed, otherwise, keep it slack. then, gently apply the inside leg, encouraging the horse to move her ribcage away from your leg. don’t worry if she drifts laterally – that’s the point!

as the horse begins to bend, resist the urge to take up the inside rein, but instead, allow the horse's slight bend to fill out the outside rein and keep a light, following contact on the outside only. Your outside rein will now limit the lateral drift. resist the temptation to use the outside leg aggressively to stop the circle getting bigger, but just hold it in a supporting position. You will control the circle by balancing the use of your inside leg and outside rein only.

you should be able to keep the horse on the circle and slightly bent using ONLY your seat position, your inside leg and outside rein. it sounds nuts, but it works. Obviously, you won’t ride this way forever, but it is a great learning exercise for your horse because it removes any unnecessary distractions or complications, and shows just how much you can do with minimal aids (i have a big, goofy warmblood who can now canter a perfectly balanced 10m circle with no inside rein if I want!) It takes a while, but stick with it, and quit for the day once you get it the first time or two… after that, it’s a great exercise to play with while you warm up at the walk, etc.

then, as you get further on with this, (i'd recommend always making your transitions on a curved track at the beginning) you can support the inside flexion with the inside rein when you go to make your canter-walk/trot transition while half-halting the outside rein to compress the frame, bring both hind legs under, and rebalance through the transition.

anyway, i hope all of that made sense. good luck with Echo. it sounds as if you both have a bright future ahead :-)

Grey Horse Matters said...

Sounds like you are doing just fine. I agree with the other comments. So there is nothing else to add except take your time and it will all fall into place.

Rising Rainbow said...

I agree with both dressagemom and jme although I hadn't heard the term shoulder-fore before.

Daily adventures while training my young horse.