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  1. What do horses and cheese have in common?


    Calling all riders who ride in a “school”…


    Regardless of what you are doing in the school, I want you to visualise this…..


    A cheese wedge! 
    Cheese Wedge


    As the majority of schools are fenced in, or have boards of some sort, the “track” is where we all migrate to, especially if the dimensions of the school are at most 20x40.

     Dressage-Arena-Letter-Layout-1024x962 (2)

    Being on the track is fine, however as your horse – or cheese wedge – is, well, the shape of said cheese wedge, I’ll explain…


    Viewed from above (like a bird’s eye view) when you look at the dimensions of any horse, you will notice their quarters are wider than their shoulders, and they are wider than the neck/head, hence being “wedge” shaped.

    So, as your horse walks/trots/canters along the track, supported by the fence, his hind legs on the correct track, as are his forelegs, with his neck ahead of all that, you would say he was “straight”, BUT he isn’t. Nope, not one bit. UNLESS you are supporting his shoulders and riding towards a “shoulder fore” shape, THEN he will be straight.

    Look at the diagram below, the “horse” is on the track, as is the “cheese wedge” BUT notice the angle they are both at when allowed to “follow the fence. You should see that when we talk about “straight” we need to fire an imaginary arrow directly through the horse’s nose/chest/dock (tail), with the hind legs stepping into, or over the tracks of the fore feet. When the horse follows the track with no support, the quarters are naturally to the inside, and the horse automatically “falls out” through the outside shoulder.

    cheese wedge and horse

    So? I hear you say. Well, once your horse loses balance, as he will once you turn away from the track, that is when being on the track becomes a problem. The moment you turn off the track, lets say to ride a 20mtr circle in the middle of the school, the problems have already begun, to turn you know HOW to make the turn, (for the purpose of this example I will say you are riding on the right rein), so you put your outside leg behind the girth, you look where you want to go, you use the outside rein and inside for guidance, all theoretically correct, BUT, as you ask your horse to step off the track he feels “stiff” or “wooden” or likewise, and it is like turning a ship! Your first ¼ of the circle is wobbly at best, the horse is out of balance, flexing at the poll, NOT bending through his body, (looking the right way but that’s all) and your circle resembles a dodecahedron!


    But I rode it “right”, so why have I managed to invent a new type of move?!


    Well, it is easy, because you were on the track, the horse’s quarters were already on an inward incline, his outside shoulder was loaded and he was anything BUT straight to begin with, you then asked him to create a shape which his body was simply unprepared for. He was effectively going left while you were going right!

    So, lets rewind this and look at how your horse could have achieved what was required.

    You are riding down the long side, BUT you have his shoulders and body straight, his quarters are following his forelegs, his shoulder is not glued to the fence and to achieve that, you have already created a small amount of bend around your inside leg, SO, you approach your circle in the middle, you ride it EXACTLY the same as previous, BUT this time your horse already has balance, straightness and is capable of bending the correct way. This creates a perfectly formed circle which has no straight sides or looks like a drunk squirrel was in charge of the reins!

    All this began BEFORE THE CIRCLE, by being aware of your horse’s shoulders not being on the track!

    As a matter of course we should all ride on the inner track for periods of time, not sure how far in? Well, imagine you have a friend riding at the side of you, but they are on the track, you are on the inside of them, this will highlight how much you MUST support the outside of your horse, it is not just about the inside of them, the outside is equally important. You will also feel how much your horse migrates back to the track!

    Riding circles in open areas is also a great highlighter of the outside support, your inside leg is for the horse to bend AROUND your OUTSIDE aids create the bend.

    This is not only important for flatwork but also jumping, I categorically guarantee your horse will jump better once you sort the cheese wedge out. I promise.

     Happy Riding peeps, remember, stay off the track! 




  2. Catching up with our sponsored rider Philippa.

    champs rosettes

    When Sharon asked me to write a blog, I wasn’t quite sure where to start. I’ve never written one before, so this is a first. And it’s a theme of ‘firsts’ that I’m going to stick with.


    As you’ll know from the introductory post, Wiggins is the first ex-racehorse that I’ve owned. Through him I’ve had my first attempts at affiliated dressage, ridden at my first championships and had my first broken bones! But I’ve also had many firsts since working with Sharon – not just when I’m riding like when we tried our first flying changes – but unmounted as well, through our mindset sessions.


    As a typical Yorkshire lass, I’ve been very much brought up to have a ‘get on with it’ attitude – we’re very hardy us Yorkshire folk. Counselling, therapy, mindset and anything else in that sort of vein have never been something that’s been on my radar. When Sharon said a monthly mindset session was part of the sponsorship, I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was sceptical. However, they are not like I expected. I have learned so much about what I can and can’t control, how to deal with the things I can’t control, how to turn a perceived negative into a positive, how to reduce tension when riding…the list goes on. The sessions really are helping me to reframe things and put a positive spin on them when they don’t go the way I wanted or hoped. And I’m not being paid to say this.


    Take the RoR regional championships as an example. Last year, they were an unmitigated disaster (and I know that’s not putting a positive spin on it, but they really were). Someone even told me I should have Wiggins put to sleep because he was ‘screwed in the head’. I was determined to qualify again this year but was incredibly anxious about them, hoping it wouldn’t be a repeat performance.


    I worry about everything – from the weather to the warm-up arena, to thinking I’ll forget the test halfway through to Wiggins being beside himself with fear. So dragging myself out to the champs again was a big ask. BUT! During the mindset sessions we worked on a plan for the warm-up, we worked on what to do if it was raining, we worked on what to do if the test went wrong, we worked on what to do if Wiggins was wound up. And as if someone knew all the things that we’d been working on, when the day came for the champs, we had all the above thrown at us!


    The weather was dire, I forgot a bit of the test (which I haven’t told Sharon) and lost 2 marks, the warm-up was packed, and Wiggins was shaking like a leaf as soon as I pulled the trailer ramp down. But do you know what? Despite all of that we came 3rd – just missing out on our qualifying ticket for the nationals at Aintree. And do you know why? Because I stuck to the plan. When I saw Wiggins was shaking, I knew I had to be calm for him so I focused on my breathing and stayed calm. When it was absolutely pouring down, I just thought, ‘What’s the worst that can happen? We’ll get wet.’ When the warm-up arena was packed, I stuck to my guns and did the warm-up I wanted to do. When the judge rang the bell to say I’d gone wrong, I just re-rode the movement correctly without panicking. And doing all that paid off. And it was everything we’d talked about during our mindset sessions. 

     wiggins champs

    Sharon’s talking about hypnosis next…my next blog might have pictures of me dancing like a chicken – who knows?! (I don’t think that’s what she has in mind.)