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Category: Training Guide and Information

  1. Horses and Cheese Wedges....

    Posted on

    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. Lateral work checklist...

    Posted on

    Lateral Work Checklist..


    When you are riding lateral movements, do you have a checklist?

    1) Plan ahead; It may sound silly, but I have witnessed on many occasions a rider suddenly deciding to ride a movement on the spur of the moment with no planning, therefore resulting in the horse not understanding the aid.

    2) Prepare the movement; this goes hand in hand with the planning ahead, you have planned where to ride your movement, now you need to prepare the movement you plan to ride, so half-halt, prepare your position, prepare your approach..

    3) Execute the movement; if you have planned and prepared, now your movement should be ridden..

    4) FINISH the movement; this section is very, very often forgotten, if you have ridden into a movement, you MUST ride OUT of it too! It may feel natural to let your horse straighten itself after a few steps of your movement, BUT this is a bad habit to allow your horse to get in to, your horse should stay in the movement until YOU change it!

    Of all the above pointers, number 4 is most often overlooked, FINISH your movement, and by that I don't mean get to your marker and let your horse carry on as if the movement had never happened, you MUST FINISH what you started, so if you are riding shoulder in for example, you set your horse up, you ride the movement, but what happens at the end? Well a variety of answers can be given, but the correct one would be you apply the aids for the following movement, lets say it is a transition to canter, so you half halt, straighten your horse and then apply your canter aid, this enables your horse to remain on your aids and ready to complete the next task asked of him. This is just one example, but it could just as easily be a trot leg-yield to a walk transition, or a half pass to a flying change, the principles are the same, know where you are going to ride, prepare how you are going to ride, ride the movement then ride OUT of that movement, various levels of knowledge (horse and rider!) will determine what exercise is appropriate, but no matter what level, the 4 pointers on the checklist are compulsory.

    Next time you school, have this in mind and notice if there are any pointers missing from your training!