Will he ever be straight!?
Moving on from the initial steps of the Training Scale, here dressage rider and trainer, Tor Fenwick, concentrates on how to ride the young horse straight.
It’s the challenge that every rider faces at every level. The most difficult element to achieve in training is straightness. Straightness is the horses front legs and hind legs on the same two tracks and the head and neck in the centre of the chest… Straight. Sounds easy doesn’t it? However horses and riders are naturally crooked. It’s life! We all have a dominant side and so do our Equine friends.
So how do we focus on straightness on a young horse? Firstly using suppleness exercises to discover which side is the horses dominant or easier side, this will give you a starting block. For example if your horse is more supple to the right, he will naturally be more crooked that way as it’s easier for them to bend and evade aids. Usually the stiffer side is straighter, however not always the case!
Off the track
When training my young horses I try not to ride them on the track, this means that I have complete attention on where his body would like to go and I get more of a feel away from the fence. My aim is for him to go from one end of the school to the other in both of my reins and between both my legs.
I work towards this by riding him forwards and keeping an even feel in the reins. He will naturally wiggle, but every time he does try and push his body back underneath your seat bones with your legs.
Over time he will work between your legs in more of a channel instead of trying to escape them. If you are struggling, a good way to help guide both yourself and your horse is to use poles. On each long side put out tram lines. Two poles that you ride between on the second track or 3/4 line. This will help your focus and encourage you to ride more leg to hand to encourage the straightness.
When you ride any movement try to feel if he is level in both reins and you can feel his sides behind both your legs, if you can he’s straight! Whatever you train in the future you will always have to revisit straightness… so don’t feel like your the only one!
Whatever you train in the future you will always have to revisit straightness… so don’t feel like your the only one!
Patience is a virtue
When training the young horse, so many people fall into the trap of forgetting the horse knows nothing. As his teacher, you should be firm but fair and guide him through. Don’t expect him to know what you mean after the first time of asking. Explanation and repetition is everything plus a little bit of confidence.
Ensure every time you get on him you give him consistent aids, you ask the same every time, if he doesn’t understand check how you have asked and ask again. Horses are intelligent, he will get it eventually.
When training the young horse it’s about the journey, foundations for the future. He won’t always get it right, however with patience, understanding and compassion he will develop. All of a sudden you will get on and it will click, then all you have to do is work out all the other stuff!
If you missed the first part of this article please click here.
For more information on Tor, visit her website