Tips for Improving Horse and Rider Straightness with Caroline Harris


Tips for Improving Horse and Rider Straightness with Caroline Harris

We asked British event rider Caroline Harris to demonstrate a few exercises to improve both horse and rider straightness.

On a wet, grey day in October, at the end of the eventing season, Caroline’s competition string horses were away enjoying a well-deserved break at grass.

So, she is shown here, demonstrating the exercises on two horses at very different stages of their careers.  The first is D-Day, a 4 year old eventer who had just arrived, complete with furry coat (!) for an assessment of his potential and some cross country schooling.  The second is a 6 year old showjumper, Miss Pepperpot, whose suitability is being assessed for a career switch to eventing.



For this exercise, focus on trotting a straight line down the long side of the arena and then come back to walk before the corner.  Then make sure you walk a really square corner and have the horse bent round your inside leg so they are not falling in, or out.  Then move the horse back up to trot on the short side and then walk again and repeat the exercise in each corner.

Keep working on improving every upwards and downward transition so they are soft and over the back; and you should find the transitions improve as you repeat the exercise.

Repeat the exercise as many times as necessary until the horse is really listening to every transition and staying balanced in the corners.


To improve your horse’s straightness place some raised trot poles about a metre apart out. Here I have used old dressage marker rails instead of trot poles.

Trotting poles head on
Trotting poles head on

Repeat roughly 3 times on each rein (more on an older stronger horse)

Allow horses to work it out for themselves. They may make mistakes to begin with, so just be patient.


A good exercise to improve the horse’s straightness in canter is to set out 2 canter poles a random distance apart and then canter each one and count the strides you get in between and make sure you stay dead straight in the middle.  Before you start, identify a point at the end of the arena to focus on.

With more experienced horses, you can deliberately vary the strides you do between each pole. See below.

Note images 2 and 3 above, the poles are closer together.

Repeat until you can constantly get the stride pattern you want.

Stay tall in your position making sure you go over the centre of the poles. Make sure you are effective with your aids, either strong in your seat to hold them together for a collected stride pattern or effective in sending the horse forward for a more open stride pattern.


For this exercise, position 2 skinny fillers with V rails on each side, 4 strides apart.

Once you have mastered that, you can then take V rails down and see how the straightness has improved.

Remember to stay tall and strong in your core.

  1. RIDER STRAIGHTNESS – No stirrups

For this, take your stirrups away and first of all look at yourself in an arena mirror in halt with no stirrups to make sure you are sat straight.

If you don’t have a mirror, just try and focus straight ahead at a fixed point ahead of you and think of where your seat and hips are.  If you have someone on the ground ask them to stand behind you and check your seat position.

Start out in sitting trot with no stirrups and have a neck strap to hold onto.


Another really good exercise which you can do with or without stirrups, is to ride with one hand. Canter round just with one hand on the reins and then swap. This is a really good way to check that you are riding from your body and seat rather than from your hands.

For more training articles, see our riding/training category…click here.

With thanks to Caroline Harris and her rides, Miss Pepperpot and D-Day (pictured below)



Caroline Harris with Sam Griffiths-by Angus Murray.
Caroline Harris with Sam Griffiths-image by Angus Murray.


28 year old, Caroline Harris, has shared a yard, for the past 6 seasons, with Australian Olympic medallist, Sam Griffiths, in Dorset and has already achieved notable successes, bringing young horses up through the eventing ranks and achieving highly consistent results at international level.

In the past three season, Caroline has rarely been out of the top 10 in the international events she has entered, with horses including Billy Bumble, Woodlands Springtime and Falko TH.  Last season Caroline achieved her first placing in a Burghley Young Event Horse Final with the 4 year old Chillis Midnight Star at the 2018 Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials.

Caroline has schooling livery spaces available from time to time and is available for training and tuition.  She is supported by Gatehouse Hats, Devoucoux saddles, Falcon and Omega Equine Feeds, Kentucky Equine Horsewear (in association with Just Equine) and Rodney Powell Safetywear.


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