Tipster’s Tidbit – Tall, Taller, Tallest

I was struggling with my balance at the weekend so I am sharing with you a conversation I had with my wonderful mentor about sitting tall and finding neutral spine.

So, sitting on his horse in a very tongue in cheek manner he said …

Vertical 2“watch and learn, I’m sitting upright in my saddle, pelvis is level, leg is soft and draped over my horse’s side, my position is already great.  I sit tall”

Then he sat up a little more, lifting his shoulders, relaxing his arms

“Now I’m even better.  I sit taller.”

Then he stretched up through his neck as though he is being pulled up by the ears.

“Now I could give Charlotte a run for her money! I sit tallest”

So, to get me thinking about my position and sitting tall, he had me riding round saying  to myself …

Tall, Taller, Tallest

“This is a really good position” and “Yes, I can do this” and “Tall, taller, tallest”, despite it not being great and despite my struggles the lesson a) made me feel really good about myself and my riding and b) improved my position.

Try it, it’ll make you happy.

Patricia – The Dressage Tipster


How To Time Your Canter Depart

Most horses will understand your canter aid whenever it is given and be willing to depart into canter as soon as they can.  But if you’re having trouble; if your horse is sensitive; if you truly want your horse to progress through the levels or if you’re riding a horse that’s trained to a higher level than you, you will want to give your aids at the right moment.

Do you …

  • Know which leg is doing what through your seat?
  • Time your canter depart aids in conjunction with your horse’s footfalls?
  • Time your aid to coincide with the exact moment that the outside hind is about to come to the ground?

Continue reading How To Time Your Canter Depart

Novice Test – Counter Canter

You are the proud rider of a horse that you have trained to strike off on the correct canter lead; you can maintain the canter and balance and now it’s time to begin thinking about counter canter.

Counter canter is found in Novice dressage tests upwards and it’s a tricky one  because if your horse is anything like mine she just did not want to stay in counter canter, preferring to change legs (not yet my sweet another couple of levels until we get to that) or drop into trot (we worked hard to eliminate that some time ago!)

Counter canter is when your horse is cantering on the opposite lead to the direction it is going in.  So the horse will be on the left leg whilst cantering on the right rein. Continue reading Novice Test – Counter Canter

Rising Trot Diagonal – Feel It

Recognising the influence we have with our seat early in our dressage career is essential.  Only then can we begin to appreciate how very generous our horses are for allowing us to ride them at all.  We owe it to them to try and be ‘at one’ with them for this honour.

How many riders are able to feel the movement of their horse’s hind leg through their seat and really understand what is happening underneath them?

In the Trot …

  • Do you need to visually check your diagonal when rising?
  • Is it automatic to you and always correct?
  • Can you feel when you take the wrong diagonal?
  • Do you think about the hind legs as you go into trot so that you are absolutely clear which diagonal you are rising on?

If you do not you are not alone.  Often riders have a tendency to think about the front of the horse to help achieve the correct diagonal.  We are told that as the outside shoulder comes back we should sit and if it is incorrect, sit for one beat and rise again.

Continue reading Rising Trot Diagonal – Feel It

Q11 – Are You Head Bobbing?

The head is essentially a 10 to 15 pound bowling ball at the top of your neck. Good head alignment means that you use a minimum amount of muscular effort to hold up your head, allowing the skeleton to do most of the work. When your head is well-aligned front to back, you can lengthen through your spine all the way through the top of your head.  This counters the downward force of gravity.

Whenever there is tension in the core of a rider’s body be that pelvis, lower back, abs, lats, you will notice it at the extremities of the body in the form of moving hands, jiggly feet, unstable lower leg or most noticeably bobbing head. Continue reading Q11 – Are You Head Bobbing?

Q12 – Are Your Legs Under Control?

“Nag, nag, nag, nag, nag, nag, nag, … why not give your horse a break and see whether he’ll keep moving if your legs stop flapping – it’s worth a try!”

Legs Artist – Zella Strickland

I am a big believer in putting the leg on and then always immediately off – a squeeze and release.  This assumes that your legs are hanging gently at your horse’s side and only being used when needed and not clamped on for dear life or bump, bump, bumping with every stride.

Continue reading Q12 – Are Your Legs Under Control?

Q10 – Are your arms relaxed?

As humans we depend greatly on our hands. Our arms and hands are our first line of defense for balancing ourselves in everyday life. Instinct can take over and force you to use your hands for balance.  Hanging onto the reins for balance is not entirely the fault of your hands because the hands only come into play as other balance mechanisms fail.  The problem is inevitably elsewhere. You will not be able to develop good hands if you are experiencing balance problems elsewhere because as a human you will use your hands for balance.

ArmsStop for a minute and think about what you are doing with your hands. The reins are an extension of your arms, the bit runs through your horse’s mouth.  Next time you are on board make a conscious decision to be aware of your arms.

Give Yourself a Cuddle

Continue reading Q10 – Are your arms relaxed?

Q8 – Are You Bouncing In The Saddle?

I guess most of you would say no to self-assessment question # 8 : Are you bouncing in the saddle? but I am specifically thinking about sitting trot.  Now if I ask again, what would your answer be?  For many of you the answer will still be no, but for many more I’m sure it’s a resounding yes.

Whilst you are learning sitting trot, absorbing the shock waves created by the horse’s movement means you get ‘out of phase’ with movement and begin to feel the bounce.  In the trot, here’s what is happening … Continue reading Q8 – Are You Bouncing In The Saddle?

Q7 – Are You Blocking With Your Seat?

Hi Guys.  Today’s topic is a great one and one I’ve worked really hard to achieve, it’s a work in progress for me but worth the effort.

So many riders don’t realise they are actually working against their horses movement by just sitting on the saddle and by not utilising the hips to follow the natural motion of the horse.  So ask yourself …

Self-Assessment Question #7 : Are You Blocking With Your Seat?

Your seat must follow the horse’s motion in a rhythmical way in order to allow the horse to move forward. If you say ‘go’ with your leg aids but your seat does not immediately follow the forward swing of the horse’s hips as he picks up a hind foot, you WILL restrict forward motion – guaranteed!

There are a number of common symptoms of tense hips that would inhibit your ability to correctly follow your horse’s motion and block his movement. You may be …

  • Collapsing at the belly button in an effort to absorb the motion.
  • Pumping with your upper body at the canter.
  • Leaning back and driving with your seat.

Tense hips will cause bouncing, head bobbing, flying elbows and lower leg flapping.  However, do not despair, there’s plenty that can be done about it.

You will need to work on thinking tall and elegant and transferring any rocking/blocking to the pelvis instead of the upper body. Continue reading Q7 – Are You Blocking With Your Seat?

Q6 – Can You Influence Your Horse’s Paces

Self Assessment Question #6 in the ’99 Questions’ series of blogs.  A series looking a little more closely at those insightful questions in the report that I give you completely free of charge when you sign up for to get the Crystal System blogs into your inbox.   There is something for everyone; beginners, trainers, novice and Grand Prix riders.Influence

  • Do you fully understand the influence your body is having on your horse’s way of going?
  • Are you able to influence the paces, lengthen and shorten the stride?
  • Are you able to straighten a horse that is going off-line?

Of course, everything we do influences our horse’s way of going.  It is worth taking on board the primary message I have for you –

‘If you get the right response when you ask correctly, it surely follows that if you get the wrong response, you may not be asking correctly”. 

Continue reading Q6 – Can You Influence Your Horse’s Paces

Award Winning Equestrian Blog