Exercises to help with Collected Canter

Real Life Rider Lee asked me … ‘what advice would you give to help with collected canter’.  A really good question, the answer to which will help many.  Here’s what I think …

  1. Variations in Strides

First thing to do is to make sure you have properly established the working to medium so go for lots of variations in the stride, ‘on and back’ to get you and your horse used to the control of the variation in pace that is required, utilising paces you know you can do. 5-8 strides of each.  I am assuming you know how to do these on the basis that collection only comes into tests at Elementary/Medium level so working to medium trot should be well established.

  1. Walk to Canter / Canter to Walk

Secondly, one you are entirely happy that you have control over the variation and that means, you can control the number of strides, go for working canter to walk / walk to canter to get your horse absolutely on the seat and aids and encourage more hind leg.  Again walk to canter is in the Novice test, so you should be accomplished with this.

Here we know that good very much begets good.  You will not get a good walk unless you have a good canter and you will not get a good canter if you do not have a good walk.  Quality over quantity.  The canter should be relaxed and forward before you ask for the walk transition.  If the transition is rushed, walk until you are happy with the quality of the walk, only then ask for the canter.

  1. Introduce Collection

Thirdly, the rules state “The horse’s strides are shorter than in the other canters, without losing elasticity and cadence. The hocks should be well engaged, maintaining an energetic impulsion, enabling the shoulders to move with good mobility thus demonstrating self-carriage and an uphill tendency.”

I would pick up the working canter and introduce collecting the stride on the short side and immediately back to working canter on long side.  Go for 5 strides.

To shorten the horse’s stride you need to sit taller and lengthen your spine. With multiple half-halts in rhythm with the horse’s strides you will engage the hindquarters. With the half halts, sit up taller on the corner as you go in, slow your upper body, slow your seat and as soon as your horse responds give him a pat and canter on.

Your seat becomes quieter but it is still the forward aid. Often described as ‘bouncing the horse’ because the energy that produces the length of the stride now creates the height of the stride.  The idea is to get him responsive and enjoying it and really ‘sitting’, he will only achieve this by a gradual build-up of strides that he can physically do easily.Collected Canter


  • Insufficient leg will allow the horse onto the forehand or to break into the trot or walk.
  • Don’t try to do it for too long, when introducing the work, your horse will probably drop into trot if you do.
  • Do nothing with your reins other than half-halt. No pulling!
  • Go back to working/medium after the exercise because the last thing you want is for your horse to start offering a piddly little canter. He must be forward and loose.
  1. More Collected Canter

Finally, and yes I know, it’s always a long process but to encourage you both to keep the quality of the canter use exercises.  Make your circle smaller, I would collect on the short side and pop in a 10m circle and a few collected strides out of the circle and push him on and back into working canter.

Ride slight shoulder-fore, the focus should always remain on the quality of the canter and balance. Never continue with the exercises when quality diminishes because it can ruin your horse’s confidence. Teach him that when the work becomes a little harder, he must keep his activity and alignment.  Over time your horse will build the strength to carry you and be able to do a good expressive canter when collecting and most importantly he will be on your aids and under control.

balanced positionAt all times concentrate on your position and the clarity of your aids.

As your horse becomes more comfortable with compressing his stride, you can use increasingly difficult exercises such as counter canter, half passes and working pirouettes.

Hope that helps.

Patricia – The Dressage Tipster


Haynet – Cream Of The Crop

How much do I love the blogging network Haynet?  I love living in the country, horse riding, farming, dog walking and all that outdoorsy stuff so I guess I am typical of Haynet’s target audience.  I also love reading stories from real people about their horsey and countryside antics.; finding out about the day-to-day lives and loves and making connections with like-minded folks.  If you have passion for any of the above you too will love Haynet and I think you should take a look round and join us!

I say US because I am now a fully fledged member of the team having recently been asked to become a member of the very exclusive “Cream of the Crop Club”. 

This club enrolls writers from the world of blogging who write great content and have a wide following – (Haynet’s description not mine)

It’s all about the capacity to review and promote products or services and reach a wide audience.  You may recall when Haynet featured purely equestrian blogs that I won Equestrian Blogger of the Year 2014, since then Haynet has relaunched with a new colour branding and expanded the audience out beyond equestrianism to countryside and farming matters.



  1. Catherine Louise Birmingham is an internationally acclaimed dressage rider and world class trainer and pioneer in both human and animal behaviour
  2. Black and White Eventing is the pairing of Nikki Goldup, eventing mum, blogger and social media fanatic, and Wayward Wanderer known as Wanda or ‘The Flying Cow Pony’.
  3. Jessica Challinor – Of Gee Gee and Me fame.  A writer and enthusiast of all things equine. With her horse Oscar she trials and tests, extensively researching products before she buys.
  4. Lil ole me! Patricia Pitt – The Dressage Tipster

I have exciting plans for the blog this year, including my new e-book which features a number of my equestrian blogging pals and their No. 1 tips for sitting trot; news about my competition journey with my beautiful mare A.K. and of course the reviews for Haynet Cream of the Crop Club as well as the usual tips and treats you are familiar with.

Looking forward to sharing with you – See ya there!

Patricia – The Dressage Tipster


My Most Used Warm Up Routine

I am often asked the best way to warm up your horse for the training session ahead and this is something that I used to struggle with myself.  Exactly what is it I am trying to achieve, and how?

I have a number of routines that I use depending on the horse and what sort of work is planned but nine times out of ten I follow the same path, which not only helps me ensure that I am warming up my horse correctly but also helps to settle my horse if she is in a different environment.  Vertical 2Doing the same old warm up routine she does every session at home is familiar and well within her comfort zone (and mine!)

The other benefit is that when you are used to a specific routine you can become very proficient at it and can make adjustments to get you back on track if and when required in a strange environment, like at a competition.

Continue reading My Most Used Warm Up Routine

Annus Horribilis – Looking Forward to 2017


Hey guys, I’m really sorry I have been a little absent of late.  2016 Has been my annus horribilis!  After a very long illness my beloved mother lost her fight for life on 22 November 2016.  It was a blessed release.

I am thankful for the time I had with mum, I am grateful that I was lucky enough to have been her daughter and I will hold her in my heart forever.

I will honour her by living my life to the full and making 2017 my ‘optimus anno aeternum’ or ‘Best Year Ever’.

I hope you will join me as the blog picks up momentum again.  I have lots planned, just need to get my head sorted over the festive period and get some rest so that I can hit the ground running come January.

Have fun and look out for each other.

Patricia – The Dressage Tipster



5 Equestrian Blogs I Highly Recommend

I am privileged to have connected to many equestrians throughout the time I have been blogging not least some fellow bloggers who have amazing talent to share with you.  Check out these entertaining and informative equestrian blogs that I highly recommend. Continue reading 5 Equestrian Blogs I Highly Recommend

The Gift of Dressage Inspiration

“This book has completely recharged and refocused me.  It is simply brilliant.  I now know for sure that we can do it!  It took a while to get into the mind-set needed; it all seemed a little overwhelming, too much knowledge and not enough skill, I guess!  But with the help of this book we are achieving little victories every single session.  I am smiling and grinning all over the place.

As Patricia says ‘It’s an exciting and rewarding journey’ and it really is.”

Amanda Sensitive to the aidsCrowley – Amateur Dressage Enthusiast

“Patricia talks about riding mechanically and lack of feel, despite having a good knowledge base, I think this will be so liberating to hear for many riders, it certainly struck a chord with me.  I love the fact that finally, as a result of this book, I have a support system and structure that helps me to work out solutions to problems and it’s not rocket science!

Thank you for enlightening me, Patricia”

Helen Mathie – MSc Vet Phys BSc (Hons) MCSP HPC ACPAT

The Crystal System Dressage“Full of amazing training tips and insights on how to fix problems and achieve your goals.  I am bursting with enthusiasm and get up and go!  Keep it simple.  Don’t try to completely change the way you ride in one day.  You are so right Patricia! Written in an easy, understandable style, you will have fun reading this book.

The explanations are awesome.  A must read for all riders.”

Sue Clark – Motueka Dressage, New Zealand

Give the gift of dressage inspiration for Christmas or treat yourself to a fantastic 2017 season!

Click HERE or on a book image to buy the book.facebook-campaign-3-copy

“I would recommend The Crystal System to all riders, whatever their level.

Basically for anyone that needs clarity and direction.”

Daisy Jackson – DJ Dressage

Hands Still Moving – Help Me

The Real Life Rider Series

From our video coaching service we received the following question.

Can you see if you can pinpoint why I struggle to keep my hands relatively still?”

This is a really common problem where a rider will recognise this problem and concentrate on trying to keep the hands still, believing that somewhere in the arms and hands lies the problem.  Fact is that the issue is coming from the centre of the body and is nothing to do with the extremities.  Simply put the rider’s ‘centre of balance’ is off.

From the video provided by the rider she had a slightly forward positioning of her upper body, throughout her ride.  Her horse was naturally built uphill but even so, he was finding it difficult to engage his hindquarters as well as he might due to the riders balance issues.

The first thing we noticed was that for the majority of the ride the riders toes were pointing down, and her hands as she rightly pointed out ‘moved too much’.  Her horse was ‘on the forehand’.   Now there’s ‘on the forehand’ and there’s ‘on the forehand’.  This horse was not dragging himself around with the front legs, but he is technically ‘on the forehand’ because, firstly the rider had explained that  she feels he is too much in her hand most of the time and secondly we could see from the video that the horse was trailing out behind with too much weight on the shoulder.  He should ‘sit’ more.

What to do to keep the hands still?

Continue reading Hands Still Moving – Help Me

8 Tips To Help Your Brain Retain Instruction

Quite why I am unable to recreate all the good work I do when my coach is standing in the middle of the manege has always been a bit of a mystery to me.  It is a sad fact that I rarely put in as much physical effort when schooling alone and it is the encouragement of my trainer that tends to galvanise my resilience and fortitude, but instructor dependence can be soul destroying.

It seems that those riders that do not have an issue with this have trained their brain to retain the instruction and have a mind-set that creates a hugely powerful incentive to adopt certain behaviours or choices that are critical to training success. No matter what has gone on in their day they have the determination to put everything aside for the ride.

But how do you retain that instruction?

Continue reading 8 Tips To Help Your Brain Retain Instruction

Make Contact, BUT Make It Useful

Developing a clear, non-verbal language with your horse means making a connection and this is where your dressage journey begins.  Without a useful  contact, as a dressage rider you will be unable to communicate with your horse; you will be unable to ‘engage in any type of conversation’ or convey any message effectively.  It’s a really widespread problem.

Establishing the contact, maintaining a contact, making a connection, being above the bit, getting behind the bit, head tilting, head wobbling/shaking, strong contact, soft contact; there are a myriad of issues, so for those of you that need help let’s explore a little further.

What Do I Mean by Useful Contact?

Continue reading Make Contact, BUT Make It Useful

Celebrate the Small Wins

There I was, stood looking at the results board, whilst she grinned from ear to ear, chattering away with her entourage, she had every right to be celebrating her victory … again!!!

I don’t really know her well, just know her name really from being at the top of the leader board and I may have taken a peek at her facebook page, so I didn’t have to celebrate with her, a mumbled ‘well done’ with a touch on the arm was sufficient.  Turning away with a heavy sigh, I could feel the weight of defeat heavy against my chest. It had happened again, just like before, I bombed out!  There has to be a silver lining in it all, right?

If I was going to fail at every competition, then it was time to stop and take a moment to celebrate the small wins.  Not the red rosette, the 70%+ score, or the Regional Qualification, no.  Instead, I’m talking about celebrating the small stuff; the little things that most brush off as no big deal or not good enough, particularly when the goal is to be competitive.  I’m talking about actively looking for the wins and celebrating them.  Here are some small win examples from my last outing: Continue reading Celebrate the Small Wins

Award Winning Equestrian Blog