Category Archives: School Exercises


When meandering round the school on a long rein giving your horse a break what sort of a shape are you making in the arena? Is it like anything you’ve ever seen in a dressage test?

1 what shape

Essentially, even when relaxing (let us not forget the horse only does circa 1 hour out of 24 in work and gets lots of breaks in that time) you should ensure that you are on a correct circle, or that when you change the rein you do it across a diagonal or in a loop, when walking around the outside track you ensure you are using the corners.

It’s all part of conditioning the horse to the movements required in a test and to listen and be in-tune with you whatever you are doing – even having a break!

Next time you are relaxing, please put in more effort to get it right!


Patricia – The Dressage Tipster


67328_348660735237784_47607227_n644490_348660741904450_501584849_nAre you aware of the power of working your horse in a long and low frame?

I am making a clear distinction here between Long, deep and round – Low, deep and round – and Long and Low. Because my horse is young, 80% of my training is done in a long and low frame with the poll never coming above the level of the withers until the last 10 minutes of the session.

So, how do you achieve a long and low frame?

48145_348661341904390_52763903_nAllow your horse walk on a long rein and when you take up the contact, take it slowly, maintaining soft, following hands on a longer rein that you usually school with.

When ready for trot ensure it is forward (this is essential), keep your hands low, use your fingers to squeeze and release the inside rein. Ideally your horse will drop his head for a stride or two and travel with a round frame. You want him to seek the bit forward, you need to maintain a contact but do not hold the horse together, if all is well he will offer to stretch down but you must give and react quickly enough to ensure that your horse is rewarded for his efforts.

If you get a bit wobbly in your seat it’s because you are relying on your hands for balance! This is BAD and another good reason to work your horse long and low is to improve your own balance and reduce dependence upon your hands.

You will definitely know if you have got it. Your horses back will lift up to your seat. This lifting sensation is unmistakeable and exactly as described. Sensational!

This is an emotive subject … see pictures and feel free to comment.

Patricia – The Dressage Tipster


Training Focus

… Are you aware of everything that is going on around you? Are you easily distracted when riding?

Being focused and keeping training focus is not so easy … a simple, way to keep your focus is to imagine you are being watched (you probably are if you have dogs!)

Training FocusAfter all, in your training sessions or in a test it’s all about how you are perceived, how your training progression is going and to assess you, they need to watch you perform.

Imagine then, that there is a judge at A and a judge at E, every single time you ride.  It’s a sure fire way to ensure you are maintaining your training focus on what you are trying to achieve and not getting distracted.

How many of you, when competing, forget to ride?  What I mean is how many of you actually ride the test like you would when you are training in the arena at home?  Pop in a slight shoulder fore if needed, steady the pace, give  a sharper aid.  My partner once popped a 10m circle into a test where it wasn’t required!  He needed to get the horses attention and encourage more bend.  He got 2 penalty points for error of course but a 9 for his riding, because the judge knew exactly what he had done and why.

Ask your trainer to occasionally give you marks for your movements.  I often get a random “FIVE” shouted out in a training session which is Mark’s way of saying “not good enough!”  I have to figure out why it was a five to improve.  Likewise, he’ll sometimes say “that was an eight”  (although not very often!) which is his equivalent of “good”

Thinking about being judged in your training is a good way of ensuring that when you get in front of a judge you actually ride as if you were training and not ‘going through the motions’.

A word of caution though, this does not mean give a demo every time you ride! Simply ensure your riding would consistently get a minimum mark of 8, strive for 9, maybe even a 10!

As always, have fun.

Patricia – The Dressage Tipster

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Quick Tip to aid your accuracy in the arena.

To aid your accuracy before your schooling session, use a rake in the arena to draw a straight line from A to C and then again from B to E.

This will help you to work out if your circles and shapes are accurate. It will also show you if your straight lines are straight.

Don’t forget you will be penalised heavily by the judges if you are not accurate. It is the most basic of requirements and never the fault of the horse!1 accuracy

Patricia – The Dressage Tipster

ANY IDIOT CAN DO Dressage in Walk!

I like dressage in walk.

dressage in walkI can sit beautifully (!), I can establish whatever movement I want to do in Walk, I can actually do laterals properly – shoulder in, travers, half pass in Walk.  And, I’m good at it … 😉   Moving up to trot and then canter is a different matter.

I remember an instructor of mine many years ago saying “any idiot can do it in walk” – nice! dressage in walk

Try this exercise in walk to improve your co-ordination and supple your horse.
  • On a circle establish the bend
  • Ask for shoulder-fore  on the circle
    • by bringing the inside leg forward a little to move the shoulder out
    • capture the movement of the shoulder with the outside rein
    • the inside hand should be a fraction higher than the outside
    • look 3 metres in front of you across the circle
    • it is essential that your shoulders are level with those of the horse
    • you are looking for a little more bend than you would normally see on the circle
  • Allow a quarter of the circle in shoulder fore and then release the shoulder and continue on the circle
  • Next, you should ask for quarters-in
    • by bringing the outside leg back a little
    • again hold everything with the outside rein
    • weight into the inside seat-bone
    • shoulders level with the horses
    • looking 3 metres in front of you across the circle
    • again, just a shift in is sufficient, a little more bend than you would normally see on the circle

dressage in walk

Alternate between shoulder-fore and quarters-in on the circle for about 6 circles, then go straight and give your horse the rein to have a good stretch. Perhaps pop into a stretchy trot to loosen and free everything up, before you go again on the opposite rein.

Then you can move up to the trot and canter exercises, knowing that your horse is capable of the flexibility required for the movement.
It’s just a matter of perfect practice to get it in the faster gaits.  If you struggle, come back to walk, go through the movement again and give it another go and remember, your horse must put in as much effort as you.  A clean, active, forward thinking walk is a must if you are using it to strengthen your progression.

Patricia – The Dressage Tipster
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1 building blocksCreating a happy horse is helped by making sure that you build the work gradually, both the quantity and the difficulty. Do not ‘over face’ your horse – you will not be rewarded.

You would not put up a huge jump for an inexperienced youngster, so why ask an inexperienced youngster to do advanced work that his body is not ready for?


This is particularly true for maintaining impulsion in the trot. It takes months for the horse to build the muscles and stamina to maintain a good level of impulsion. Be patient.

If you do not do sit-ups regularly, get down on the floor and see how many you can do today. Do the same tomorrow and the day after, they’ll be getting harder! Think of your horses development in the same light, it will get easier but it will take months for you to build up to 50 / 100 per day.

Think of each sit-up as the equivalent to your horses trot steps using impulsion. Start with 5-10 steps and build up very slowly until your horse is fit enough to easily execute this very, very demanding work.

Listen to your horse, if he cannot maintain the work, he could be tired, or have aching muscles. Let him rest and try again next time.


Everything I post has the word balance in it somewhere. Ensuring you are ‘in balance’ with the horse whilst he is constantly changing centre of gravity takes time to learn.

The trick is relaxation of the lower body, which includes those buttocks as mentioned in an earlier post. The upper body remains upright, supporting itself.

You should strive for the lower body to be completely independent of the upper body. Feel like you could unscrew yourself from the waist and separate the two parts. Aids with the legs should absolutely not affect the upper body.1 balance

You can achieve this by noticing whether you are collapsing in the upper body with the effort of the leg aids, if this is the case, re-establish your position and try again until your leg is able to go ‘on’ and ‘off’ independently of the rest of your body. Once again, you could be putting in too much effort!

It will take much practise, but just being aware of when you have achieved it and more importantly, when it is all going wrong will help you get there.