Category Archives: Tipster’s A to Z

Z – IS FOR Zzzzz

ZPreserving the horse’s health and well-being and promoting a longer working life means a healthy mind and body.

It is not uncommon for the Dressage horse to become bored with its daily routine and as a result become stale in the arena.  If this happens, it can be very difficult for you to motivate your horse to work well for you.  To stop your horse from getting into this mindset you should allow him time in the field, on the walker, grooming etc, have some quality time with him outside of the arena.  Where possible, you should follow your schooling sessions with a small hack, somewhere safe where you can allow him to relax down and enjoy the environment.

Here’s what to do … to spice up your horse’s life if you feel he may be getting stale.

  1. Do some in-hand desensitising work, flappy bags, tarpaulins, umberellas, flags, flowers.  You will need to ensure that your horse can cope with all of these when you get to national level competition.
  2. Set up some poles and/or cones and work around and through them
  3. Put some music on
  4. Pick a goal and achieve it.  Ensure that you are both working towards the same goal and you are working together.
  5. Work with a friend.  Perhaps run through some test moves and do a ‘pas de deux’

BoreeIt is not a nice feeling when you know that your horse is not enjoying his work; when you have passion for Dressage but your horse does not, it is vital that you introduce something else to ‘pep’ your horse’s interest.  If you don’t you may damage your friendship and that would be devastating.

This post concludes my Tipster’s A to Z.  I hope you have enjoyed the series, now I need to get back to The Collective Marks series and finish the post on canter that you’ve all been waiting for.  If there is a subject you are particularly interested in, please feel free to leave a comment on Facebook, leave a comment here or email me at

The Crystal System is coming along slowly and will be released in book form when I will also be introducing ‘Crystal’ a cartoon dressage horse based on my own Lusitano mare!  Lots to do, and all good fun!

Ride well and enjoy.

Patricia – The Dressage Tipster

And for your own motivation, I have written many, many posts … Here’s a small selection


As long as you have passion, you are unstoppable








HAVE WHAT IT TAKES? 3 Things you need to be a successful Dressage Rider




YieldThe debate on whether to leg yield or not is not a new one. Certainly Classical Dressage purists sit firmly on the side of the fence that says leg yield has no benefits to the scale of training whatsoever and may even hinder progress.

So how you do reconcile this when the movement is asked for in tests? I do not know the answer to this question.  It is a matter for you to consider when you examine the horses ability to progress beyond training/elementary level.

YieldThe primary benefit of leg yield is to simply teach your horse to move forwards and sideways, however, the hind quarters do not take more weight and the horse finds it difficult to remain light in the forehand (often the act of leg yielding puts the horse onto the forehand!)


Shoulder-in, travers (or haunches in) and half-pass are far superior exercises to the leg yield because all three of these exercises ensure that the horse’s centre of gravity is placed directly in the path of the activated hind leg.

Riders at all levels should seek to become skilled at these exercises due to the fact that, done well, they significantly benefit the horse’s gymnastic ability.

Patricia – The Dressage Tipster


Halt at XCollecting easy points with a good square halt at x or rather ensuring that you don’t lose easy points is a priority.  Your entry and halt at x is your chance to make a good impression; to get the judge sitting up and taking note that someone who can ride has just entered the arena.

At the lower levels it is ok to ride a progressive transition from trot to halt, the judge would prefer a few steps of walk than your horse screeching to a stop.

Here’s what to do … think of the halt as just that – a halt; a suspension of the movement; a temporary stop; your horse should be on the aids and waiting for his next instruction!

If you have finished the test, you will give the rein and the horse will know it is the end.  If you are starting a test, you will give the instruction to continue but the horse should be primed and ready for that next instruction.  He has not stopped, he has halted … temporarily.

It follows then that the halt should be ‘stepped into’ rather than allowing him to trail out behind and amble to a stop.  You need to teach your horse to halt from your seat and into a steady contact.

Halt at XJust as an aside … I have seen some pretty extravagant salutes.  For the salute, all you do is drop your arm, try gently touching the saddle cloth to make sure your fingers are not flapping (or gesturing!) and that your arm isn’t too wide.  No need to raise your arm to your head and for goodness sake do not salute with your whip in your saluting hand!  The judge will be very offended.

Patricia – The Dressage Tipster




In the walk, there is a lot of movement in the back of a horse and our aim to assist our horse is to have a supple balanced and relaxed body that, without effort on the horse’s part, allows him to pick up the rider’s seat bone and carry it forward and then back down.

Think about your own way of going! How do you walk?  With one foot on the ground, you start to push by putting your weight over that foot, your seat bones are being pushed up as the other is falling, just as it does on the horse.

Here’s what to do …

You need to experience the movement so, just sit and allow the horse pick up one seat bone and then the other in a nice relaxed movement, check your breathing is steady, soften your eyes and feel the movement.  Allow your hips to be taken with the movement.


Try to feel the action of the hind legs of your horse.  Having said that, the key is to no try to hard – just let it happen.

Patricia – The Dressage Tipster


VariationWhat is variation ?

It is “a change or slight difference in condition, amount, or level, typically within certain limits.”

Everyone knows that there are 3 recognised gaits in dressage – walk, trot and canter.  But we also have variations within these gaits – medium, free, collected and extended walk; working, medium, collected and extended trot and canter.

It is the phrase ‘within certain limits‘ that you must hold in your mind when training variations within the gaits.  You need a holistic approach to teaching your horse variations because, whilst the lengthening and shortening of your horses steps is important, this element (the length of the steps) is only important in relation to the overall outline or frame; elevation of the steps; raising of the forehand and neck and lowering of the croup.

All these elements are thoroughly interconnected and should be considered as the ‘certain limits‘ you must set yourself.  So, you would not set out to simply lengthen the stride when beginning in with the working to medium trot, you would set out to lengthen the frame, encourage more power from behind, raise the forehand and so on.  This is an important point for you to get into your head, because too many people send the front legs flicking out without engagement of the hind quarters and the way you approach the training will set you up for success.

Developing your horses ability to vary the gaits relies on your ability to do your transitions well and this in turn relies on your ability to recognise the absolute purity of the footfall within each gait, consistent tempo and regularity of the rhythm at all times – especailly throughout the transition.

Trot on

Products showing the ‘Trot On’ image can be purchased at …Zazzle/Kelli Swan

Here’s what to do …

Continue reading V – IS FOR VARIATION


UIn the early stages of your training all transitions can be progressive, but most benefit will be gained if your horse is sharp from the leg and goes straight into the new gait with one tap of the leg.UP

Don’t let your horse fall onto his forehand in the transition. Think ‘ UP ‘ on the transition down and again don’t let the horse fall onto his forehand.

Ride a half halt and use the power you have created to engage the hindquarters. You will then be swapping / exchanging forward momentum for elevation.  And once again, think ‘up’.

Here’s what to do … the key exercise for developing uphill balance is shoulder fore.  This is an exercise that helps develops straightness and also helps your horse to carry himself.

Walk straight down the long side; at B or E make a 10-meter circle, the bend on the circle positions the shoulders slightly to the inside, as it needs to be for shoulder-fore. Maintain the bend as you complete the circle and walk the next few strides on the rail in shoulder-fore: your horses hind feet on the track and his  front feet slightly displaced to the inside, use the outside rein ONLY to balance him.

Maintain tempo and rhythm at all times!

Patricia – The Dressage Tipster




Transitions are the key to …

and much, much more!

What to do? …

TransitionsPut much effort into your transitions, do them well, do lots of them.  Remember you must have forward impulsion in your upward transitions and you must use your seat and legs in the downward transitions.

Continue reading T – IS FOR TRANSITIONS



There is nothing more difficult than keeping a horse straight!

A horse is said to be straight when its forehand is in line with its hindquarters and straightness is a precondition for improving all of the gaits.

So, when I first heard someone say to me you need to be straight on the circle, I thought … “I don’t like Dressage, they just talk gibberish!”  – Actually now my thoughts are not all that different, now I think “ I like Dressage – but they don’t half talk gibberish!” lol

StraightnessWhat is actually meant by this bizarre statement is that you need to ensure that the hind feet, step into (or over) the imprints left by the front feet and maintain the bend.  So the horse is following a line on the circle (he is said to be straight on the circle).

If you think about it, straightness is really important to ensure even weight distribution and whilst most horses are crooked to a degree, like right and left handed people ensuring that the exercises you perform are equal to both sides is a good way to ensure evenness.

Here’s what to do …

  • Maintain straightness with your seat and legs, do not rely solely on the rein
  • Look where you are going, focus on a point directly ahead of you
  • Be subtle with your corrections, or you’ll find your horse will drift in the opposite direction
  • Perfect your straightness at walk before you move on to trot and canter
  • Keep your hands level and carry them in front of you
  • Ensure your horse is forward at all times
  • Keep control of the shoulder and correct the horse if it is falling in or out through the shoulder

Patricia – The Dressage Tipster




The rhythm that a horse maintains in all its gaits and paces is fundamental to Dressage riding.

Rhythm and relaxation go hand-in-hand because it is nearly impossible to have rhythm without relaxation.

When considering relaxation of the horse we must think about the horse’s mental state; calmness, without anxiety or nervousness and the also his physical state; the absence of muscular tension (other than the contraction needed for optimal carriage) strength, range and fluency of movement.

RhythmRelaxation of the horse’s emotional and physical state also goes hand in hand.  Rhythm is the first element of the training pyramid and contributes significantly to work at the upper levels.  Preparing the horse mentally and physically is vital to your horse’s future as a dressage horse.  No exercise or movement can be considered good if the rhythm falters.

Developing rhythm and relaxation

Your training should be designed to gradually strengthen the horse to be able to do the movements that will require great physical strength later in the training.   It is this looseness that enables the horse to work free from tension or constraint.

Suppleness plays an equally important role in the horse’s relaxation. A horse that is stiff or rigid in any part of his body will not be capable of utilizing his body effectively, thus resulting in irregular gaits, unwillingness and a general displeasure in his work.

What to do … The first major test of relaxation is to find out if your horse will stretch its head and neck forwards and down in all three gaits.  In order to work effectively on R&R you need to work on your own balance and not rely on the reins or gripping with the legs for support.  (long and low)

As ever, have fun with it!

Patricia – The Dressage Tipster



Dressage is a thinking sport, riding is about strategy.  Following on from my P is for Preparation post – what do you consider to be the most important aid on a horse?

No, not your legs!

It’s your brain and how quickly you are able to process the huge amount of information you need to ride and perform Dressage and indeed work your body at the same time!  You have to be quick and sharp.  In a dressage test there are a succession of movements, one after the other, all requiring different thought processes, aids, body movements in which the aim is to do as little as possible.

Here’s what to do … be a mind-ful rider, be alert and focused, constantly evaluate and re-evaluate the merits of what you do.  A non-thinking rider is mindless! Proof is found when you stubbornly stick to one solution, even if it does not appear to be working!

You need to take steps to increase your awareness; think about why the exercises and skills you need are important; learn why you need to do what it is you are doing; take responsibility for yourself; keep track of your goals; try to be open to different and creative problem solving; be in charge of your own riding destiny.

1 brainIt takes time to develop confidence in your own decision making and problem solving ability,  just as it takes time to exercise the muscles of the body so it takes time to exercise the brain … don’t be too harsh on yourself if you don’t think you have developed these skills yet, it will come.  You will get quicker!

Patricia – The Dressage Tipster