Category Archives: Tipster’s A to Z


ForwardWhat else? My favourite F word!

I have this image of myself as a little old lady with cats.  I am wondering round my yard mumbling – ‘forward, forward, forward’ then I march up to the ménage fence and yell out – FOOOORWAAAARD! Then the nurses come and take me away whilst bystanders whisper to each other … “she used to be a dressage trainer, you know” HahahahForward

I am always banging on about getting your horse forward.  It really is the first port of call for many, many issues.  I have a Warmbloods, a Thoroughbred and a Lusitano and when I am asked which I prefer to ride and train my answer is this …

“ I really don’t mind what breed the horse is as long as he goes forward”

I have been known to say one thing in response to the pupil who has given me 10 minutes in depth analysis of what they consider to be their problems … FORWARD!

Without that urge to go forward from the leg; to be a forward thinker, the half-halt which is the cornerstone of balance, engagement and preparation for just about everything is just not effective.  Forward is nothing to do with speed, if you are used to a short striding, slow gait it might feel “too fast” at first but a forward thinking horse which is attentive, active and has energy that can be channelled is a much better prospect than one that needs constant reminders.

There is nothing wrong with being a ‘lazy rider’ if what you are referring to is that you want the horse to do most of the work!

Here’s what to do … Ensure your horse is forward,  Simples!

Patricia – The Dressage Tipster



Elevation Elevationrefers to the raising of the forehand coupled with the lowering of the hindquarters, which involves shifting of the horse’s centre of balance.  You’ve heard this before, in previous posts (B is for Balance and C is for Cadence) where I talked about how to achieve more weight onto your horse’s hocks by the use of half-halts.

It is important to note that it is the ‘lowering of the quarters’ that ‘raises the forehand’ and we should not be at all concerned about raising the forehand, but merely concentrate on the hind quarters doing it for us.

Have you heard the terms ‘absolute elevation’ and ‘relative elevation’ ?  These terms seem to have come out of the Rollkur debate (probably not, but I didn’t hear them before .  Pff, more mumbo jumbo to get your head round! lol), essentially classical purists (and anyone who wishes to train their horse correctly) wants to see relative elevation in the horse, where the elevation of the front end is relative to the lowering of the hind-end.

What we often see is ‘absolute elevation’ where a horse pulled in and up from the front with the hind quarters having no effect and lacking engagement.

Absolute Elevation …


Relative Elevation …

Lusitano Stallion Olhao & Olympic Gold Medalist Valegro

As your horse learns to carry more weight behind, you will be able to apply the aids with ever-increasing lightness and more finesse so that the half-halt can be ridden without anyone being aware of it except you and your horse.  You will also notice over a period of time, as your horse gets stronger, the paces start to elevate and become more wonderful.

This is because you are exchanging forward momentum for elevation.

You need to check that you have built the basic blocks in order to begin asking for more elevation in your horse’s paces.  The measures of whether you are ready to achieve or begin to work on elevation of the paces are:

  • how obedient your horse is – most benefit will be gained if your horse is ‘sharp off the leg’
  • how supple he is
  • how well he yields to the leg and rein aids.

Without the above in place you will not have worked long enough on your horse’s musculature for him to carry more weight behind.

Elevate:  To raise or lift something to a higher or more impressive level.

Here’s what to do … Aim to impress!

Patricia – The Dressage Tipster




To me discipline is a word to be used on two levels in the context of Dressage …


  •  The discipline of Dressage … “In its original sense, discipline is systematic instruction intended to train a person, sometimes literally called a discipline, in a craft, trade or other activity, or to follow a particular code of conduct or order”.  So we talk about the discipline of Dressage or the craft of Dressage.  Often, the phrase “to discipline” carries a negative connotation.  This is because enforcement of order, that is, ensuring instructions are carried out, is often regulated through punishment.  In this sense discipline plays no part in Dressage.
  • Being disciplined in Dressage Training … The second level use of the word discipline relates to “a course of actions leading to certain goal or ideal. A disciplined person is one that has established a goal and is willing to achieve that goal no matter what occurs.  Discipline is the assertion of willpower over more base desires, and is usually understood to be synonymous with self control.  Self-discipline is to some extent a substitute for motivation, when one uses reason to determine the best course of action that opposes one’s desires”.

The reason I selected the word discipline for my D word is because I believe that anything in life that is worth having is worth working for.  Yes, we do Dressage because we enjoy it, but it is ‘serious fun’, not jolly-holiday type fun and we need a disciplined approach in order to cut our way through the plethora of information and concentrate on what is important to us at that moment in time.  We need discipline in order to stay focussed.  We need discipline to follow the plans we lay down to help us on our journey.

Here’s a few quotes that I have taken from the internet which may help me get my point across.


  • Self-discipline is just choosing between what you want now and what you want most.
  • The pain of self-discipline will never be as great as the pain of regret.
  • Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment.
  • Mastering others is strength.  Mastering yourself is true power.
  • There’s a season for sowing, a season for reaping.  Self discipline helps you know which is which.
  • With self-discipline most anything is possible.
  • Self-discipline is doing what needs to be done when it needs to be done even when you don’t feel like doing it.
  • By constant self-discipline and self control you can develop greatness of character.

And finally, my favourite …

“People think I’m disciplined, it is not discipline, it is devotion, there is a great difference”- Pavarotti

Here’s what to do … adopt a disciplined approach .. or be devoted!  It will aid you to achieve your dressage dreams.

Go for it!

Patricia – The Dressage Tipster



CCadence is the rhythmical movements of the horse’s stride.

Your horse is said to be expressing cadence when you appear to be moving in harmony with the horse with well marked regularity, impulsion and balance.

I like to think of cadence with a musical connotation.


Think of the metronome used to produce regular, metrical beats (clicks) and used by musicians to keep a steady tempo, it is used to work on issues of irregular timing, your horses paces should be regular 4 beats for walk, 2 beats for trot and 3 beats for canter, regularity of the paces being fundamental to dressage.

The first level of the German scales of training, rhythm and relaxation is the where we start to ensure we have cadence.  Without relaxation you will not achieve the spring in the gaits that you need to show cadence.

Additionally, when a horse is not in balance (See B is for Balance) and transferring too much weight to the forehand, cadence issues and flat gaits will result.  Athleticism and energy are needed but cadence comes from developing the engagement of the hind legs.

Here’s what to do … you will not go into the arena to work on cadence; you will work on rhythm, you will work on relaxation, you will work on balance and when you have achieved a certain level of each, your horse will be expressive and will show cadence in his paces.

How do you know if you have cadence?  As ever … you will feel it!

Patricia – The Dressage Tipster



BThe horse’s natural stance is on the forehand, with his weight over the front of the legs.  Your job as the rider is to re-establish the horse’s centre of balance and move it further back so that he can carry you comfortably.  This balance can only be achieved if you have engaged the most powerful part of the horse – the hindquarters and you will do this with the half-halt.

Now I subscribe to the Carl Hester school of thought that the half-halt is a very personally developed aid which differs for every horse/rider combination. So let’s say as a generic description for the half-halt might be – close the legs to ask for more forward energy and close the fingers on the reins to block that energy.  The block ensures also that the horse does not run away or drop down onto his forehand but rounds his back, lifts the forehand and steps under himself from behind.

Be sure not to pull back in the half-halt, the closing of the fingers is a ‘block’ to send the energy asked for by the leg back to the hind-legs.  If you pull the horse’s back will hollow.  However you execute the half-halt it must be with finesse and subtleness and the aids should be applied for only a few steps.  Prolonged pressure will not give you the desired result, so as the horse responds, back off, soften the rein and then go again.

Imagine …

balance… circle the two areas of the horse where energy can escape; the front and the back.  When the horse is ‘on the forehand’ energy trails out of the hind end; if you have no contact or are not using the half-halt the energy will leak out of the front of the horse.


You are aiming to get these two circles closer together.   The front circle coil clockwise up through your legs, over the wither, down horse’s face, down under the horse’s forelegs and back up through the sole of the rider’s boot.

The Hind circle spirals anti-clockwise comes up through the rider’s legs, over the horse’s quarters, down under the horse’s hind legs and back up through the sole of your rider’s boots.

What is the desired effect?

You are looking for the hindquarters to be under the horse’s centre of effort with the back soft and light shoulders, thus enabling the forelegs greater freedom of movement.

Here’s what to do … always look to the end result, try to feel your way through, try not to be too mechanical about applying the aids, play with the pressure until it is achieving the desired effect.  Experiment and feel your way, too much hand and your horse will back off the forward impulsion, too much leg and he will shoot forward –  you will know when you have it.  You will feel the containment (or rather flow) of the energy coming up and over the back.

Once you have experienced it, you will want to be sure you always have it, because without it, you will not feel good about your riding, so you will want to work harder to keep it.

Balance, that’s it!

Patricia – The Dressage Tipster


AOne of the key elements to maintaining your overall general health comes from your mental health.  Having a good mental attitude gives us the motivation to do the best that we can possibly do and strive to do better.  So, what is the ‘right’ mental attitude?

Whilst we would all do well to never underestimate the power and importance of positive thinking as a precursor to success, you must be careful not to fall into the trap of ONLY looking for the positives!  Negative critique can be a much more powerful tool to aid your progression.  Finding fault is useful.  Don’t be afraid to be critical of your current level of ability and recognise where you are.  Only then will you be able to begin the process of growth.

Equally, a positive mental attitude is developed by constant reinforcement of one’s goals, positive values and beliefs.  Within this, optimism and hope are vital and techniques such as self talk – “I can do this”, motivational posters and accountability partners (“let’s do this together” … I like this one!) can all help you reach your goals.

Looking to the discipline of Dressage, attitude when you are training is all important.  There are so many behaviours that we all adopt from time to time – faith, integrity, hope, optimism, courage, initiative, generosity, tolerance, tact, kindliness, patience and good old common sense; not to mention negativity, defeatism and hopelessness.  Knowing how you feel, recognising the impact that this could have on your riding ability and your horses way of going is a crucial element to understanding, if and why you are experiencing difficulties.

1For me positivity and negativity produce a balanced approach.  Everything can’t be good, if you think it’s all good you won’t address the problems, similarly everything can’t be bad, this is self defeating and you won’t be inspired to address the problems.

Here’s what to do … get your motivation from positivity; find out what you need to work on through negative critique.  Ask yourself …”Is my attitude having a positive or negative effect on my horse”?

Patricia – The Dressage Tipster

Other motivational posts you might like …

I can achieve this / It’s like a drug .. I want it / Imposter Syndrome