How difficult and confusing is ‘ falling in ’ for a rider?
When a horse is falling in, it’s the horse that’s not following the track of the circle or corner, right? After all, you have set your course, it’s a 20m circle, which somehow becomes smaller with every stride or begins to resemble an egg shape as you feel the horse fall in at certain points and attempt corrections. Those of us who have experienced our horses falling in usually wait until it happens and then correct it. Nothing wrong with that you may say, but there is a better way; another Eureka! moment for me in my training which requires a slight change of mindset and a good helping of focus.
Firstly, you should experiment with the give and retake of the rein to establish whether your horse can maintain his balance on a circle without you holding him there with the reins; in this exercise he should remain on the circle. If not, the issue is from your horse’s inability to balance himself while being ridden on a circle, or indeed a straight line. We have all experienced the centre line that starts at A and finishes somewhere left or right of C, haven’t we?
If your automatic reaction to the sensation that your horse is falling in is to push the inside rein against the horse’s neck in an attempt to ‘neck rein’ him out onto the circle or worse, if you’re crossing your hand over his neck to ‘ultra neck rein’ him out to the circle; or even if you have learned to drag the horse out with your outside rein, you have skipped a fundamental lesson in your training and need to go back to basics.
These types of responses compound the problem by training your horse to balance on your hands and do not teach him to become strong enough to rely on himself for balance.
There really is only one way to ensure that your horse does not fall-in and that is by applying the correct use of the inside leg to outside hand. It is so important to grasp this fundamental aid. It is all about balancing or re-balancing the horse and my Eureka! moment came when I realised that I should have my horse between my inside leg and outside rein AT ALL TIMES (to a greater or lesser degree, depending on the movement.
Do not wait for your horse to fall in and make a correction – EXPECT your horse to fall in and ensure your body position, seat, rein and leg aids are such that he cannot do this easily. It is the correct use of the inside leg to outside rein aid that will prevent this from happening.
Most of the problem will be coming from you, not your horse. You will know something has gone wrong if you have to compromise or modify your position to correct your horse. Awkward and rough hand positions have no place in dressage; coarse lumbering leg aids can never be acceptable no matter what your horse is doing. Without a good balanced seat your horse is going to have to balance himself AND you with loads of unnecessary noise going on from the reins.
Put your hands back in the right position: each one a couple of inches away from the horses neck—equally.
A word of caution though, your inside leg is not a prop for your horse, remember the ‘Less is More’ lesson), so don’t allow it to become one. The same applies for your outside rein. Try keep your leg and hand position as close to where they should be as possible. Do not expect it all to happen at once, it will take a great deal of time, a mindset change and consistent focus to achieve the balance that you need, to stop unbalancing your horse.
Begin by asking your horse to trot on a 20-meter circle. You may still end up going on smaller circles, becoming frustrated, having to make corrections, thinking “this inside leg to outside hand rubbish doesn’t work” but if you remain calm and true to your correct position and keep a sharp focus on not allowing your horse to run he will soon begin to realise that the bigger circle, ridden correctly, is generally the easier way to go.
The role of the outside leg in this scenario is to be held back slightly behind the girth to control where the hindquarters are placed. If you are giving sufficient inside leg in the bending aid and your horse is not used to it he may go ‘OUT’ through the quarters and you need to have control over this. On occasions a rider can ‘fix’ the front end and inadvertently create an issue at the back …
But not if you follow the rule … remember what it is?
“Don’t just correct if it happens, expect your horse to fall in and ride him between your inside leg and outside rein at all times in prevention”
Inside leg and outside rein work together. The outside rein prevents the horse from falling out, and the inside leg prevents him from falling in. The inside leg creates the bend and forward momentum, the outside rein controls the quarters and stops too much happening. The two together balance the horse. You and your horse must learn to be truly straight on the circle, inside back leg on the same track as inside front leg and same for the outside leg. Your position is fundamental to success; sit straight, hips square with the horse’s hips, shoulders square with the horse’s shoulders. No leaning ‘cos that’s you falling in!
Keep your eyes up and try to ride a correct circle that starts and finishes at the same point (!) – I know I’m being obvious, but when you have this falling in problem it is not so easy.
Whatever you do, don’t change your position or way of aiding and try to keep looking up and thinking about making a proper circle. Your eyes will help with your own balance, which in turn helps encourage your horse to move on the proper line. Give frequent pats on his neck with the inside hand. You are testing whether you are able to ride a circle with little or no inside rein at all, which will prove that you and your horse are in balance.
As always, have fun!
Patricia – The Dressage Tipster
This post is sponsored by ShoeSecure