Tag Archives: basic horse training

Strength Training in Dressage

Recognising that your horse may not have the strength to perform the work you are asking for is key to ensuring he remains sound and willing throughout his Dressage career.

StrengthConsider this: If you embarked on a program of stretching, joined a yoga or pilates class or even joined a gym how would you feel after your first session?  Perhaps a little sore, perhaps a little tired.  How long could you do and how often would you need to go before it became easier and enjoyable?

What would happen if you jumped in at the deep end and did the ‘body blast’ class?  My guess is you would be laid up for a few days and probably wouldn’t want to go again.

Why Use Strength Training?

Continue reading Strength Training in Dressage

7 Ways to Listen to Your Horse by Horse Listening

Dressage Enthusiasts!


I get so many messages from riders experiencing problems where my response is  “Ok, step back, take a good look at what is happening, try to get to the heart of the matter”.

Often it is not what the rider thinks is happening, the signs were there but they did not see them.   For this reason, I am absolutely delighted to be able to bring you an extremely popular blog by the the hugely popular Equestrian Blogger Kathy Farrokhzad giving you 7 ways you can listen to your horse.


7 Ways to Listen To Your Horse

Horse Listening

Photo Credit: NBanaszak Photography

Listening to your horse is such an important part of riding and horse ownership. In fact, the rider who is ignorant of the messages her horse sends is missing out on sometimes vital information. Knowing how to understand and correctly interpret the signs and behaviors of your horse allows you to know when something is off. The information can inform everything from general health care, to training and conditioning programs, to your horse’s mental well-being.

How can you learn to listen effectively, in a way that positively affects your horse? Here are a some ideas.

Continue reading 7 Ways to Listen to Your Horse by Horse Listening

In the Stirrups – Dec 2014

Just realised I didn’t share December’s edition of IN THE STIRRUPS MAGAZINE with you … Doh!

Here it is for your belated enjoyment.  My article is shown on pages 27 – 31 and in all it’s full glory below.



As the year comes to a close, we become reflective and looking back I have been relatively successful in my career, starting out as a secretary and moving through first line management to middle management and now reaching the dizzy heights of Director.

Turning to my dressage ambitions, it occurred to me that what separates ‘the wheat from the chaff’ in the equestrian world is a burning desire, a thirst for knowledge, structure and a businesslike approach.   This has clearly been applied in my working life but until recent years has been sadly lacking in the approach I took to my riding.   The burning desire was there but no structure.   Success then is a philosophy, an attitude, it’s a state of mind and it is available to each and every one of us.  So if you want it, but can’t get the leverage you need, I’ve put together a three part series, beginning with business values that can very easily be applied to your approach to your training and help you get the focus and motivation to achieve your riding goals.


Continue reading In the Stirrups – Dec 2014

NOVICE TEST – 5 Questions for the Novice Dressage Rider

2015A New Year often brings new ambitions, reinvigoration of our aspirations and thoughts about how we will make the most of the very precious time we spend with our horses.

Some of you will be thinking about competing, possibly for the first time or with a new horse or maybe like me, you are thinking that 2015 will bring you opportunities you have been working towards.

With this in mind I have been looking to the requirements of the Novice Dressage Test and the essence of what the judge is looking for.  I have compiled a check list of 5 questions you might want to consider and which will hopefully help you to focus on what is important.

The Novice DressageTest

It is all about the horse’s way of going and obedience.  The judge is looking to see if you are on the right track with your training and by asking yourself these 5 questions, but more importantly, by being honest with your answers, you will be able to assess for yourself, before you even enter the competition arena if your work at home is up to standard.

Novice DressageSo, ask yourself … Continue reading NOVICE TEST – 5 Questions for the Novice Dressage Rider

12 Dressage Tips for Christmas 2014

In 2013 I bought you 12 tips over 12 days on The Dressage Tipster Facebook Page.  This year I have amalgamated all 12 into one post for those of you who had not discovered The Crystal System last year.
A bit of festive fun and some useful stuff in there too …dressage tips
On the 1st Day of Christmas the Dressage Tipster said to me

Guess“Above all else ensure that your horse is forward. As long as the horse goes forward, he will not have time to think of evasions. Whenever you get a problem of any description, think of my favourite ‘F’ word” 

 On the 2nd day of Christmas the Dressage Tipster said to me …


Draw ReinsToday is the second issue of In The Stirrups Magazine (NOVEMBER 2014) in which I discuss the pros and cons of Draw Reins.  Here is the article re-created for your easy access …

My Dear Dressage Enthusiasts,

Those of you who subscribe to my blog know that I will not shy away from the issues that need to be discussed, debated and contemplated.  Tools to aid our progress are everywhere in the equestrian world and my view is that we might as well be as educated about them as possible.  Often described as gadgets for the purposes of clarity I am calling anything beyond a simple snaffle and a plain cavesson a ‘gadget’.

Today I want to talk about the ‘Draw Rein’ or ‘Running Rein’.  Well, actually I’m not sure that I do.  I have been to-ing and fro-ing in my mind about whether to even write this article, fearful of the inevitable back lash, given what I perceive to be a very strong resistant force against the use of draw reins, with no amount of unbiased thinking being wanted or indeed considered. Continue reading DRAW REINS – DRAW YOUR OWN CONCLUSIONS

One Sided Riding

One Sided RidingAmbidextrous?

This article is the direct result of a question relating to one sided riding issues.

When asked the question my thoughts turned to whether it is possible to become ambidextrous and guess what?  Turns out IT IS!

As with everything it is your own level of dedication and work that will determine just how much you can even up your one sidedness but it is entirely do-able.

I am not addressing crookedness here, that is a whole other subject.   I’m talking about being weaker on one side of the body than the other, which yes, might result in crookedness but I’m specifically looking at strength today.  As humans we are mostly one side dominant but as you know, to be an effective rider we need to be as equal to both sides as it is possible to be.

Very few people are born naturally ambidextrous, but it does happen.  We all favour right or left, but it is sometimes a case that you may have been injured in the past leaving a weakness on one side.  I have this very problem with my left shoulder, having broken it many years ago, not only am I right handed but my left is also weak as a result of this injury, coupled with a broken pinky on the left hand that won’t close properly and my right-handed dominance is well and truly secured.

So how do you become more equal and ambidextrous?  Well, it’s really quite easy to do.  Essentially, you need to use the weak side in ways that are not natural to you.  Here are just a few suggestions for you to try during your everyday activities, using your weak side/hand:

Perform simple tasks with your non-dominant hand

  • Carry your shopping or buckets in the ‘weak’ hand
  • Carry your shoulder bag on the ‘weak’ shoulder
  • When mucking out, use the ‘weak’ hand
  • Practise writing your name or the alphabet with the ‘weak’ hand
  • Brush your teeth and hair with the ‘weak’ hand
  • Hold stuff with your ‘weak’ hand (car keys, phone, purse)

Image:5150 12.jpgThings like brushing your teeth, eating, or bouncing a ball with your dominant hand, try with your non-dominant hand.  There are hundreds of simple tasks that you perform every day, so getting good at doing those with your other hand will help you become more ambidextrous.

It will feel very strange when first tried but as with everything that we practise regularly after a while the unnatural feel will become just as normal as your ‘strong’ hand/side and you may be surprised at the results in your riding.

Patience is key

Give yourself the same patience you’d give a child learning how to open a can of soup, unlock the door, and so on. You are hard-wiring your brain to learn something unfamiliar, just like a child learning to do things for the first time, so don’t let initial frustration get to you.

Start writing or drawing with both hands

Pin down some paper and start drawing butterflies, vases, symmetrical objects, write words, letters, shapes, or whatnot. Although your writing will be awful at first, write a couple lines every day from the start.

  • Use your opposite hand to write “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog. The lazy dog decides to wake up and be non-lazy”, or similar for practice. (The sentence suggested is a good one for practice because it is a pangram, meaning that it’s a phrase that contains all of the letters of the English alphabet.)
  • Another way: Find a small paragraph and practice writing the paragraph over and over again. Also, look at the difference in the writings, and see which letter you have to get better at.

One Sided RidingProblem is that whilst riding instructors may be able to recognise one-sidedness, they rarely know how to deal effectively with it as they are not qualified body workers and don’t understand the root of the matter.  They deal with the symptoms instead.  If your one-sidedness is having an adverse affect on your riding you may need a qualified body worker; a Physiotherapist; Osteopath; Alexander Technique Teacher and the like to take a good look at you and your issues and give you appropriate exercises to rectify the issues.

Clearly if you suspect that your horse has one sided issues, having him treated in isolation from you is rarely successful.  Your horse’s crookedness is affected by your crookedness and visa versa.

If all else fails you can always learn to juggle!  Seriously, three and four balls is a great way to train your weaker arm.  If all you need is to strengthen your weak side, simply use it!

Patricia – The Dressage Tipster


Take a Deep Breath

Without question the most underestimated, undervalued, unappreciated, under-rated tool in the rider’s toolbox is breathing.  I should know I am guilty of not tapping into the power that correct breathing gives you.  I have been told to learn to breathe properly and virtually ignored the advice.  Really can’t tell you why, it seems that I know best and I consider being advised to breathe as no advice at all.

I’ve written some posts on how to breathe when riding, paying lip service to it really.  I’d be interested to know how many of you have thought “Wow, that’s a real corker, I’ll go an give that a go”- I’ll wager not many of you.  However, now that I understand clearly the benefits of ‘good’ breathing I have to say that I am more than a little miffed with myself that I didn’t take it more seriously much earlier in my training and have been looking around for someone to blame for not instilling in me just how significant it is.  On this basis I am not going to be the one who does not tell you!

Breathing has proven to be one of the easiest and most effective ways to foster relaxation, build confidence, and direct focus.  Breathing oxygenates every cell of your body, from your brain to your vital organs.  Without sufficient oxygen your body becomes more susceptible to health problems. In a study published in The Lancet, cardiac patients who took 12 to 14 shallow breaths per minute (six breaths per minute is considered optimal) were more likely to have low levels of blood oxygen, which “may impair skeletal, muscle and metabolic function, and lead to muscle atrophy and exercise intolerance.”

BreathSo you see, every time I struggled to keep going, through lack of oxygen to my muscles and my lungs and quickly became exhausted, every time my vast efforts sent me purple in the face, every time my muscles ached through sheer exertion, could have been avoided with a) a few basic exercises to improve the way I breathe and b) an awareness of how my breathing affects my ability to work with my horse.  Deep diaphragmatic breathing raises levels of blood oxygen thus improving physical fitness and mental performance.

If you are anything like me, you want me someone to give you that magical positional tweak that will revolutionise your riding and God knows I’ve given you enough of those in my blog posts over the past year or so, but as my training progresses and things click into place, we are looking at refining everything, relaxing everything, making it more subtle, stripping it back to its heart and as a result I have had to learn to control my breathing whilst in the saddle.  It seems that every breath I share with my horse is an authentic cue either to relax or not.

Breathing correctly means your chest will expand; your ribcage will lift; your vertebrae will re-align; your muscles will soften; your jaw will relax; your elbows will unlock and your legs will hang long and soft.

Breathing correctly means that the oxygen gets to your brain and you are able to think more clearly; communication is calm and responsive.

Breathing it seems is a bit of a lame suggestion in the face of all that you need to do to ride well, such an insignificant idea barely warrants a try doesn’t it? But in my opinion that does not make it any less of a phenomenon but more of one.  It is simple and as such should be embraced because ‘simplicity is the key to brilliance’.

“Relax!”, “Stop holding your breath!” Whilst these phrases are intended to be helpful, what affect do they really have?  When you hit difficulty the first thing to go is the quality of your breathing, perhaps you hold your breath or begin breathing in short, shallow breaths, irregularly, very different from your breathing when you are calm, confident, and in control when your breaths are smooth, deep and rhythmic.  Deep breath

Take a Deep Breath!

The bizarre truth is that learning to control your breathing is not some 10 week course in which you need to seek professional help, pay exorbitant fees and work hard to achieve.  All you need to do is take a deep breath.  Basically, the emphasis is on breathing from the diaphragm (or belly) instead of the chest, as this produces feelings of being calm and relaxed.

  1. Inhale deeply and slowly through your nose – feel your chest expand top to bottom. Feel your belly push outward as if you were inflating a balloon.
  2. Hold for a moment before exhaling – concentrate on feeling calm and patient.
  3. Exhale gently through your mouth at a steady rate – be sure to exhale for a beat longer than you inhaled. Feel your belly flatten. Feel the muscles in your arms and shoulders relax while your body melts gently towards the ground. Let your muscles enjoy this moment of relaxation.

Drop your shoulders and let go. Breathe deep, expand your rib cage to give your heart room and exhale the calm. Inhale. Think of what you want to achieve in a positive light.  Exhale. Inhale. We will do a fabulously flowing shoulder-in today.  Exhale.  The deep breath is actually an act of self-confidence in itself.

Taking a deep breath can be used effectively in a lesson, before going into the arena at a show, during any breaks in your schooling or even during a hack It helps you maintain your composure, control your anxiety, keep your focus, and aids your body in getting the oxygen it needs to operate to its full capacity.

What could be more natural than an act that we do some 20,000 times each day?  So, do you know if you breathe correctly?  It is a fact that the majority of us take our breathing for granted.   Given that often the very act of taking a deep breath brings your focus to something that you have complete control over (your breathing) by utilising ‘taking a deep breath’ you have taken proactive steps and decided not to simply wait for things to happen.  Your breathing technique can create relaxation and rhythm.  Isn’t this the essence of all things Dressage?

Aaaaand, breeeeeeeeath!

DressagePatricia – The Dressage Tipster


Have you invested in The Crystal System Book yet?  Click on image to buy …

Dressage Competition – Test Pilot

Hi Folks,

I haven’t given you much to work with lately and I apologise profusely, I am busy finalising the book and doing the illustrations.  I just wanted to drop you a brief line to say that the Dressage Competition for the Test Pilots is closed and they have been selected.  Now all I need to do is contact with the winners.

I will reveal all next week.  How exciting!

Dressage CompetitionIn the meantime, if you have any specific problems that you need help with right now, feel free to drop me a line either by email or just in the comments below and I’ll get working on some more tips for the blog for you.

Have a good weekend all.

Patricia – The Dressage Tipster


Dress it for the Vertical by Aspire Equestrian

My dear dressage enthusiasts, I got to thinking, maybe you are not all blinkered and utterly obsessed with dressage – bit odd but might be true.  Vertical 2Maybe some of you, dare I say it, actually jump your horses over something more than a cavelleti.  Well, if this is the case and despite me knowing absolutely zilch about jumping, today I have a treat for you.

It is my absolute pleasure to introduce to you Wiola Grabowska.  Wiola is a freelance coach and founder of Aspire Equestrian Riding Academy which focuses on thorough rider education at grassroots levels of dressage, jumping and eventing.  I asked Wiola to do a guest post, for me focussing on how dressage training benefits the show jumper and to my delight she has given us 2 dressage exercises that will make a real difference to your jumping.

So, for those of you who actually ask your horse’s hind legs to leave the ground, here’s what she has to say.  Enjoy …

Dress it for the Vertical – Two dressage moves that every jumping rider needs to do very well

There are at least five things that matter to you when you turn around the corner in your lovely three beat canter and head straight for colourful vertical waiting for you across the long diagonal of the arena and these are: Continue reading Dress it for the Vertical by Aspire Equestrian