Tag Archives: horse behaviour

IMBALANCE – Gosh, that many?

We hear a lot of talk about achieving balance for both horse and rider.  Clearly, perception of imbalance really depends on the discipline you choose.  We choose dressage, which means that certain behaviours and characteristics of how a horse moves in the field are not required  or desired under saddle.  That is not to say that there’s something wrong, just that we don’t want any imbalances in the arena.


Take a look at the list below to see if you can identify any issues that may indicate some type of imbalance that needs addressing in your training.

  • Ability to do something on one side but not the other
  • Turning like a boat instead of a train
  • Falling in on the inside shoulder on a circle and corners
  • Falling out over the outside shoulder on a circle
  • Hard in the mouth and or holding on to the bit  on one side
  • Heavy in the hand and leaning on the reins
  • ImbalanceUnable or unwilling to stretch the neck
  • Incorrect strike off in canter or going disunited in canter
  • Moving laterally when not asked
  • Unable to execute a square halt
  • Speeding up, jogging, shortened steps
  • Irregular rhythm or bridle lameness
  • Head tilting or shaking
  • Grinding teeth
  • Tongue hangs out of mouth
  • Swishing tail

Every horse bends more easily to one side than to the other, this is known as ‘lateral asymmetry’ but if your horse is excessively so you need to address the problem with exercises to help stretch out the contracted side and contract the strung out side.Imbalance

He may have a ‘horizontal imbalance’ (commonly known as on-the-forehand) or a ‘diagonal imbalance’ when the point of the horses weight is off-centre and he goes ‘out through the shoulder’.

Finally a ‘vertical imbalance’ is when the horse does not give an upright impression but one of leaning (especially in canter) – like a barrel racer.

Sometimes I feel a little ridiculous when I think of some of the things I say “oh, my horse’s tail is swishing, that must be an imbalance”!  Really????? Yes, really.  In the pursuit of perfection every detail counts and whilst I am happy for my horse to swish her tail, if she does it excessively she’s telling me she has a problem.

Patricia – The Dressage Tipster



To Spook or Not To Spook ? – The Decision is Yours

I noticed recently an Ad for training horses not to be spooky and it reminded me of my old boy, a typical thoroughbred.

One time, whilst out hacking with my partner riding the TB and me riding another horse, we heard the roar of motor-cross bikes on the track ahead, but because of a sharp bend we were unable to see them. More to the point, they were not going to see us.

Soon enough, a couple of youths appeared riding the bike, hell for leather and screeched to a halt a few yards away from us. My partner was so incensed that he turned the TB towards the bike, kicked him on, cantered straight up to them and with the horse peering over the handlebars of the revving bike, gave them a piece of his mind! That done, he turned and trotted back to me.Spooky

I was aghast! Not because of the incident but because Mr “I will spook at my own shadow” thoroughbred appeared completely un-phased by the whole thing.

It’s a simple state of mind. The horse will reflect whatever your state of mind is … if you are confident, so will he be, if you are thinking he will spook … so he will!

Patricia – The Dressage Tipster



A hearty loud slap on the neck doesn’t mean much to a horse.  A quiet, delicate touch that sends a gentle sensation through the horse creates a much more pleasant sensation.

As with everything in dressage, when you are pleased with your horse and you want to reward him – less is more!

And … any reward must be immediate.  It is said that a horse has a shorter memory than a dog-which might be three seconds. In my experience they have selective memory!!!


Patricia – The Dressage Tipster


ANGRY? You are not good enough

Have you ever got angry whilst riding, jabbed your horse in the mouth, shouted at your horse, perhaps booted it in the ribs!


Whatever your horse is doing, it is because he is receiving your signals and responding to them, or because he does not understand yet what you want. It is not wilful defiance on the horse’s part and if you are angry, you clearly don’t understand this. If you don’t yet understand this you have a long way to go.

There is no place for anger in Dressage!

Patricia – The Dressage Tipster

This post was sponsored by :Stirrups


1 try

Dressage is about repetition, repeating exercises over and over again until it becomes part of the horse’s way of going. Practice makes perfect!

Or – my preferred way of thinking – perfect practice makes perfect.

It takes dedication, is about self-improvement and producing a well-schooled horse. It’s about trying.


When lungeing my young horse recently she got pretty fresh and did a quite impressive form of levade / capriole, followed by a buck, a fart and a scoot into gallop – all on quarter of a circle!

1 lunge

I completely ignored her as if nothing was happening (much to her annoyance) and when she’d quite finished I just said “trot on” which she did (much to my delight).

The way I see it, I’m always asking her for more forward, impulsion, energy, can’t really punish her for feeling well and being high-spirited!  As long as it doesn’t become a habit and not getting a response from me will help with that.

Patricia – The Dressage Tipster


BreathePromoting relaxation when you ride is really quite simple, when you know how.  You should breathe.  Yes, I know you are breathing, but are you really breathing or are you just breathing?

Try this exercise to promote relaxation.  Your breathing must be a little deliberate – put one hand on your stomach and the other hand on your shoulder.

Walk your horse. 

  • Inhale. Keeping your shoulders down, let your stomach expand and get “fat” while you keep your shoulders down. By doing so, you’re lowering your diaphragm and taking in a really deep breath.
  • Exhale. Keep your back straight (don’t collapse in the saddle), and feel your seat getting heavier in the saddle.

 It’s as simple as that … the better you breathe, the more quickly you’ll get relaxation.

Patricia –  The Dressage Tipster