Tag Archives: training evaluation


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

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



How I am overcoming a Dressage CRISIS

Dressage CrisisI am having a crisis of confidence!   I keep hitting a brick wall and seem unable to progress in my riding.  I appear to be in an ever decreasing spiral of negativity, which is frustrating and troubling.  Having achieved so much in such a short space of time I am beginning to think that this is as far as I will go, like some never ending treadmill, or ground-hog day and the sun will never shine.  A whole bunch of clichés I know, but they best describe how I have been feeling.

Dressage Crisis

Truth be told, happiness is not the absence of problems, but having the ability to deal with them.  Well, what I did was turn to the internet to see if anyone was feeling the same out there (I do love the internet for motivational stuff).  Anyway, I found what I was looking for and already feel better.  Here’s a summary of what I found.  I hope it helps you if you ever get into a rut, like me.

1. Just because I am struggling doesn’t mean that I am failing

I’ve lost my way.  Whatever I try simply does not happen – I’m feeling overwhelmed.  Every success requires some type of worthy struggle to get there, right?.  Good things take time.  So I tell myself ‘be patient and stay positive’.  Everything is going to come together; maybe not immediately, but sometime.  I’m rolling with it, instead of resisting it, in the hope that the struggle will help me grow.

2. Everything in life is temporary


Fact!  When it rains, it stops; when you hurt, you heal; after darkness there is light (you are reminded of this every morning).  Nothing lasts forever.  So if things are good right now, that’s great – enjoy it because it won’t last forever.  My things are not so good, but why should I worry? that won’t last forever either!  Just because I am not finding something easy at the moment, doesn’t mean I can’t laugh; just because something is not clicking into place, doesn’t mean I can’t smile.

3. Worrying and complaining changes nothing 

Those who complain the most, accomplish the least.  When I read this it hit the spot.  Gosh, did I feel sorry for myself? Bringing everyone around me down bemoaning my fate, but spending today complaining about yesterday simply made today worse, so I decided to take action instead.  It’s always better to make an attempt to do something and fail than not to attempt anything at all.  I believe in my method so I will keep trying.

4. Every little struggle is a step forward

Dressage CrisisPatience has nothing to do with waiting; patience is about the keeping a good attitude while plugging away at  your dreams.  So I decided, if I’m going to try, put in the time and go all the way, otherwise, what is the point in starting, really?  This could mean getting out of my comfort zone for a while, it could mean going it alone for a while.  It is all a test of my determination, of how much I really want it.  So, if I want it, I’ll do it.

Guess what?  The struggle is not found on the path, it IS the path!

5. Other people’s negativity is not my problem.


An easy way to maintain enthusiasm and focus is to try to be positive when negativity surrounds you.  Don’t take things too personally, even if it seems personal.  Above all, don’t ever change what you believe to be right, just to impress someone who says you are not good enough.

People are going to talk regardless of what I do or how well (or otherwise) I do it.  If you believe strongly in something, don’t be afraid to fight for it.  Great strength comes from overcoming what others think is impossible.

6. The best thing I can do is to keep going.

Don’t be afraid to get back up – to try again.  Right now it seems like everything that could possibly go wrong is going wrong.  It feels like I will be stuck in this rut forever, but I won’t.  When I feel like quitting, I remind  myself that things have to go very wrong before they can be right.  Sometimes you have to go through the worst, to arrive at your best.


So, armed with this information what am I going to do?  Wake every morning and do my best to follow a To-Do List:

  1. Think positively
  2. Eat healthy
  3. Exercise today
  4. Worry less
  5. Work hard.
  6. Laugh often
  7. Sleep well

Repeat…each day. Joking aside, you only have one life.   This is IT, so do what makes you happy and be with whoever makes you smile, most often.

Why not have your say?

What helps you stay motivated when you’re struggling with your training regime?  What is THE ‘something positive’ that you try to keep in mind when it all seems to be going horribly wrong?  Please leave a comment and share your thoughts, you’ll be helping your fellow equestrians.

Patricia – The Dressage Tipster



JEver wondered if the judge is blind?

We have all experienced the test where you think you have done really well but the scores don’t reflect the feeling, or the test that you think didn’t go so well and you win the class!  Sometimes we feel like we’d have better results if the horse climbed on the vehicle and judged!

1I however, have a very pragmatic view of what I should feel about the judge’s comments and scoring and what I should do about them.

For me the judge is the ultimate training aid.  Even if I don’t wholeheartedly agree with the comments, I will try to find what is the ‘essence’ of the judge’s comments and why, on this occasion, they feel so inclined to make those comments.

I have heard protestations from pupils who feel that the comments were unfair, given the level at which they work.  For example at preliminary level … “could be a little rounder”.  My view is that this is a perfectly reasonable comment.  Your horse could indeed be a little rounder, yes?  This is not to say that the judge has marked you down because your horse is not round enough, and you sure as hell would have better marks than the competitor who has cranked the horse’s nose to its chest in an effort to give the illusion of roundness!

Here’s what to do … try not to be defensive.  Take the judge’s comments, think about what they are telling you and work on improving for next time.

A test is just an opportunity for you to show someone how your training is going and for them to let you know what they think of it.  No biggy!

Patricia – The Dressage Tipster


Related Posts:



Coveting the Red Rosette


The importance of how you understand and focus on the collective marks cannot be emphasised enough.  If you pay lip service to this you will not have a full appreciation of the aims of your test as more and more emphasis is being put on the horse’s ‘way of going’.  It is no longer sufficient to simply do the movements; you must demonstrate relaxation and willingness from the horse.

The collective marks allow the judge to give an overall score for their perception of how you and your horse performed throughout the test.  It is their opinion as to how you, as a combination, conducted yourselves and the overall impression you left them with as the test progressed.

The first post in this series – Collective marks – Scoring, explained the way the collectives are scored by the judges.  Moving on, we turned to paces, regularity and freedom, the first of the collectives to be given marks and my post the collective marks – paces and regularity – the walk takes you through the rule requirements and what is being looked for in the walk element of your test.

Your score will be either an individual score for each of the 3 paces (walk, trot and canter) or an overall score for all of them, depending on your training level.

So, onto Trot – the two beat pace of alternative diagonal legs separated by a moment of suspension.


The trot should show free, active and regular steps

It is the quality of the trot that is being judged.  By assessing the regularity; elasticity of the steps; cadence and impulsion the quality of the gait originates from the horse’s supple back and well-engaged hindquarters.  Rhythm and balance will be assessed with all variations of the trot.

At all times the horse is required to be ‘on the bit’.  For the observer, a horse is on the bit when you can draw an almost vertical line from his nose to his forelock when viewed from the side. Yet, there is so much more associated with the horse on the bit that many riders are not aware of.


10 MUST DO Dressage Test Tips that will take your scores to GOOD or better

Dear subscribers …

Those of you that have already subscribed, I have emailed you my latest report on how to improve your dressage scores.  If you have not subscribed yet, just enter your email address in the red box on the right or at the bottom of this post and you will get the report in a few days, right after you receive my first report – 5 Dressage Tips that could Revolutionise Your Riding.

10 MUST DO Dressage Test Tips that will take your scores to GOOD or better

Dressage Test Tips

Hope you enjoy it.  Please feel free to leave me your views and if for any reason (like I get stuck in the spam!) it doesn’t arrive drop me a line and I’ll make sure you get it.

You need to be a subscriber to get it though.

Patricia – The Dressage Tipster



Bruce Lee was THE martial arts master and you may think there’s a bit of a difference between martial arts and dressage, but his philosophy is worth studying if you really want to succeed.  Not just at Dressage riding but at anything that is worthwhile in life.

I have gathered a collection of Bruce Lee quotes which in the context of dressage are thought provoking and inspiring.

  1. Knowing is not enough, we must apply. Willing is not enough, we must do.”Take Action, read and gather your knowledge, be willing to do what you need to and then take action.
  2. Absorb what is useful, Discard what is not, Add what is uniquely your own.”Again gather your knowledge,  make your own mind up about what is right for you and your horse, experiment and add your own touches, develop your own unique system.
  3. As you think, so shall you become.”This is all about positivityDisregard all those negative thoughts that cloud your judgement and hold you back from achieving your goals.
  4. If you spend too much time thinking about a thing, you’ll never get it done.”In contrast don’t think for too long about stuff.  Again, take action.
  5. I’m not in this world to live up to your expectations and you’re not in this world to live up to mine.”Your goals should be personal, Dressage is about training and continual improvement.  When you compete it is not against others but against yourself and you are looking to improve on last time.  Don’t be overly concerned about how others are progressing.
  6. Always be yourself, express yourself, have faith in yourself, do not go out and look for a successful personality and duplicate it.”Developing a training method that is right for you is absolutely the only way forward.  Religiously trying to replicate what your instructor does and says will not help you to train your horse.  You should have a number of sources to help you with your training.
  7. Obey the principles without being bound by them.”Be flexible in your approach.  The basic principles of dressage are all the same, it’s about how they are applied that makes them uniquely yours.

And my personal favourite …

Bruce Lee

Simplicity is the key to Brilliance

So much of what we read and what we are taught in Dressage is difficult to understand, surrounded by a complicated and bespoke language that in itself is hard to grasp.  The Crystal System endeavours to deliver it’s teachings in a more simplistic, easily understandable way.  After all, it’s the key to brilliance!

Patricia – The Dressge Tipster





Going Back to Basics

I, for many years, tacked up my horse, warmed him up and got on with what I wanted to do.  I’d have an idea of what I wanted to do, but if it went wrong I would move onto something else, or stick with stuff we could do! There was no progressive plan or evaluation.

1 Dressage PlanTo get anywhere worthwhile you have to have a plan of how to get there.  Ideally you would keep a diary of your training.

It is absolutely essential that you evaluate where you are after each session. This might be just a mental note, a discussion with your coach or adjustment of your plan to accommodate what you have experienced in the arena.

Whatever happens, you should plan the next session accordingly.  Thus ensuring that you stay on track and focused, helping with the building blocks which ensure that you train in a progressive manner.

Patricia – The Dressage Tipster