Improve his straightness
By Katy Islip
14 February 2013 16:30
Dressage trainer and judge, Vikki Hayton, gives her advice on how to improve your horse's straightness.
Assess where you are now by riding down the centre, quarter or three-quarter line and be honest about how straight you are – a straight horse requires a disciplined rider! As you ride around your school think how much weight you have in each hand and say it out loud, with one being light and 10 very heavy. You want the numbers to be equal and somewhere in the middle, but be honest!
As you turn onto the centre line again, think about making your turn, keeping your reins fully equal. As you bring your horse into the turn you’ll have slight flexion to the inside, but as you straighten, make sure his neck is straight out in front of you and he’s keeping an even feel in both reins.
Repeat the weight-stating exercise above – this really makes you assess what you’re feeling so you can do something about it – when you feel one rein is lighter, push more with that leg to fill the space. If your horse is really taking you forward it’s easier to get him straight. If he’s not confident in where he’s going, his steps may shorten, he may draw back, won’t be in front of your leg, and you then can’t influence his straightness. Check his ears stay level, because if he doesn’t have his head and neck straight he won’t have level ears.
To develop this exercise, as you make your turn, focus on the weight you have in your seat bones – think about whether you’re equal through the turn and on into the straight. Combine this with thinking about keeping equal weight in your reins. When you’ve mastered this, progress on to thinking about whether you’ve got equal weight on both ‘pedals’! If your horse drops off your leg, use it more to send him forward. This can sometimes mean you take the weight out of your stirrup, putting your balance out. So when you apply your leg make sure you’ve got the same weight on each stirrup bar.
Start in walk, as it has no impulsion which means you can be sure your horse is going forward and is straight as a result of being on your aids. Move on to trot, and then canter if you’re confident, although canter will be more difficult because your horse will be naturally inclined in the direction of his leading leg.
Top Tip: Make sure you start your schooling session with a proper warm-up
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