Grand prix dressage rider Kate Cowell shares two exercises to develop suppleness, submission and balance while keeping the session interesting for you and your horse. Each exercise takes 15 minutes.

Exercise: half turn on the haunches

This low-impact exercise develops the horse’s suppleness, submission and balance, and the rider’s independent aids.

  1. Start at walk on the right rein and perform a half turn on the haunches to the right (a working pirouette). Turn your body in the direction you want to go. Keep your contact pliable and soft in the walk.
  2. Once back on the track, proceed in trot on the left rein into a half 20m circle and allow the horse to slightly stretch its neck.
  3. Do a trot-walk transition and develop a turn on the haunches to the left.
  4. To help you do this, begin by riding a 5m circle with haunches in. With practise you’ll be able to ride a smaller, more demanding turn as your horse becomes more supple.

Exercise: the Christmas tree

Diagram: the Christmas tree exercise (not to scale)

This exercise (see diagram, right) helps to improve the horse’s lateral work and reaction to the rider’s aids. It develops suppleness, engagement, effectiveness of the aids and quality of the gait.

  1. From one short side, turn on to the long side and leg-yield inwards a couple of metres.
  2. Ride forward for a few steps. Use your opposite leg to straighten your horse and not the reins.
  3. Leg-yield again, away from the arena fence.
  4. Ride forward for a few steps and ride a half 10-12m circle at the top of your arena so that your horse is facing the opposite way.
  5. Now follow steps one to three again, this time leg-yielding out towards the outside track away from your other leg so that you mirror the work you did on the other side of the arena.
  6. You can ride this in walk, trot or canter.
  7. If you have them, use poles as tramlines to ensure your straight lines are truly straight.

Kate says…

“When training my horses, I use the Equisense Motion, a piece of kit that monitors various parameters so I can track the horse’s training. It also gives over 300 exercises. These are two of my favourite 15-minute ones. They vary in difficulty, but all can be ridden in walk, trot or canter.”

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