This article originally appeared in the July 2011 issue of Dressage Today, but I recently stumbled across it on Equisearch.com. Is your event horse a little too hot and sensitive on the flat? Are you afraid to put your leg on? Is “tense” a common comment on your dressage test? Lauren Sprieser shares some great tips to help make a hot horse more rideable. Click over to Equisearch.com to read the full article.
Forward, Not Fast
The one thing all horses, hot or not, have in common is that they must stay in front of the rider’s leg. Implusion is different from speed, though, and as some hot horses prefer “go” to “whoa,” it’s easy to forget that the horse still needs to feel the leg aid and move forward from it.
When dealing with a hot horse who’s behind the leg, first you have to ask yourself: Is he behind the aids because he doesn’t respond to the aids or because he has a bad response to the aids like getting quicker instead of bigger? Or is he behind the aids because I can’t apply the aids without getting an explosion? If your horse is ticklish like Midgey, the first step is teaching him to accept that your leg is going to be there no matter what.
Exercise One—Spiral in on the circle: Moving in and out on the circle can help teach your horse to accept the leg. You can perform this movement in trot or canter and will find you prefer one over the other, depending on how your horse responds.
- On a 20-meter circle, pick up the canter or trot.
- With your outside leg, move the circle in to 18 meters. Then, with your inside leg, press it back out to 20.
- If the horse gets tight or runs, use the circle lines to control the speed; perhaps you have to bring the circle in to 15 meters or even 12.
The young or unbalanced horse might struggle with those tighter lines and fall out of the canter. If he does, don’t be in a rush to get him back to the canter. Take time. And it’s always best to fix a tight, on-the-forehand, running canter by going back to the trot and starting over. It’s easier to pick up a good canter than to fix a bad one.
Exercise Two—Leg yield on the diagonal: Once you can put your leg on, it’s time to make sure your horse is in front of it.
- Start a leg yield or half pass on the diagonal from the corner. Begin in normal working trot.
- Slowly build it to finish the line in medium trot.
- Keep the rhythm and tempo as your first priorities. Your horse is not to get quicker, merely bigger in his movement.
Using the sideways movement helps regulate that tempo. Georg Theodorescu once told me, “A horse can’t run away when he’s crossing his legs!”