Tips from Train­ers Who Teach

Dressage Today - - Content - By Kather­ine Bate­son-Chan­dler with An­nie Mor­ris

Kather­ine BatesonChan­dler shares ex­er­cises to help you align your horse for im­proved straight­ness

Lack of straight­ness is one of the most im­por­tant is­sues I ad­dress with my stu­dents, whether they are pro­fes­sional or ama­teur rid­ers. Straight­ness is an even­ness be­tween right and left. It not only ap­plies when rid­ing on straight lines, but on bend­ing lines and in lat­eral work as well. Our job as dres­sage rid­ers and train­ers is al­ways to make the horse as equal lat­er­ally as we pos­si­bly can.

Nat­u­rally, the horse is crooked and wants to carry the haunches to one side while on the other side he is stiffer to bend. In my ex­pe­ri­ence, horses are stiffer to the right be­cause we do all the train­ing from the left side since they are ba­bies. These horses go best to the left most of the time and might be stronger in your hand on the right rein than on the left.

The big­gest ben­e­fit of rid­ing your horse straight is that it pro­motes his health. If the horse is crooked, rid­ing could cause un­even wear and tear on his legs. This can cre­ate lame­ness is­sues for the horse be­cause he is al­ways bear­ing more weight on one leg than an­other. Also, in com­pe­ti­tion the first move­ment you do in any test is to go down the centerline and the judge can see your straight­ness di­rectly. If you go down the centerline with the haunches or shoul­ders off the line, right away you show the judge that you don’t have the horse straight, which is not a great first im­pres­sion.

Ev­ery­thing in the test is set up sym­met­ri­cally so dur­ing the test you must demon­strate the im­por­tance of straight­ness and even­ness.

Stiff Ver­sus Hol­low

The stiff side is the side that is more dif­fi­cult to bend. In the ex­am­ple I’ve of­fered, the horse is stiff to the right be­cause he is harder to bend right. He is shorter through the whole left side of his body and it is hard for him to stretch it out on the out­side of the bend. To the left, the haunches want to be more to the in­side and the bend is eas­ier. This is called the hol­low side.

The Rider’s Role

You can think of the rider on the horse like a back­pack on your back. If the rider is al­ways lean­ing one way, the horse is al­ways try­ing to put his weight un­der you like you would with an un­evenly loaded back­pack. There­fore, the rider’s even­ness in the seat di­rectly af­fects the straight­ness of the horse.

The best rid­ers in the world sit square, straight and bal­anced on the horse. I like to re­mind my stu­dents that if you want the horse to be in self­car­riage, you must be in self-car­riage. You should hold your own body weight bal­anced, with­out tip­ping one way or an­other, oth­er­wise the horse will not be able to be straight.

Try Shoul­der-fore, Shoul­der-in and Haunches-in

The horse, by na­ture, is nar­rower in front than be­hind. You must nar­row the haunches to make the horse truly straight. Start with the shoul­der-fore, which is when the front legs track nor­mally, the out­side hind leg fol­lows the out­side front leg and the in­side hind leg steps be­tween the front legs. Prac­tice rid­ing shoul­der-fore to­ward a mir­ror or to­ward some­one who can tell you if the in­side hind leg stays be­tween the front legs. Then the horse is straight.

Once you have estab­lished shoul­der­fore, you can start work­ing shoul­der-in and haunches-in ex­er­cises.

Shoul­der-in is an ex­er­cise of three tracks with bend, with the horse’s in­side front leg on the in­side track, the out­side front leg in front of the in­side hind leg and the out­side hind leg on the track. To ride shoul­der-in: s 4 HE IN­SIDE LEG AN­DRE IN ASK FOR FLEX­ION

to the in­side, but not a neck bend. s 4 HE IN­SIDE LEGS ENDS THE EN­ERGY DOWN

the track.

she out­side rein con­trols the out­side shoul­ders from over­bend­ing. shoul­der in and to keep the bring the point the horse of the shoul­der-in is to de­velop an out­side rein that can con­trol the shoul­der. she out­side leg is back and pas­sive

the haunches-in is a three-track ex­er­cise with the in­side hind leg on the in­side track, the in­side front leg in front of the out­side hind leg and the out­side front leg on the track. to ride the haunches-in: she out­side leg is back to bring the

haunches to the in­side. s he in­side leg and rein ask for flex­ion

but, again, not neck bend. she out­side rein keeps the shoul­ders

trav­el­ing straight down the track. she in­side leg on the girth keeps the bend in the bar­rel.

Start at the walk with the shoul­derin and haunches-in. Make sure you have con­trol of both the shoul­ders and haunches and can po­si­tion them where you want them and not where the horse wants to po­si­tion them. Then try it from a qual­ity col­lected trot or col­lected can­ter, but un­der­stand that the horse can­not per­form shoul­der-in in the can­ter, only shoul­der-fore and haunches-in.

Work first on a big cir­cle to make sure you can keep the po­si­tion­ing of the move­ment with the horse up­right and not lean­ing to the in­side like a mo­tor­cy­cle turn­ing. From the cir­cle, try the move­ment on the long side, mak­ing sure you can keep that body con­trol. The next goal is to have the move­ments work­ing equally on both sides be­cause nat­u­rally one side is more dif­fi­cult for the horse.

Your job is to make the horse as even on both sides as pos­si­ble, there­fore im­prov­ing his straight­ness. This will im­prove all as­pects of your ride as well as your horse’s health and your com­pe­ti­tion scores.

Kather­ine Bate­son-Chan­dler and Al­cazar demon­strate the im­por­tance of straight­ness on the centerline at Aachen.

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