Lise Roberts Dressage
 Lise Roberts Dressage 

Training Topics and Tips

When training our horses, we are looking for a willingness to comply, but we are not expecting perfection.  If the horse responds the wrong way, but they tried to give us what we wanted, we should be happy that they tried.  A lack of response is not good - the wrong response is better than no response. 


Quote from Jane Savoie: "It's important to keep in mind that when you're teaching a new behaviour you must reward every slight effort your horse makes toward doing it right, or else you'll discourage him.  Absence of reward is the same as punishment: it will take him much longer to understand what you want if you skimp on the praise."

Straightening - Quote from Alois Podhajsky:

"In order to spare himself the effort of stepping under his body with the hind legs, the horse becomes crooked, that is, he swings his hind quarters away from the track and the hind feet no longer step into the hoofprints of the front feet but to the side.  During the entire training the instructor must call the pupil's attention to this severe fault. 


The horse is straightened when in motion.  It is easiest for the pupil to straighten his horse at the trot along the wall.  The rider takes the forehand away from the wall with both reins until the hind legs follow the hoofprints of the front legs.  Both legs push the horse forward. 


The action of the outside rein is most important because using the inside rein alone would induce the horse to bend his neck to the inside but not take his forehand in."


People talk a lot about "feel" and it can seem to be one of those things that "other people" or "naturally talented riders" have, and the rest of us can only dream about.  But anyone can develop "feel" if they really want to.  It just takes time and dedication.  

Quote from Lt Col A L d'Endrody: "The rider's ability to appreciate the state of the horse's pliability and to make the animal supple is of the greatest importance.  To acquire the necessary knowledge and skill is not a matter of being born with an exceptional gift; it can be achieved by every rider in due time.  Once the rider has acquired this ability he will become enabled to achieve his aims quickly, and neither he nor his horse will have difficulty in performing any task within the  limits of their talents and gained education."


Quote from W. Museler: "When one talks of a rider's ability to feel one understands his ability, at all times, to judge how well he is sitting, his effectiveness, his giving of aids and equally, as far as his horse is concerned, its responsiveness, its degree of collection and whether it is paying attention.  Feeling can only come through practice and it is consolidated by continued practice, but only if one is prepared to make efforts.  Without personal involvement and discipline, in other words self-examination and positive thinking, no one will learn anything."


Confidence is a very precious thing that needs to be nurtured and is easily damaged.  The good news is that if it does get dented, it can be repaired, but it takes time and effort.  We need to be kind to ourselves and give ourselves credit for small achievements on the road to our goals.  Unfortunately, for some reason negative thoughts can so easily be louder in our heads than positive ones and this can serve to chip away at already weakend confidence, so we need to find ways to appreciate all the good things in our lives, and this positive attitude will spill over into our riding and gradually help to lift us back up.  Positivity builds more positivity.  

Quote from The Art of Charm website: "Reframing our failures as growth opportunities allows us to expand the knowledge that underpins confidence. And refusing to quit while celebrating small wins feeds the life experience that underlies true and lasting confidence."

Shoulder In.  Quote from Jane Savoie: "Shoulder-in is a suppling, straightening, strengthening as well as an "increasing self carriage" exercise. 


It supples the horse because it stretches and loosens the muscles and ligaments of the inside shoulder and forearm where the  horse passes his inside foreleg across and in front of his outside foreleg.  This suppling effect increases the horse's ability to move his forearm gynmastically in other lateral movements. 


It is a straightening exercise because it enables the rider to place her horse's forehand in front of his hindquarters. 


It strengthens and improves self carriage because with each step the horse moves his inside hind leg underneath his body and places it in front of his outside hind leg under his center of gravity.  By doing so, his inside hind leg gets stronger because it has to carry additional weight.  Also, in order to move his inside hind leg in this way, the horse must lower his inside hip.  When this is done, it contributes to the development of self carriage."

Taking it Slowly


It's great to be highly regarded, to be admired and complimented, especially on the impressive progress that we've made with our horses, but I think it's dangerous to put too much importance on this type of feedback as it leads to overly high expectations.  These expectations then lead to us putting too much pressure on ourselves and our horses, which can then result in feelings of inadequacy and - ironically - less positive progress with our horses as they respond negatively to the pressure. 


Would you rather win a test on a horse that you have had to kick and haul all the way around as it resists your every request, or score less but on a horse who is happy, willing and responsive, if not yet as highly educated?  Of course, we need to put some pressure on both ourselves and our horses in order to progress, but I think sometimes it's good to step back and slow down, look at our expectations, and remember: riding our horses is supposed to be a pleasure, otherwise what is the point?


The horse world can be very competitive, particularly through social media, and it is easy to start questionning yourself and believing you are not achieving enough, fast enough, because after all, everyone else seems to be progressing, don't they?  Everyone else is hacking, cantering, jumping, winning....!


Whilst some of it may be true, actually who cares?  The important thing is the relationship that we have with our own horses and as long as we do our best to communicate and create a harmonious relationship, we will make progress, and it will feel good. 


Freelance Horse Riding Instructor and Dressage Trainer for Dressage Lessons and Riding Lessons

in and around Rugby, Warwickshire and the Midlands

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