Riding to the End

Do you ever find yourself losing marks at the end of a dressage movement, or knocking the last of a showjumping course?

I was watching a client warm up for her lesson this morning and noticed that her circles lost their roundness in the last quarter. She was planning her movements well in advance, but as she saw the end of the movement she relaxed and then lost her line and accuracy. While she continued to warm up I asked her to think about riding one and a half circles so that she rode one hundred percent of the way around the circle. Then we moved onto zig zag leg yielding which wasn`t too bad, but I noticed it was a bit sloppy at the end of each leg yield and she was struggling with the change in direction.

So I concocted a complex exercise to overcome this. I remember an instructor working over a single fence with me and placing a single canter pole a few metres away from the jump so that I rode away from the jump and thus produced a better technique. I use this quite often in jumping lessons so that the ponies don`t fall into walk after the fence.

Beginning in walk, my rider rode onto the three quarter line (a bit closer to the track than usual) and leg yielded towards the track. Upon reaching the track about midway along the long side, she asked for shoulder-in. This caught her out! If you, like many of us do, begin the leg yield correctly but then allow your horse to fall through their outside shoulder as they approach the track then it is almost impossible to ride a correct shoulder in because the horse has either lost the inside bend, or they are almost in travers as they reach the track.

To help my client, I permitted her to ride a ten metre circle once she reached the track to help release her outside hip and to set up the shoulder in. When she had mastered the exercise with the circle we removed that element, and then progressed into trot.

The leg yield improved dramatically; my client had to ride a good corner onto her three-quarter line, otherwise she lost control of his shoulders and the hindquarters got left behind in the leg yield, only pretending to cross over. If my rider controlled the shoulders and felt the hindquarters crossing underneath her then when she reached the track she found shoulder-in easy, and her horse stepped under nicely with his inside hind, lifting at the wither and collecting well.

This exercise proved to my rider that she needs to keep riding every step of her movements in order to finish correctly and ready to start her next movement. With this approach to her riding I can now begin to link movements together and she should be able to ride the more straightforward ones to a higher level of accuracy.

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