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Saturday, 28 May 2011

It Works Both Ways

You’re probably familiar with the term ‘½ 10m O incline back to the track’ but when was the last time you rode one? Chances are you were practicing for a dressage test.

These are useful movements to use when you’re schooling. There are two ways to ride them. Each one creates different problems but they’re both guaranteed to improve your horse’s straightness. Once he’s straight there’s no limit to what you can do.

The obvious direction is from the track to the centre line but there’s an easier way. Try riding the ½ circle from the centre line to the track (From G to H, for example). Then ride your incline back to the centre line (D). Do the same back again so you create a figure of eight.  (½ 10m O from D to K incline back to G)

Riding in this direction takes away any problems that might arise with the ½ circle. The fence is there and will stop your horse from falling out. It’s useful but make sure you don’t depend on it. Use both legs round the curve. Then when you go in the other direction you’ll be better prepared and your horse will be paying attention.

Your turn onto the incline is important. Do it well and you’ll keep your horse straight. Get it wrong and you’ll spend the whole incline trying to straighten him up.

As you turn off the track your horse will probably assume you’re changing the rein. The angle of the incline is less than that of the long diagonal. You’ll need to be ready with your leg to stop him turning too far. Remember your hands control his shoulders not his body. Grabbing a rein in a desperate attempt to get him back on line will make matters worse not better.

It always helps if you focus on the point you are riding to. As you turn your head turn your upper body and hips round too. If your horse is concentrating he should only turn his body as far as you turn yours.

As you leave the track you want a sharp turn onto a straight line. The ½ circle stops at the marker. If you read One Step at a Time you’ll have read about thinking of your horse’s body as a ball which you throw from one leg to the other. Think of that on this turn. Use a nudge with your outside heel to push his body off the track. Use it in its usual place near the girth – you want to turn his body not his quarters. Catch him with your inside leg to stop him turning too far.

Once on the incline your horse should be straight in his head and neck as well as his body. Ride forward into a steady contact. Slowing down and fiddling is the easiest way to get a wobble. When you reach the centre line don’t hesitate. Push on round your new ½ circle and your horse will stay balanced. Hesitate and he’ll stop using his hocks and you’ll lose energy and rhythm.

A classic rider error is to lift up the inside hand on the ½ 10m O. Don’t do it! No matter where your horse is your hand position should stay the same. Your fingers may increase or release pressure but moving your hands will always affect your horse in a negative way. (See Keep in Touch & It’s in Your Hands)

Lift one hand up and your horse will lift the same shoulder. If his inside shoulder is higher than the outside his rhythm and balance will be affected. Try walking with one shoulder higher than the other. Feel what it does to your back. Imagine having to carry a rider as well?

Riding the movement in the other direction creates different problems. On the ½ 10m circle keep your eyes just ¼ of a circle ahead. Turn your head too far round and you’ll encourage your horse to turn too soon. He’ll fall in. But be careful. Without the fence to help you you’ll need plenty of outside leg to stop him falling out too.

In this direction it’s common on the incline for the horse to almost leg yield back onto the track. The line should be straight from point to point. His front feet should step into the track before his hind feet if it’s done correctly. He mustn’t swing his quarters round and sidestep into the track.

Be ready with your heel along the whole incline. If his whole body is moving across use it in its usual place by the girth. If he’s swinging his quarters round bring your heel back to straighten him.

This is a simple movement but it’s so useful. Introduce it into your schooling sessions and you’ll find it highlights any faults you may have developed. Don’t be put off by that. Problems are there to be solved. Without them schooling really would be boring!

Good luck and have fun.

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