Lesson #1

21 Jan

I’ve decided to start taking dressage lessons with TB, still unsure of the frequency, but it will be either monthly or bi-weekly.

Last night was Lesson #1, and it was a “getting back to basics” lesson. She wanted to provide the foundation of her training philosophies and how she wants her horses ridden. This was exactly what I wanted, to start from the beginning and go from there, especially because I haven’ t taken a lesson in 13 years!!!

I’m going to try and summarize the main concepts from the lessons on my blog so that I can track my progress and keep tabs on what I’ve learned. Here we go:

Establish yourself as alpha on the ground – setting the expectations from the beginning on the ground during grooming will help when you’re mounted.

Tall, taller, taller – when mounted, sit up tall…and then sit up taller, and then finally, even taller.

Thighs on saddle – the inside of your thigh should lie flat against the saddle, don’t let your legs rotate outwards so that you’re using the back of your upper legs and calves to cue the horse.

Windshield wiper blade upper leg – think of your knee as the fulcrum of the windshield wiper when you’re posting at the trot. Your upper leg should go back and forth like the wiper, whereas your lower leg stays still.

Hips before shoulders – in dressage, you lead with your hips, not your shoulders.

Stabilize lower leg and sink into heels – lower leg should be still unless you’re applying an aid.

Thumbs up – thumbs on top, no piano hands

Carry yourself so the horse doesn’t have to do it for you – it is the riders’ responsibility to carry themselves evenly to allow the horse to do his job.

Hands like you’re carrying a tray – I’m not too sure about this one…gonna have to get some clarification!

Nose-to-toe for control – the quickest way to gain control if the horse acts up is to put their nose on your toe.

Figure 8 using nose-to-toe – a good exercise to get your horse to relax and pay attention to you and not what’s spooking them

Making yourself heavy, make yourself light – you have the ability to make yourself heavy or light. Imagine playing a game when you were a child where someone was trying to carry you and you made yourself heavy like a sack of potatoes. You didn’t gain any weight, you just made yourself heavy. Use this when riding too.

Downward transitions without using reins – make yourself heavy, restrict the forward movement, squeeze with your thighs.

Ninja core – Use your core to communicate with the horse. Tighten to restrict movement, loosen to encourage movement.

Make the right thing easy and the wrong thing difficult – reward and release when the horse does what you ask, ignore when you get the wrong answer.

Ask politely, not by force/pain – always be polite when you ask your horse for something. Nurture a relationship of respect and don’t use discomfort to make them do something.

Pressure on lips, not on bars or tongue – when asking for roundness, use pressure on the lips (by lifting up on reins), not using pressure on the bars or tongue (pulling back or down).

Never pull back on reins, only upwards, or sideways – pulling back or down causes discomfort, upwards and sideways is a true ask.

Open the door – when turning, open the rein and invite the horse in with your outside leg

Half halt is the tightening of your core – it is the momentary “check” of tightening your core, not pulling back on the rein(s)

High energy horse + high energy rider = disaster

Responsibility lies with the rider to relax



Plan your ride, have an end point – if you’re doing an exercise, pick where you’re going to do it and get it done by that point. Ex: if you’re going to halt at E, do what you have to do before E to make sure that you have halted when you get there. Refine as you get better.

Bring a forward horse back so that you can push them – forward horses need to relax so that you are able to ask them for more, aim to get them relaxed so that you can push for more.

Push the baby carriage – when you ask for more, let your hands move like you’re pushing a baby carriage, this allows more uninhibited movement.

Play with ring fingers, not with your hands – use only your fingers to play on the reins, not your whole hands

Lift up on the inside rein – lift up, play with fingers, lower your hands when the horse responds

Push from your inside leg to outside rein

Never stop communicating with your horse – riding is a two way communication between you and the horse. If the horses ears are both forward, he’s not listing to you.

The lesson was brilliant, I left a better rider than I started, I had a happy horse (Amber) and I cannot wait to practice tonight!


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