Hope you and your horses have all had a successful start to 2016! I can’t believe we’re one month in already.
2016 is pretty significant for me riding-wise because I’m upgrading from the FEI Junior level to FEI Young Rider level, which is pretty much like going from third level to Prix St. Georges. In light of this sizeable change, my trainer has been working with my horse, Rigo, and I on specific exercises to help improve our skills in the Young Rider Tests. I’ve found some of them extremely helpful, and I hope you all try them!
1) Half Pass-Leg Yield
Rigo is a seasoned small tour horse, so he knows the Prix St. Georges tests pretty well. While this is a great thing cause I can learn so much from his wealth of experience, he tends to anticipate the movements and take over, and I feel this most in the half pass zigzags (a half pass left, then a flying change, then a half pass right, then a flying change). He likes to start the right half pass during the flying change, and he throws himself sideways and makes it hard for me to get a straight flying change or proper bend and flexion. So we’ve come up with a way to fix this: Half pass left, flying change right, leg yield left. After the flying change, leg yielding to the left prevents the horse from launching himself to the right, which means that the flying change will be straighter and you will be able to prepare a more correct half pass to the right. Practicing this movement is effective because the horse learns not to anticipate the right half pass, and allows you to attain better straightness. This is also effective in the trot, but I’ve found it particularly impactful in this PSG canter movement.
2) Shoulder-in on Centreline
Practicing your shoulder-ins on the centreline is a great way to perfect this movement. I find that Rigo and I rely too much on the track to perform a good shoulder-in because it helps keep him going in a straight line and enables me to focus more on the angle, bend and flexion. This exercise is super difficult but with time we have improved and its helped us develop a very correct shoulder-in. If you can do it towards a mirror its even better because you can see the angle of the movement and how straight you are travelling. Remember, the horse should be travelling on three tracks- if you see 3 legs in the mirror you’re good!
3) Broken up Extended Trot
Rigo has a lovely, large extended trot. But sometimes I find it difficult to get him back after a long diagonal of extension. Therefore, whenever I practice this movement, I break it up with collection. On a long diagonal, I extend as much as possible, then collect for a few strides over X, and then extend again. Frequently collecting the horse prepares him to come back nicely after the diagonal so you aren’t frantically trying to collect him before the corner. By collecting him often, you break up the long extended trot and it is therefore easier to make transitions within the gait.
Hope these exercises help you!