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Western Dressage – Alberta rider brings home Western dressage world championship. By Lisa Wieben and Birgit Stutz

January 5, 2018

Lisa Hannaford of Valleyview, Alberta, and her 14-year-old Andalusian-thoroughbred mare Cloud Nine (“Drew”) recently brought home a Western Dressage world championship and two reserves from the 2017 Western Dressage World Championship Show, held September 28 to October 1 at the Lazy E Arena in Guthrie, Oklahoma.

Lisa Hannaford 1

Photo credit Don Stine Communications & Photography

“Attending the Western Dressage World Show was a fantastic experience,” said Hannaford, who is originally from Edmonton, but now resides in Valleyview, about 3.5 hours north of Edmonton.

“I’m 51 years old and have been riding since I was six. While I began in the hunter-jumper world, my interest in dressage began about eight or nine years ago. While the majority of those years have been training and competing in classical dressage, Western dressage has piqued my interest, and for some reason my current mount seems to prefer it. I was very familiar with the Western as I had completed my national coaching certification in Western about 17 years ago, and while I am not currently hanging my hat as a coach, competing in Western dressage was not a stretch for me. Last year we competed in English, Western, Prix Caprilli, and succeeded in winning the senior championship in the Peace Country Circuit for English, Western and all-around champion. This year we did not focus on that specific circuit as much, but instead focused on Western dressage.”

Hannaford and some of her close friends have been instrumental in getting several Western dressage shows sanctioned in the Peace Country.

“Drew and I were competing in a show in Grande Prairie in August, and upon completion of my final salute the Judge Mary-Ellen Laidlaw came up to me and said, ‘Wow, you better go to the Worlds’. It never occurred to me to go to the Worlds, and I wasn’t even sure she was serious. A couple of weeks went by and I had a chance to do some research about the show, talk to a few close friends and family, and although there were so many reasons not to go, the stars aligned and the reality of travelling to Oklahoma became a real possibility. Once I made up my mind, there was not too much that got in the way!”

Hannaford said it took a huge amount of energy to get organized before leaving for Oklahoma, as she only had about six weeks to prepare once she decided to send in her entries.

“Things like time off work, a travelling companion, veterinary certificates, training and learning the American tests, organizing horse hotels, etc., but my lifelong friend Brenda Dunbar stepped up to the plate and was the best travelling companion and groom one could ask for. Brenda and my 16-year-old daughter Chloe, who flew in to the Will Rogers airport in Oklahoma City, played an instrumental role in my experience and journey. They were awesome!”

Hannaford has owned her current horse Drew for about five years now.

“She’s awesome,” said Hannaford.

“She was a star travelling all the way down as well as in the ring. Although the heat and humidity were not what we are used too, Drew gave me her very best each and every day. She is a dream, and I still feel like I’m on Cloud Nine. I love her to the moon and back.”

Lisa Hannaford 2

Photo credit Don Stine Communications & Photography

Hannaford said the experience at the World Show exceeded her expectations.

“The grounds and facilities were amazing, and the folks who organized the show were extremely organized and friendly. The other competitors were also very friendly, and I was lucky enough to meet some new Canadian friends as well as many Americans. I heard that over 10,000 people tuned into the live streaming to watch the competition. That’s a huge indication this is a growing sport. What was so fantastic was the wide range in age of the competitors, although lots of youngsters, many people were my age and older. The other very refreshing thing about this horse show is the vast diversity of breeds. There were close to forty different breeds and crosses represented; all types and levels were embraced, so one never saw your cookie-cutter breed highlighted like you find in many other disciplines. I would encourage other riders, whether you are new to Western dressage or a seasoned competitor to keep this diversity in mind, as no matter what type of horse you have or what level you are currently riding at, opportunities such as this show are in reach, and it truly is a once in a lifetime experience. I would advise if you are going to take your time travelling down and enjoy the journey. We treated it as a show-cation, and that was a good mental spot to be in, for as much as I wanted to do well, having fun was more important than winning, which was the icing on the cake as it is pretty cool to come home with that World Champion jacket!”

Hannaford said she’s been very fortunate to have a plethora of coaches throughout her riding career.

“My horsey friends at home helped me a lot to prepare for this show, from eyes on the ground, reading tests, borrowing of tack items and moral support,” she said.

“The weeks prior to leaving I was blessed with the services of Jenneke-Hoogendoorn-Baker, owner of Highthorn stables in Stony Plain. Jenneke is a fantastic, hard-working, excellent rider and coach. She really went above and beyond helping Drew and I learn the new tests and perfecting the movements required. I can’t say enough good things about Jenneke, and I look forward to continuing up the levels with her mentorship.”

This was the fifth annual Western Dressage World Show, with more than 800 rides and exhibitors from 29 states, five Canadian provinces as well as New Zealand.

Congrats Lisa on your World Championship!

This article is the 22nd in a series of articles on Western dressage and is a collaboration between Lisa Wieben (see biography below) and Birgit Stutz. The articles appear in the horse magazine SaddleUp on a monthly basis.

Lisa Wieben is a versatile and exceptional riding coach, balancing her skills as a Level 2 Centered Riding Instructor, Equine Canada Western Competition Coach, and Irwin Insights Level 4 Master Certified Trainer. Currently specializing in Western and English Dressage, she trains youth, adult amateurs, and professionals as well as coaching a local 4H group at her facility near Bowden/Olds, AB. Through dressage and foundational training she helps riders of all disciplines create stronger partnerships with their horses. Also, as a Hanna Somatic Instructor and Practitioner in Training, Lisa works with riders, in class or privately, learning movement exercises that target specific muscle issues in the body brought on by stress, injuries, surgeries, and overuse. Her approach, using Dressage, Centered Riding, Irwin Insights principles, and Somatics, all come together to develop a balanced rider and a balanced horse. http://www.mountainviewtrainingstables.com.

Birgit Stutz is an Irwin Insights Level 4 Master Certified Trainer and offers horse training, riding lessons in the English and Western disciplines, horsemanship clinics, mentorship programs, intensive horsemanship courses, workshops, short courses and demos on various topics, as well as working student programs at Falling Star Ranch Academy of Foundational Horsemanship in Dunster, BC. Birgit’s passion is to help humans have a better relationship with their horses through understanding of equine psychology and body language, biomechanics, as well as fundamental riding skills based on classical dressage. http://www.fallingstarranch.ca.

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Western Dressage – Common errors while executing the half-pass (part 2). By Lisa Wieben and Birgit Stutz

December 19, 2017

In the last blog post, we discussed common errors that occur while performing the half-pass, such as the horse leading with his hind quarters instead of with his shoulders, the horse trailing his hindquarters too far behind, the horse being on the forehand and/or dropping the inside shoulder, the horse tilting his head at the poll. In this blog post we are discussing a few more common errors while performing the half-pass.

The horse loses impulsion: This is often caused by the rider using too much rein to develop the bend. It is quite natural to feel like you need to “hold” the horse in the bend when starting the horse in the half-pass, but this is counter to what you want to do. The inside rein of the bend must be away from the horse’s neck and allow the shoulders to move freely over. The half-pass is much more about leg aids than rein aids. If the horse is not supple and off the leg, then he will struggle with the half-pass. Be sure the leg yield, shoulder-in, and haunches-in are solid before progressing to half-pass. An exercise you can do is to go from shoulder-in along the wall to half-pass for a few strides and back to shoulder-in. This will keep the horse thinking forward. Remember it is your outside leg that asks for the sideways movement and the inside leg that maintains the bend and impulsion. If the outside rein is too strong, the horse may lose impulsion, or if the inside rein is against the neck, blocking the sideways movement, he may slow down.

HP_bend in neck

The horse has too much bend in his neck. This is often caused by the rider using too much rein to develop the bend. Remember, the inside rein of the bend must be away from the horse’s neck so as to allow the shoulders to move freely over. – Photo by Lisa Wieben

The horse loses rhythm: Be sure to count your rhythm. The horse should not change the rhythm from the collected jog into the half-pass and back to straightness. Before going into the half-pass count “one, two, one two” and maintain the same count. If the horse begins to lose rhythm you can ride forward and re-establish the rhythm and then set the horse up again for half-pass. In the beginning you only want to ask the horse for a couple of strides before proceeding forward.

The horse moves too much sideways and not enough forward: The rider needs to use more inside leg to maintain forward energy and more outside rein to block the sideways movement. The amount of each will depend on the horse.

The rider isn’t sitting centred, causing the horse to be crooked or off-balance: Imagining a balance beam will help you sit the half-pass correctly. If you tilt to either side you will “fall off” the balance beam and put your horse off balance. A very common mistake is the rider leaning to the direction of the pressing leg, to the outside of the bend. Imagine giving someone a piggy back ride. If the “rider” leans you would try to get underneath them to stay balanced. It is the same with the horse. If the rider is leaning away from the direction of travel the horse will have to work harder to maintain impulsion, rhythm, and balance. By shifting your weight slightly to the direction of travel the horse will be much more balanced throughout the movement.

HP_riderweighttooutside

The rider is leaning to the outside of the bend, away from the direction of travel. The horse will have to work harder to maintain impulsion, rhythm, and balance. By shifting the weight slightly to the direction of travel the horse will be much more balanced throughout the movement. – Photo by Lisa Wieben

Rider position can affect all of the above issues. If the rider is not following with her seat, then the horse could lose impulsion and rhythm. If the rider is too tight in her contact the horse will become tight, or if the contact is uneven the horse will tilt his head. Keep your body looking in the direction of travel, with your weight very slightly in the direction of travel with even, light contact.

HP_riderliftinghand_droppingshoulder

The rider is dropping her inside shoulder and lifting her inside hand. This may cause the horse to be crooked or off-balance. The uneven contact may also cause the horse to tilt his head. – Photo by Lisa Wieben

If you think of the lateral movements like the training scale, work on proficiency at each level before continuing up the scale. Start with the turn on the forehand, the leg yield (head to wall and straight to wall from the quarter line or centre line), turn on the haunches, then shoulder-in, haunches-in, and finally the half-pass. To prevent issues we must not rush any one of these steps.

Training is all about the journey!

This article is the 21st in a series of articles on Western dressage and is a collaboration between Lisa Wieben (see biography below) and Birgit Stutz. The articles appear in the horse magazine SaddleUp on a monthly basis.

Lisa Wieben is a versatile and exceptional riding coach, balancing her skills as a Level 2 Centered Riding Instructor, Equine Canada Western Competition Coach, and Irwin Insights Level 4 Master Certified Trainer. Currently specializing in Western and English Dressage, she trains youth, adult amateurs, and professionals as well as coaching a local 4H group at her facility near Bowden/Olds, AB. Through dressage and foundational training she helps riders of all disciplines create stronger partnerships with their horses. Also, as a Hanna Somatic Instructor and Practitioner in Training, Lisa works with riders, in class or privately, learning movement exercises that target specific muscle issues in the body brought on by stress, injuries, surgeries, and overuse. Her approach, using Dressage, Centered Riding, Irwin Insights principles, and Somatics, all come together to develop a balanced rider and a balanced horse. http://www.mountainviewtrainingstables.com.

Birgit Stutz is an Irwin Insights Level 4 Master Certified Trainer and offers horse training, riding lessons in the English and Western disciplines, horsemanship clinics, mentorship programs, intensive horsemanship courses, workshops, short courses and demos on various topics, as well as working student programs at Falling Star Ranch Academy of Foundational Horsemanship in Dunster, BC. Birgit’s passion is to help humans have a better relationship with their horses through understanding of equine psychology and body language, biomechanics, as well as fundamental riding skills based on classical dressage. http://www.fallingstarranch.ca.

Western Dressage – Common errors while executing the half-pass (part 1). By Lisa Wieben and Birgit Stutz

November 23, 2017

In the last blog post, we discussed how to correctly perform the lateral movement half-pass.

In this and the next blog post, we are looking at common errors that occur while performing the half-pass.

As a review, during the half-pass, the horse moves forward and sideways at the same time bent in the direction of travel. The outside hind leg and front leg should cross over the inside legs, with the horse’s forehand leading.

HP_straighthalfpass

The horse is lacking the shoulder-in angle and bend through the body making him too straight. – Photo by Lisa Wieben

Common errors while performing half-pass:

The horse leads with his hind quarters instead of with his shoulders: This may happen when the rider holds the horse’s front end too much and/or moves the outside leg too far back. The horse needs to be evenly bent around your inside leg. An exercise to try is moving the horse from a half-pass back to a leg yield then back to half-pass.

For example, if you begin a half-pass from the left rein you will be traveling left in left bend, moving the horse from your right leg; without changing bend use your left leg to push your horse back toward the wall in a leg-yield. Use your right rein to keep the horse straight. Once the shoulders and hips are back in alignment change leg aids again and push the horse back into a half-pass.

HP_haunchesleading2

The horse leads with his hind quarters instead of with his shoulders. – Photo by Lisa Wieben

The horse is trailing his hindquarters too far behind; doesn’t have enough bend: Begin the half-pass from a 10-metre circle in the corner. As you complete the circle ask the horse for a few steps in shoulder-in, then begin the half-pass maintaining the bend through the horse’s body. Lack of bend is usually due to lack of suppleness. More work on lower level lateral work will be beneficial.

HP_haunchestrailing

The horse is trailing his hindquarters too far behind. – Photo by Lisa Wieben

The horse is on the forehand and/or the inside shoulder is dropping: This comes back to the horse not being balanced over his hind end. Work on transitions will help as well as establishing a good half-halt. Quick transitions will help re-balance the horse more onto his hind end. The horse must be light in the front to correctly execute a half-pass. On a circle in working or collected jog transition to walk for a couple of steps and immediately back to jog. Continue frequently until the horse begins to feel lighter in the front.

The horse tilts his head at the poll: This is generally caused by the horse not being supple in the poll or the rider having uneven rein contact. If you look at your horse’s ears and notice that one ear is lower than the other then you may have a poll suppleness issue. Working the horse in free jog will help relax the poll. Ride the free jog on a circle and ask the horse for a little more bend to the inside to ask the horse to supple a little more. Keep contact on both reins and as you ask for more suppleness on the inside, use the outside rein to maintain the size of your circle. Ride in both directions. Every horse has a tendency to be tighter to one side, just like we are right or left handed.

HP_headtilt

The horse tilts his head at the poll: This is generally caused by the horse not being supple in the poll or the rider having uneven rein contact. – Photo by Lisa Wieben

We will discuss more common errors in the next blog post.

This article is the 20th in a series of articles on Western dressage and is a collaboration between Lisa Wieben (see biography below) and Birgit Stutz. The articles appear in the horse magazine SaddleUp on a monthly basis.

Lisa Wieben is a versatile and exceptional riding coach, balancing her skills as a Level 2 Centered Riding Instructor, Equine Canada Western Competition Coach, and Irwin Insights Level 4 Master Certified Trainer. Currently specializing in Western and English Dressage, she trains youth, adult amateurs, and professionals as well as coaching a local 4H group at her facility near Bowden/Olds, AB. Through dressage and foundational training she helps riders of all disciplines create stronger partnerships with their horses. Also, as a Hanna Somatic Instructor and Practitioner in Training, Lisa works with riders, in class or privately, learning movement exercises that target specific muscle issues in the body brought on by stress, injuries, surgeries, and overuse. Her approach, using Dressage, Centered Riding, Irwin Insights principles, and Somatics, all come together to develop a balanced rider and a balanced horse. http://www.mountainviewtrainingstables.com.

Birgit Stutz is an Irwin Insights Level 4 Master Certified Trainer and offers horse training, riding lessons in the English and Western disciplines, horsemanship clinics, mentorship programs, intensive horsemanship courses, workshops, short courses and demos on various topics, as well as working student programs at Falling Star Ranch Academy of Foundational Horsemanship in Dunster, BC. Birgit’s passion is to help humans have a better relationship with their horses through understanding of equine psychology and body language, biomechanics, as well as fundamental riding skills based on classical dressage. http://www.fallingstarranch.ca.

 

Western Dressage – How to execute the half-pass. By Lisa Wieben and Birgit Stutz

October 14, 2017

In this blog post, we are discussing another lateral movement called half-pass. The half-pass is a schooling movement that requires the horse to engage its hindquarters. In Western dressage, the half-pass is seen at the Third Level.

During the half-pass, the horse moves forward and sideways at the same time bent in the direction of travel. The outside hind leg and front leg should cross over the inside legs, with the horse’s forehand leading slightly.

The half-pass is a more advanced movement and requires more balance, engagement and collection from the horse than the more basic leg-yield, which we discussed in the February and March issues of SaddleUp. This is due to the horse being slightly bent in the direction of movement in the half-pass, whereas in the leg-yield, there is only a slight flexion in the horse’s poll away from the direction of travel. In the half pass, the horse’s body will be parallel to the long side of the arena, with the forehand slightly leading the hindquarters.

It’s important that your horse is familiar with the lateral movements of shoulder-in (discussed in the April issue of SaddleUp) and haunches-in (travers) (discussed in the June and July issues of SaddleUp).

The half-pass is a great exercise to strengthen, supple and engage your horse. Since the half-pass is ridden at Third Level, the horse will be in collected jog when performing the movement and eventually move to the collected lope.

Half_pass_3

Both the rider and the horse are looking in the direction of travel. The horse is bent nicely around the inside leg and is softly into the outside rein. The rein is allowing the horse to bend. The horse is showing very nice reach and cross-over. – Photo by Amy Pike

How to execute a half-pass

In order to ride a half-pass correctly, it is important to start the movement with the horse’s forehand leading in order to prevent a common mistake of having the haunches lead. Therefore, we like to teach the half-pass by starting with a stride or two of shoulder-in.

  1. Make sure your horse has enough impulsion when starting the movement.
  2. Sit tall with eyes forward, looking into the direction you’re going.
  3. Align your shoulders with your horse’s shoulders and your hips with the horse’s hips, just as you would when riding a circle or corner.
  4. Your belly button should be pointing in the same direction as your horse’s bend and your eyes will be looking toward the point you want your horse to line up with.
  5. With the inside rein, gently ask your horse to flex at the poll in the direction of travel and guide the forehand in the direction of the movement with the outside rein.
  6. Keep your inside leg at the girth to maintain the bend and keep the horse moving forward. You now have your horse in a slight shoulder-in position. Maintain shoulder-in for a step or two.
  7. Now use your outside leg slightly behind the girth to encourage impulsion and ask the horse to step sideways, maintaining the forward energy with the inside leg.
  8. Shift your weight to the inside seat bone to help maintain bend and help the horse move over laterally. Always think of your weight going in the direction of travel. The horse will want to balance under your weight and will move over with you.
  9. The outside rein will give very slightly to allow the horse to stretch the outside of its neck and body. Once the horse is in correct flexion the inside rein will soften so that the forward movement is not blocked at the shoulder.
Half_pass_1

Notice the rider is looking down at her horse and the horse is starting the half-pass in a very slight haunches leading position. – Photo by Amy Pike

As always, do not ask for too many steps at a time as it takes time for your horse to develop strength to execute this movement and keep the line of the half-pass shallow, such as centreline to the end of the long side.

Another way to set the horse up for a half-pass is to ride a 10-metre circle coming out of the corner starting down the long side, shoulder-in for a stride or two, then begin the half-pass. If the horse loses balance, rhythm, or impulsion you can ride forward, circle and begin the half-pass again from the shoulder-in. The horse should keep its impulsion and rhythm and stay balanced during the execution of the half-pass.

The half-pass movement really teaches the horse to step into the outside rein and bend around the inside leg. Be sure to have a solid shoulder-in and haunches-in before teaching the half pass. The horse will then be more comfortable with moving off the leg and into the outside rein, thus preventing tension from developing as the horse learns to move laterally in the direction of the bend. Riding the movement in the walk will help both horse and rider become more comfortable with the angle and degree of bend required for the movement before progressing to collected jog. Enjoy!

In our next article we will look at common errors while executing the half-pass.

This article is the nineteenth in a series of articles on Western dressage and is a collaboration between Lisa Wieben (see biography below) and Birgit Stutz. The articles appear in the horse magazine SaddleUp on a monthly basis.

Lisa Wieben is a versatile and exceptional riding coach, balancing her skills as a Level 2 Centered Riding Instructor, Equine Canada Western Competition Coach, and Irwin Insights Level 4 Master Certified Trainer. Currently specializing in Western and English Dressage, she trains youth, adult amateurs, and professionals as well as coaching a local 4H group at her facility near Bowden/Olds, AB. Through dressage and foundational training she helps riders of all disciplines create stronger partnerships with their horses. Also, as a Hanna Somatic Instructor and Practitioner in Training, Lisa works with riders, in class or privately, learning movement exercises that target specific muscle issues in the body brought on by stress, injuries, surgeries, and overuse. Her approach, using Dressage, Centered Riding, Irwin Insights principles, and Somatics, all come together to develop a balanced rider and a balanced horse. http://www.mountainviewtrainingstables.com.

Birgit Stutz is an Irwin Insights Level 4 Master Certified Trainer and offers horse training, riding lessons in the English and Western disciplines, horsemanship clinics, mentorship programs, intensive horsemanship courses, workshops, short courses and demos on various topics, as well as working student programs at Falling Star Ranch Academy of Foundational Horsemanship in Dunster, BC. Birgit’s passion is to help humans have a better relationship with their horses through understanding of equine psychology and body language, biomechanics, as well as fundamental riding skills based on classical dressage. http://www.fallingstarranch.ca.

Western Dressage – The three-loop serpentine. By Lisa Wieben and Birgit Stutz

October 7, 2017

In this blog post, we are discussing a schooling exercise which we call “3-loop serpentine with a few steps of leg yield at each straight section”. The 3-loop exercise is a schooling exercise to prepare the horse and rider for the serpentine that is performed from Basic Level up. A serpentine is a series of half circles connected by straight lines through the centre of the arena.

This variation of the 3-loop serpentine is not only a great suppling exercise, but also a great exercise for setting the horse up into the new bend. Horses have a tendency to fall into the new bend when changing directions (usually more so in one direction) and many riders new to this exercise can find it difficult to maintain the bending lines and prevent the horse from either falling in or out on the turn. The directions we provide in this article will help you ride a serpentine with smooth changes of bend.

Before attempting the exercise, the horse and rider pair should already know the spiral in/out exercise as well as the leg yield exercise moving from the quarter line to the wall. Both of these have been discussed in previous articles.

When performing a serpentine in a show setting the rider wouldn’t ask for a leg yield, but would keep the aids in place to prevent the horse from falling into the new direction.

How to perform the 3-loop serpentine with a few steps of leg yield crossing the centre line:

  • Begin the serpentine on the short end of the arena, either at C or A.
  • Begin on the left rein.
  • Ride a half circle to the left, straighten the horse, change the bend, and then ask for a couple steps of leg yield to the left away from the new bend. This will prevent the horse from falling into the new direction. Continue onto a half circle to the right.
  • As the half circle to the right is completed, again straighten the horse, change the bend, and then ask for a couple steps of leg yield to the right away from the new bend.
  • Continue onto a half circle to the left.
  • Repeat one more time completing the serpentine.
Serpentine_DSC_0984

Riding the half circle. – Photo by Lisa Wieben

Rider aids:

On the half circles the rider will be using her inside leg to maintain bend and prevent the horse from falling in. The outside leg will maintain impulsion.

The inside rein will stay off the neck slightly and maintain the bend, without pulling. The outside rein will be supporting the amount of bend needed for the size of the half circle and will also prevent the horse from falling in, when used in conjunction with the inside leg.

The rider’s seat will turn in the direction of the half circle – outside hip toward the horse’s inside ear – and then straighten during the moments of straightness.

When bringing a horse from a bending line into the moment of straightness (for example: a half circle left into straightness), the rider will use the right leg to begin to ask the horse to straighten, while bringing her seat into straightness along with the hands. Once straight the rider can then ask the horse to change the bend from the right leg while supporting with the rein aids, all the while maintaining forward with the outside leg. The outside leg and rein will also prevent the horse from drifting. Ask the horse to leg yield a step or two to the left with a press and release pressure with the right leg in timing with the swing of the barrel. The inside rein maintains the bend, without pushing the horse out in the leg yield. Do not cross the inside rein over the horse’s neck.

Serpentine_DSC_1011

The moment of straightness before changing bend. – Photo by Lisa Wieben

Practicing the leg yield in this manner will teach the horse to keep the inside shoulder up on the turn. When performing this movement in the show ring the rider will take out the leg yield, but will “think” leg yield, keeping the aids in place to prevent the horse from falling in. Each serpentine loop should be the same size and evenly spaced down the arena. In a 20×60 metre ring the serpentine will consist of three 20-metre half circles connected by a few strides of straightness crossing the centre line. The exercise can become part of your warm-up or cool-down when you ride. Enjoy!

Serpentine_DSC_1018

Leg yield steps before the left turn. – Photo by Lisa Wieben

This article is the eighteenth in a series of articles on Western dressage and is a collaboration between Lisa Wieben (see biography below) and Birgit Stutz. The articles appear in the horse magazine SaddleUp on a monthly basis.

Lisa Wieben is a versatile and exceptional riding coach, balancing her skills as a Level 2 Centered Riding Instructor, Equine Canada Western Competition Coach, and Irwin Insights Level 4 Master Certified Trainer. Currently specializing in Western and English Dressage, she trains youth, adult amateurs, and professionals as well as coaching a local 4H group at her facility near Bowden/Olds, AB. Through dressage and foundational training she helps riders of all disciplines create stronger partnerships with their horses. Also, as a Hanna Somatic Instructor and Practitioner in Training, Lisa works with riders, in class or privately, learning movement exercises that target specific muscle issues in the body brought on by stress, injuries, surgeries, and overuse. Her approach, using Dressage, Centered Riding, Irwin Insights principles, and Somatics, all come together to develop a balanced rider and a balanced horse. http://www.mountainviewtrainingstables.com.

Birgit Stutz is an Irwin Insights Level 4 Master Certified Trainer and offers horse training, riding lessons in the English and Western disciplines, horsemanship clinics, mentorship programs, intensive horsemanship courses, workshops, short courses and demos on various topics, as well as working student programs at Falling Star Ranch Academy of Foundational Horsemanship in Dunster, BC. Birgit’s passion is to help humans have a better relationship with their horses through understanding of equine psychology and body language, biomechanics, as well as fundamental riding skills based on classical dressage. http://www.fallingstarranch.ca.

Western Dressage – Square exercise. By Lisa Wieben and Birgit Stutz

August 13, 2017

In this blog post, we will take the reader through an exercise that we call the square exercise.

Performing various schooling exercises with your horse will increase your horse’s suppleness, flexibility, obedience, and responsiveness to the rider’s aids.

Before attempting the exercise, the horse and rider pair should be able to correctly perform a turn on the forehand and a turn on the haunches. If you would like to review how to correctly perform a turn on the forehand, please refer to our article in the August 2016 issue of SaddleUp. To read up on how to execute a turn on the haunches, please refer to the articles in the September and October 2016 issues of SaddleUp. The articles can also be found online at https://fallingstarranch.wordpress.com/ and http://www.mountainviewtrainingstables.com/blog.

Before you begin the exercise, set up a 15 to 20-metre square with four pylons.

Begin the exercise at a working walk.

Part 1: Square with turns on the forehand

At each corner halt with the horse’s shoulders just past the pylon, perform a quarter turn on the forehand, then proceed in walk. The horse should keep a four-beat rhythm during the turn as the front end steps in place and the hind end crosses, inside leg in front of outside leg, to complete the turn.

Once in the halt the rider will tip the horse’s nose in the direction of travel, toward the next pylon on the square. The rider will then position her own body in the same direction, while positioning her inside leg back to move the haunches over, away from the square. By using press and release pressure with the leg, in time with the horse’s swing of the barrel, the horse will make the turn one step at a time, without rushing. The outside leg supports and maintains straightness as well as blocking the horse from going past the point needed to proceed to the next corner. The outside rein supports, preventing overbending and forward steps. It will also keep the outside shoulder from ‘leaking out’. The inside rein maintains bend. The rider should sit tall and straight and keep her eyes up throughout the movement looking toward the next corner.

Make sure to perform the exercise in both directions.

Square_exercise_forehandturn

The rider is turning in the direction of the turn; the horse is crossing over behind.  Rider is Jacklyn Hegberg, an amateur rider who competes in Level 1/2 with her horse Chip N at Midnite. In 2016 she was World Champion Youth in Level 1 and Reserve Basic at the WDAA World Show. In this series she is riding Itsa Rio Snazzy Zip owned by Lisa Wieben. – Photo by Lisa Wieben

Part 2: Square with turns on the haunches

At each corner halt with the horse’s haunches past the pylon and perform a quarter turn on the haunches, then proceed in walk.

In the halt, the rider will once again tip the horse’s nose slightly in the direction of the turn while turning her body in the direction. The rider’s inside leg maintains bend and prevents the horse from overstepping into the square after the turn while the outside rein determines the amount of bend and also prevents overstepping. The outside leg should be positioned back slightly to prevent the haunches from shifting to the outside during the turn and to press the horse in the direction of travel, using press and release pressure. Half-halts (squeeze and release) will keep the steps of the hind legs small during the turn.

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The horse is bent in the direction of the turn; the rider maintains an inside bending leg and an outside pressing leg. – Photo by Lisa Wieben

To add some variation to part 1 and part 2 you can add working jog in-between each corner, halt and turn.

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The horse maintains a four-beat rhythm while stepping around the turn. The rider is half-halting on the outside rein to keep the hind steps smaller while the front end reaches around the turn. – Photo by Lisa Wieben

To make the exercise more difficult take out the halt and use half-halts to shorten the horse’s steps before performing the turn on the forehand or turn on the haunches, maintaining forward energy throughout the turns.

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The horse is crossing over in the front while the hind legs maintain the walking rhythm. – Photo by Lisa Wieben

In-between doing turns on the forehand and turns on the haunches we like to take the horse to the rail and do some lengthening jog on the long sides and working jog on the short sides of the arena or maybe a nice lope circle. After doing the more collected work of the turns, it is beneficial to give the horse a “mental break”, and moving forward is always a nice break! You will notice your horse will have more power after working on the turns as both of the turns get the horse stepping further under its body.

Have fun!

This article is the seventeenth in a series of articles on Western dressage and is a collaboration between Lisa Wieben (see biography below) and Birgit Stutz. The articles appear in the horse magazine SaddleUp on a monthly basis.

Lisa Wieben is a versatile and exceptional riding coach, balancing her skills as a Level 2 Centered Riding Instructor, Equine Canada Western Competition Coach, and Irwin Insights Level 4 Master Certified Trainer. Currently specializing in Western and English Dressage, she trains youth, adult amateurs, and professionals as well as coaching a local 4H group at her facility near Bowden/Olds, AB. Through dressage and foundational training she helps riders of all disciplines create stronger partnerships with their horses. Also, as a Hanna Somatic Instructor and Practitioner in Training, Lisa works with riders, in class or privately, learning movement exercises that target specific muscle issues in the body brought on by stress, injuries, surgeries, and overuse. Her approach, using Dressage, Centered Riding, Irwin Insights principles, and Somatics, all come together to develop a balanced rider and a balanced horse. http://www.mountainviewtrainingstables.com.

Birgit Stutz is an Irwin Insights Level 4 Master Certified Trainer and offers horse training, riding lessons in the English and Western disciplines, horsemanship clinics, mentorship programs, intensive horsemanship courses, workshops, short courses and demos on various topics, as well as working student programs at Falling Star Ranch Academy of Foundational Horsemanship in Dunster, BC. Birgit’s passion is to help humans have a better relationship with their horses through understanding of equine psychology and body language, biomechanics, as well as fundamental riding skills based on classical dressage. http://www.fallingstarranch.ca.

Western Dressage – Common errors during haunches-in. By Lisa Wieben and Birgit Stutz

July 16, 2017

In the last blog post, we discussed what the lateral movement haunches-in is and also how to properly execute this four-track movement. In this blog post, we will be looking at common errors while performing haunches-in (travers).

As a review, a correctly executed haunches-in will have the horse’s head and shoulders straight on the track, while the hind legs will move off the track toward the inside of the arena. Seen from the front the legs will show four tracks. The haunches-in is a Level 2 movement and is the first movement where the horse is bent in the direction of travel. The horse must be supple through its body and the rider must be aware of body position. The inside leg will be at the girth to maintain impulsion. It is also the ‘post’ for the horse to bend around. The outside leg will be behind the girth to move the hindquarters off the track. The inside rein keeps the head and shoulders in position, while the outside rein controls speed and amount of bend in the neck. The rider will sit in the direction of travel, to the inside, with the bend. The rider’s shoulders will be in alignment with the horse’s shoulders, with the outside hip moving back to bring the outside leg back.

Common errors

The horse loses impulsion or rhythm: the horse may not be strong enough or supple enough yet to perform the movement. You can help him by asking for less angle. As well, with any new movement, only ask for a few steps at a time before either asking the horse to straighten or perhaps asking for a few strides of lengthening down the long side. A horse that does not want to bend will become tight and lose impulsion. Go back and ride some spiral-in/out circles, and shoulder-in exercises to confirm bend and suppleness.

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Horse is too straight through the body and appears to be on three tracks instead of four. – Photo by Lisa Wieben

 

The horse is travelling with its haunches slightly to the inside of the arena without bend through its entire body: this generally occurs when the rider focuses on moving the hindquarters off the rail, but forgets to hold the horse’s shoulders with the inside leg at the girth. You could start the movement as a leg yield down the wall with the head facing the wall, the bend around the leg to the outside of the arena, and the haunches moved off the rail. After a few steps add the inside leg at the girth and begin to change the bend into the direction of travel. Sometimes doing the movement in steps helps the rider to feel the difference in bend created by the holding inside leg as the horse is brought into correct alignment with the outside leg. The correct amount of angle is 35 degrees.

Difficulty maintaining the bend: start the haunches-in exercise from a circle to create the bend and then go into the haunches-in movement. Go back on a circle if you lose the bend. When you first start this exercise the horse may only be able to do a couple of steps before losing bend and impulsion. Build up gradually.

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The rider is leaning into the direction of travel, dropping her shoulder. This will make it more difficult for the horse to lift his inside shoulder and to lift his inside hind leg. Impulsion may become an issue. – Photo by Lisa Wieben

The horse is overbent through the neck, but not moving the haunches off the wall: this is caused when a rider uses her reins instead of leg aids. Remember to keep the neck and shoulders straight with the rein aids while the legs and seat move the horse’s body. If the horse becomes overbent he will not be able to maintain impulsion as he will get ‘blocked’ at the shoulders.

The horse won’t respond to the outside leg: go back to the leg yield on the wall exercise until the horse quickly and easily responds to the leg cue to move the haunches off the track. It may take several sessions of this before the horse is ready to move into haunches-in.

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The horse has a nice bend, but too much angle off the wall. – Photo by Lisa Wieben

The horse’s shoulders are leaving the track: this may occur if the rider tries to create too much bend with the reins or does not support enough with the outside rein. If the outside hand moves forward too much the horse will bend more to the inside and take the shoulders to the inside. The rider will need to maintain their elbow position on both sides of the body, keeping a soft feel through the hands on both sides.

The rider sits incorrectly: the weight for this movement must be in the direction of travel. Many riders, as they work to get the outside leg back while maintaining the upper body alignment with the shoulders, will shift their weight to the outside. When this happens the horse will struggle to bring the hind legs up and under for the movement. This will affect impulsion and make the movement more difficult for the horse. Imagine sitting on a balance beam; if you lean to one side you will fall off the balance beam. Your goal is to work with the horse’s movement with as little interference as possible. The shift in the direction of travel is very subtle.

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The rider has shifted her weight to her outside seat bone, dropping her outside shoulder. This will make it more difficult for the horse to lift his outside hind leg. – Photo by Lisa Wieben

The haunches-in improves your horse’s response to your aids, increases mobility in the shoulders and hip joints, and improves weight carrying ability. As you move up the levels this will also become an exercise to prepare for the half-pass.

Keep working toward your goals and have fun!

This article is the sixteenth in a series of articles on Western dressage and is a collaboration between Lisa Wieben (see biography below) and Birgit Stutz. The articles appear in the horse magazine SaddleUp on a monthly basis.

Lisa Wieben is a versatile and exceptional riding coach, balancing her skills as a Level 2 Centered Riding Instructor, Equine Canada Western Competition Coach, and Irwin Insights Level 4 Master Certified Trainer. Currently specializing in Western and English Dressage, she trains youth, adult amateurs, and professionals as well as coaching a local 4H group at her facility near Bowden/Olds, AB. Through dressage and foundational training she helps riders of all disciplines create stronger partnerships with their horses. Also, as a Hanna Somatic Instructor and Practitioner in Training, Lisa works with riders, in class or privately, learning movement exercises that target specific muscle issues in the body brought on by stress, injuries, surgeries, and overuse. Her approach, using Dressage, Centered Riding, Irwin Insights principles, and Somatics, all come together to develop a balanced rider and a balanced horse. http://www.mountainviewtrainingstables.com.

Birgit Stutz is an Irwin Insights Level 4 Master Certified Trainer and offers horse training, riding lessons in the English and Western disciplines, horsemanship clinics, mentorship programs, intensive horsemanship courses, workshops, short courses and demos on various topics, as well as working student programs at Falling Star Ranch Academy of Foundational Horsemanship in Dunster, BC. Birgit’s passion is to help humans have a better relationship with their horses through understanding of equine psychology and body language, biomechanics, as well as fundamental riding skills based on classical dressage. http://www.fallingstarranch.ca.