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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 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.

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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.

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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 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.

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.

Square_exercise_haunchesturn

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.

Square_exercise_steppingaround1

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.

Square_exercise_steppingaround2

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 fifteenth 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.

Haunches_in_0792

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.

Haunches_in_0801

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.

Haunches_in_0751

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 sixtenth 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 perform the haunches-in exercise. By Lisa Wieben and Birgit Stutz

June 19, 2017

In this blog post, we are discussing an exercise called haunches-in, also called travers. Just like the shoulder-in exercise, haunches-in is a lateral movement and requires a certain amount of collection. The haunches-in exercise is performed on four tracks, so when watching the horse from the front or back, you will see all four legs, which each hoof on a different track. The outside front leg is on the outside track, the inside front leg is on the second track, the outside hind leg is on the third track, and the inside hind leg is on the inside track. This is different to the shoulder-in exercise, which is a three-track movement and requires slightly less bend.

During the haunches-in movement, the horse will be bending around the rider’s inside leg. The horse’s front legs stay on the outside track, while its hindquarters are brought in off the outside track toward the inside of the arena at a constant angle of approximately 30 to 35 degrees to the wall. In order for the movement to be ridden correctly, the horse’s head and shoulders remain straight on the wall, while the horse’s hind legs move off the track, with the outside hind leg crossing in front of the inside hind leg. During the movement, the horse is bent in the direction of travel.

Just like the shoulder-in exercise, haunches-in is used to supple and balance the horse. The movement also strengthens the horse’s hind quarters, its back and abdominals, as well as improving its mobility, therefore preparing it for more collected work. It also teaches the horse obedience to the outside leg. Haunches-in, along with shoulder-in, are the stepping stones to the more advanced movement of half-pass, which we will discuss in a future article.

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Haunches-in down the wall. Notice the horse is bent in the direction of travel (the horse could be bent around the inside leg a little more). – Photo by Lisa Wieben

How to execute the haunches-in

We recommend that the horse and rider are already familiar with leg yields (February and March 2017 issue) and shoulder-in (April 2017 issue) before introducing the haunches-in exercise.

Before attempting a haunches-in, the horse should be proficient in the leg yield exercise along the wall where the horse’s head is pointing toward the wall and the hindquarters are moved off the wall. This prepares the horse by moving the hindquarters off the outside leg toward the inside of the arena. The leg yield exercise can be performed with the horse bent around the pressing leg, away from the direction of travel, and then with the body straighter. The next step would be changing the bend toward the direction of travel, which will be shown below, from a circle.

When teaching the haunches-in exercise to a horse, we recommend starting the movement when coming out of a corner or on a circle as the horse is already correctly bent from head to tail. This way the rider only needs to maintain the bend rather than establish it from a straight line. Haunches-in is the last step of a 10-metre circle continued on a straight line.

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Jacklyn Hegberg and Reno executing a leg yield down the wall. – Photo by Lisa Wieben

  1. Start the movement by riding a 10-metre circle in a corner so that the horse is correctly bent to the degree needed for haunches-in.
  1. Sit tall with eyes forward, looking into the direction you’re going.
  2. 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.
  3. When the horse’s forehand reaches the outside track, keep the horse’s hindquarters on the circle by moving your outside leg slightly back. Your hips will turn as you maintain your horse’s hips off the track. This will keep the horse’s hind quarters to the inside of the outside track and under its body, help bend the horse around your inside leg, as well as maintain forward energy.
  4. Keep your inside leg at the horse’s girth to maintain bend in the direction of movement and to maintain rhythm and impulsion.
  5. The outside rein will support and maintain the straightness of the shoulders and prevent overbending. It also contains the energy produced by the horse’s outside hind leg.
  6. With the inside rein, gently ask your horse to flex at the poll so you can see its inside eye. The inside rein maintains proper bend and keeps the horse looking in the direction of travel.
  7. Both reins will keep the horse’s shoulders on the track through series of half-halts. If you hold pressure on either rein the horse will become tight and resistant in the movement. To maintain straightness of the horse’s shoulders, keep your shoulders aligned with your horse’s shoulders.
  8. Shift your weight slightly towards your inside seat-bone.
  9. Ask the horse to move down the long side of the arena while maintaining bend and the four-track movement.
  10. Only ask for a few steps at a time, then bring the horse’s hind quarters back on the track and continue straight ahead and forward along the outside track.
  11. As well, only ask for a slight bend to the inside, before increasing the degree of bend and the difficulty of the exercise as the horse progresses.

The haunches-in movement is developed through Level 2, where more collected work is asked for.

We will discuss common errors while performing haunches-in in the next blog post.

This article is the fifteenth 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 perform a shoulder-in. By Lisa Wieben and Birgit Stutz

April 19, 2017

In this blog post, we are discussing an exercise called shoulder-in.

Shoulder-in is a lateral movement which is used to supple, straighten, and balance the horse. It also strengthens the horse’s inside hind leg by encouraging the use of its hindquarters, therefore preparing it for more collected work.

In order to perform the movement, the horse needs to be bending around the rider’s inside leg, with its hindquarters staying parallel to the wall, while its forehand comes off the wall onto an inside track, creating a 30-degree-angle with the wall. The horse’s neck should only be very minimally bent, just enough that the corner of the horse’s inside eye is visible to the rider.

The horse’s hind legs track straight forward along the wall while the front legs move laterally, with the inside front leg crossing in front of the outside front leg.

The shoulder-in exercise is performed on three tracks, which means the horse’s outside hind leg is on the outermost track, the horse’s inside hind leg and outside front leg are on the next track, and the horse’s inside front leg are on the third track.

The inside hind hoof should track into or beyond the hoofprint made by the outside front leg.

During the shoulder-in exercise, the horse is bent away from the direction of travel, and therefore the movement requires a certain amount of collection.

As this is a collecting exercise, in Western dressage you will begin to see this movement in Level 2, when the collected gaits are asked for.

How to execute the shoulder-in

When teaching the exercise to a horse, we recommend starting the movement when coming out of a corner or on a circle as the horse is already correctly bent from head to tail. This way the rider only needs to maintain the bend rather than establish it from a straight line. Shoulder-in is the first step of a 10-meter circle continued on a straight line.

SI_circle

Riding a 10-m circle to set up for shoulder-in. – Photo by Rebecca Wieben

Riding a 10-m circle to set up for a shoulder-in.

Some trainers prefer to teach the shoulder-fore movement first before introducing the shoulder-in to the horse. The shoulder-fore movement is ridden on four tracks and therefore requires less angle than the shoulder-in exercise. The shoulder-fore exercise is also often used in lope work to help straighten a horse’s natural crookedness.

Shoulder_fore

Some trainers prefer to teach the shoulder-fore movement first before introducing the shoulder-in to the horse. The shoulder-fore movement is ridden on four tracks and therefore requires less angle than the shoulder-in exercise. – Photo by Lisa Wieben

 

  1. Sit tall with eyes forward, looking into the direction you’re going.
  2. 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.
  3. Your belly button should be pointing in the same direction as your horse’s bend.
  4. Keep your inside leg at the horse’s girth to maintain bend, while also encouraging the horse to step under its body with its inside hind leg.
  5. Move your outside leg slightly back to prevent the horse’s haunches from swinging out and to maintain the forward energy.
  6. With the inside rein, gently ask your horse to flex at the poll so you can see its inside eye. The inside rein maintains proper bend.
  7. The outside rein steadies the horse and prevents overbending and also keeps the horse from stepping further off the track than is needed.
  8. Shift your weight slightly towards the horse’s outside shoulder in order to continue tracking down the long side and to prevent the horse from moving off the outside track.
  9. Only ask for a few steps at a time, then ride a small 10-metre circle before continuing along the outside track.
SI_three_track

The haunches remain on the track and the shoulders move towards the inside of the arena. Notice the three tracks: outside hind leg, outside front leg and inside hind on same track, and inside front leg. – Photo by Rebecca Wieben

 

Common errors

  • The rider uses the inside rein to create bend instead of asking for bend with the inside leg. This, however, overbends the horse in the neck instead of creating bend in the ribcage. It may also pull the horse off the outside track.
  • The rider’s inside leg is too far back instead of at the girth. This will push the horse’s haunches out, and you will end up doing a leg yield instead of a shoulder-in movement.
  • The rider’s outside leg is too far forward or completely off the horse’s side: in order to bend a horse properly, both the rider’s inside leg and outside leg have to work together. If your outside leg is too far forward or completely off the horse’s side, the horse’s hind quarters may swing out and the horse may lose forward energy.

The shoulder-in movement can be executed at any gait, and while we prefer to ride it at a walk when first learning the movement, riding the exercise at a jog can be beneficial as the horse has more impulsion. In Western dressage competitions it is only ridden at the jog.

SI_soft_rein

Notice the inside rein is soft, the bend is coming from the inside leg and the rider’s body turning with the shoulders. The horse moves into the outside supporting rein. – Photo by Rebecca Wieben

 

This article is the fourteenth 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 performing leg yields. By Lisa Wieben and Birgit Stutz

March 8, 2017

In the last Western dressage blog post, we talked about how to properly execute a leg yield and what the benefits of the exercise are. In this post, we are discussing common errors while performing the leg yield exercise.

Leg_yield_Reno correct

A correctly executed leg yield: the horse is parallel to the wall with slight flexion to the inside maintaining the over-forward momentum. – Photo credit Lisa Wieben

Loss of impulsion/uneven gaits

When the horse is learning to move laterally in a leg yield it can be quite common for the horse to lose the forward energy and become uneven in its rhythm. Using both the inside and outside leg to maintain a steady rhythm and to encourage the horse to move laterally, correctly, is key. A good way to think about the leg yield in this case is “over, forward, over, forward”, the inside leg asking for the over step and the outside leg maintaining the forward energy. Another way to engage the horse forward and balance out the rhythm is to ride straight for a few strides before asking for a few more steps of leg yield.

Horse is rushing

The opposite of the loss of impulsion is rushing. This may happen if the horse is confused by the aids or thinks leg pressure means forward energy instead of sideways. Using well-timed half-halts on the outside rein to rebalance the horse and slow forward movement will help. Showing the horse what is wanted in the walk first before progressing to the jog aids the horse’s understanding. During the movement in the jog if the horse still wants to rush you could add a small 10-metre circle to rebalance the horse each time the movement starts to get quick.

Horse not crossing over

There are times when the leg yield turns into a straight line ridden toward the wall where the horse’s shoulders are leading the hips and there are no lateral steps. In this case the shoulders can be brought back in line with the hips through the use of the outside rein gently drawn back toward the rider’s hip and a blocking outside leg. The inside rein will maintain the correct bend. The position of the rider will be in alignment with the horse ‘s bend, with the eyes looking in the direction of travel. The rider’s weight will shift slightly to the outside so the horse balances under the weight in the direction of the leg yield. The inside leg may need to increase the push sideways, along with a connecting outside rein to maintain straightness, with a seat that follows the movement over. If the rider’s seat is not following it could be blocking the sideways movement.

Leg_yield_straight

Without the outside rein supporting and maintaining straightness, the horse has lost the sideways movement. – Photo credit Rebecca Wieben

Horse moves sideways too quickly

If the horse’s outside hind leg is moving laterally instead of coming forward and underneath with each stride, the horse will begin to move more exclusively sideways rather than forward and sideways. This is often caused by a rider not using enough forward driving aids (don’t forget your outside leg!) and not enough outside supporting rein to block the sideways movement slightly. Remember, “over, forward, over, forward”. While training, this could become over one step and forward three to four steps so the horse learns to wait for the ‘over’ cue.

Horse leads with hindquarters

In this case the rider may be using the inside leg too far back, causing the hips to move over first, while also using too much outside rein, blocking the shoulder movement. The outside rein is used to support straightness. To allow the horse to lead slightly with the shoulders the rider may need to open the outside rein, like opening a door, to get the horse started in the direction, and then close the rein to maintain the straightness of the movement. This will only be done in the training stage. Once the horse understands the movement the reins remain even, with only a slight half-halt if needed, and the leg and seat will move the horse laterally.

Leg_yield_haunches_leading

The outside rein is blocking the shoulder from moving and in this case slightly changing the horse’s bend. The haunches are leading to the wall.

Rider leans to the inside of the horse’s bend or collapses at the waist and drops inside shoulder

Leaning to the inside will make it more difficult for the horse to pick up the inside hind leg and inside shoulder to cross over and may impede impulsion. Allowing your body to grow tall with equal length on both sides of the ribcage, with weight shifted very slightly in the direction of travel will allow the horse to move freely sideways under balance.

Leg_yield_collapsed

The rider is collapsing the inside rib cage to push with the inside leg and opening the outside leg away from the horse’s body. – Photo credit Rebecca Wieben.

Horse is overbent

Using too much inside rein and not enough outside supporting rein will cause the horse to overbend. The horse will be unable to move forward/sideways with its body parallel to the long side. The horse’s neck should stay in the middle of its chest and the rider should only see the corner of the horse’s inside eye.

Leg_yield_shoulder_lead

Too much inside rein is causing the horse to overbend and to lead the movement with the outside shoulder. – Photo credit Rebecca Wieben

As always, stay balanced, centred, supple and relaxed. Focus on riding the movement step by step. Ask for two or three strides of correct leg yield, then reward and go straight for a few strides. Ride straight before the movement falls apart and reward the horse often! With practice the horse will learn to maintain even rhythm before, during, and after the movement and will develop more relaxation and suppleness.

This article is the thirteenth 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.