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Rebalance exercise. By Lisa Wieben and Birgit Stutz

August 11, 2018

In this blog post we are looking at an exercise that will help rebalance your horse to achieve more hind end engagement, lightness on the front end, and overall connection to the rider’s aids. A lot of reward for a simple exercise!

At this point your horse should be comfortable riding in all three gaits, can execute a 20-metre circle comfortably, and be able to transition from a working jog to halt, and has had some work in transition within a gait, for example moving from a slower jog to a more lengthened jog and back to the slower jog.

Warm-up your horse by riding randomly around the arena, in both walk and working jog, with frequent changes of bend. Any transitions during this time should be performed on bending lines to prevent the horse from leaning on the bit, inverting, or getting heavy in the front. Riding serpentines, loops, circles and random bending lines will help the horse begin to supple through the rib cage. Frequent transitions will help engage the hind end.

For the exercise begin riding on a 20-metre circle in the working jog (posting works best for this exercise). Pick two sides of the circle which will be your transition areas. For example, if your circle is at the end of a 20x40m ring, you could pick A and X as your transition points. Doing the transitions in the same location each time will create anticipation in the horse, which for this exercise is a good thing as it will allow you to use more leg as the horse begins to anticipate the downward transition to let them know “not yet”!

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Transition through the halt: a nice balanced, square halt.

Your first transition will be from the working jog to walk. Just before you get to the transition point inhale and grow tall, then exhale and let your body sink down, without leaning back or forward. Hold through your centre through the transition. If the horse does not respond to the breath or seat cue, then use a little rein aid to reinforce the cue. Walk for a few steps, then ask the horse to move back into the working jog, again maintaining contact on the reins. Letting your hands go forward as you ask the horse to move more forward will let the horse get long rather than pushing off the hind end and lifting the back. Maintain the bend of the horse on the circle throughout both the upward and downward transitions. The inside aids are bending aids and the outside aids are supporting and speed control aids. You will perform this transition at each transition point, only riding half a circle in the working jog before each transition.

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In this picture you can see that the horse is not using his hind end. Notice the sand that is kicked up by his hind foot as the toe stabs the ground.

When the horse begins to anticipate the walk transition, change the exercise and proceed to halting at each point on the circle. Again inhale and grow tall (this cues the horse that there will be a change), exhale and sink and stop your body from following the horse’s movement. Your legs will remain close to the horse’s side to keep the horse straight throughout the halt and also to keep the hind legs stepping under the body. Quite often the horse will halt with his legs in a stepping position rather than square. This is a sign of an unbalanced halt. Keeping your legs on the horse throughout the halt will help the horse connect back to front throughout the transition. Once the horse is halting balanced and light then move on to the next step.

Step three is creating a momentary rebalance on the circle maintaining the jog. Ride the 20-metre circle in rising working jog and this time at each transition point slow your rising by holding just a split second longer in the rise. You may need to reinforce slightly using a rein aid, but eventually you want to feel your horse respond to the change in rising more than the rein aid. Throughout this transition your legs will maintain contact to keep the horse’s hind end engaged. Using light rein contact and maintaining leg contact as the horse slows in the gait will allow the horse to rebalance. You will feel the back lift. Only ask for a couple steps, then immediately ask the horse to go forward again just by changing the rhythm of your rising. Slow the rising to bring the horse back and increase the rising by letting your hips go more forward to ask for more forward steps. The horse should increase his reach of stride and not make quicker, shorter strides.

 

Once the horse begins to anticipate this change, then you can use this rebalance to ask for a lope departure. Allow the horse to lope a full circle, then ask for the working jog. Repeat the rebalance cues a couple of times and then ask for the lope cue again. You will find your horse’s lope transitions will be greatly improved using this rebalance.

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Notice how the horse’s back is dropped behind the saddle. He is not using his body well.

 

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After all the transition work the horse is now lifting his back. Notice how the poll is lifting and as the rider slows her posting while applying leg pressure the horse is lifting his back and appears shorter through the body. Compare the area behind the saddle compared to the previous picture.

Once the horse is proficient on the circle, then you can ask for these rebalances anywhere in the arena when you are going to perform any transition. Playing with transitions within a gait is a great way to encourage hind end engagement and connection to the rider’s aids. Have fun!

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As a break after completing one side of the exercise you can let the horse stretch forward.

This article is the 26th 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.

Photos by Lisa Wieben. Rider Jacklyn Hegberg and her horse Cash.

Lisa Wieben is a Level 2 Centered Riding Instructor, EC Coach, and Irwin Insights Level 4 Master Certified Trainer. Specializing in Western and English Dressage, she coaches near Bowden/Olds, AB. Lisa is also a Hanna Somatic Instructor and Practitioner in Training, working with riders, in class or privately, to learn movement exercises that target specific muscle issues in the body brought on by stress, injuries, surgeries, and overuse. A balanced rider equals a balanced horse. www.mountainviewtrainingstables.com.

 Birgit Stutz is an Irwin Insights Level 4 Master Certified Trainer and offers horse training, lessons (English and Western), clinics, mentorship programs, horsemanship courses, workshops, short courses and demos on various topics, and 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, body language, biomechanics, as well as fundamental riding skills. www.fallingstarranch.ca.

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“Guiding” rather than “steering” the horse. By Lisa Wieben and Birgit Stutz

May 6, 2018

Beginner riders and even some more advanced riders quite often are unaware of how much turning from their centre can assist their horse in smooth turns. When horse and rider are working together in harmony they portray an effortless look. The rider’s body can guide the horse, not just from the legs and hands, but also through their seat and body. The following exercise will bring awareness to riders in how light they can be with their turning aids and also prepare the horse for the loop maneuver which is ridden in the lower levels in jog and Level 1 in counter canter.

Arena set-up: Set up five pylons on one side of the arena, seven metres apart, and a loop with three pylons on the other side of the arena. The loop with the three pylons can either be set at a five-metre loop or a ten-metre loop out to centre line.

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How to ride the exercise:

The line of travel for the first part of this exercise, the zig-zag through the five pylons, will be as close to the pylons as you can be. The changes of bend will be very subtle. Imagine a snake slithering through the pylons.

The key to a flowing line is to not pull with the reins in the direction of the new turn, but to turn your body in the direction of the turn. To pull the horse would unbalance him and make the line look ‘jerky’.

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The rider is pulling the horse into the turn and releasing the outside rein. The horse, without the supporting outside rein, is overbending and drifting through the outside shoulder.

Before we begin, take a moment to sit in a chair and turn your body from your seat a little to the right and notice how your left leg presses in a little and the right leg opens a little to allow the turn. Repeat to the left (on the horse your outside upper inner thigh will press against the saddle and the inside thigh will soften slightly). Now if you hold your hands like you are holding reins, turn your body again and keeping the hands the same distance apart and your elbows equally close to your body notice that as you turn through your centre your outside rein automatically goes forward, without giving at the elbow, and the inside rein automatically draws back, without actually pulling back. The hands follow the body and your weight stays evenly centred over both seat bones.

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Correct bend through the corner after the loop. Notice the rider’s hands are evenly across from one another. The outside rein is supporting and the inside rein is maintaining the bend. The rider’s body is in alignment with her horse and she is looking ahead onto the line of travel.

– Start the exercise at a walk at C and track right.

– As you approach the corner ask your horse for right bend: inside (right) leg directly under your body pressing at the girth in timing with the rhythm of the barrel (the leg presses as the barrel swings to the outside), asking your horse to bend the rib cage as well as to maintain activity. Your outside leg will maintain rhythm and help to turn the horse in around the first pylon.

– For the turn your right hip will draw back slightly and your left hip will move forward to turn the horse. Your hands will follow your body. As you turn from your centre your right rein will open slightly and the outside rein will come against the neck. Both reins are supporting the line of travel. Think of funneling the horse onto the line of travel. The two reins are the side of the funnel.

– As the horse is crossing the line of the pylons you will turn your body toward the wall of the arena to take the horse to the outside of the line. Remember your line of travel will be as close to the pylons as you can be. The turn of your body will be very subtle and the changes of bend in your horse will be very subtle.

– Continue down the line turning from your centre. Once you get to the corner be sure to ride a corner that is part of a 10-metre circle. Your body will turn more through the corner than through the zig-zag. Your inside leg and your connection with the outside rein will help to balance the horse through the corner.

– Continue straight on the short side. As you approach the next corner, again ride the corner as part of a 10-metre circle and leave the track at the letter, bending the horse around the first pylon of the loop.

– As you complete your turn toward the middle pylon prepare your horse for a couple strides of straightness by bringing your body back to centre and aligning your reins evenly on both sides of the neck and maintaining even leg pressure to maintain straightness through the horse’s body.

– A few steps before the middle pylon turn your body toward the last marker and bend your horse’s body slightly to the left.

– Whether your loop is set at 5-metre or 10-metre, aim your horse to just before the middle pylon so that as you pass the pylon your horse will be aiming straight at the short side of the arena. If you are riding the 10-metre loop to the right you will be aiming at C as you cross the centreline, a 5-metre loop you will be directly on the quarter-line.

– After you complete the turn at the middle marker you will then have a few strides of straightness before preparing for the turn around the final marker and into the corner.

– As you approach the track for the corner plan a step or two of leg yield to the outside to help the horse prepare for the corner. This will prevent the horse from falling in to the turn. For most horses it will be the last turn off the line where they will try to cut the corner.

– Repeat the exercise a few more times to the right, now in jog. Then repeat to the left.

You will find the more you repeat this exercise the lighter the horse will get off your turning aids. Our goal in dressage is to appear as effortless and in harmony with the horse as we can. Exercises like this help to develop that harmony.

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The rider is pulling with the inside rein and releasing the outside rein.

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The rider is in the correct position for the turn.

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The rider is pulling with the inside rein while releasing the outside rein.

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The rider is in correct position for the turn.

This article is the 25th 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.

Photos by Lisa Wieben

Lisa Wieben is a Level 2 Centered Riding Instructor, EC Coach, and Irwin Insights Level 4 Master Certified Trainer. Specializing in Western and English Dressage, she coaches near Bowden/Olds, AB. Lisa is also a Hanna Somatic Instructor and Practitioner in Training, working with riders, in class or privately, to learn movement exercises that target specific muscle issues in the body brought on by stress, injuries, surgeries, and overuse. A balanced rider equals a balanced horse. www.mountainviewtrainingstables.com.

 Birgit Stutz is an Irwin Insights Level 4 Master Certified Trainer and offers horse training, lessons (English and Western), clinics, mentorship programs, horsemanship courses, workshops, short courses and demos on various topics, and 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, body language, biomechanics, as well as fundamental riding skills. www.fallingstarranch.ca.

Western Dressage – Maintaining the horse’s physical fitness. By Lisa Wieben and Birgit Stutz

April 15, 2018

This month’s blog post isn’t specifically about Western dressage but applies to any horse in training or a horse going back to work after time off, such as after a long, cold winter! Since many horse owners are unsure how many days a week a horse needs to be worked in order to ‘keep their horse going’ we have outlined a few considerations below.

The answer to this question, of course, is not clear-cut and depends very much on each individual horse and what the horse will be used for. One day per week is only sufficient to maintain a horse in its current state of basic training. To begin to improve the horse’s physical fitness, two to three days a week will be necessary. To get or maintain a horse in performance ready condition, four to five days a week will be required. If your plan for the year is to move up a level in competition, five days a week is ideal. This will allow you to build your horse’s physical fitness, strength, and skills required for the new level.

Think of training your horse as similar to your own physical fitness journey. If you have decided to start the year off with a resolution to exercise, but the only time you have is one day per week, you are not going to make a noticeable change to your physical fitness. However, if you commit to exercising four to five times per week you will begin to see noticeable changes within a few weeks. Variety in your workouts is key, alternating between strength training, cardiovascular training, and flexibility work. This gives a well-rounded program to cover all areas of physical fitness training.

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In-hand suppling work, turn on the forehand.

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In-hand warm-up

Of course, not every session will be the same, especially with the performance horse. Approach your horse’s training with the same variety that you keep in mind when planning your own training sessions: cardiovascular, strength, and flexibility. While the horse may be ridden four to five days per week, each day can be different. To work on suppleness and flexibility, work with circles, bending lines such as serpentines, and some basic lateral work such as leg yields, spiraling in/leg yielding out of circles and turns on the forehand/turns on the haunches. Another day you may work on strength through transitions from walk to jog, jog to lope, walk to lope, as well as transitions within a gait, jog to lengthened jog, working jog to collected jog, lope to lengthened lope, lope to collected lope, and lateral work such as shoulder-in and haunches-in. Another day you may do work over poles. A search on the internet will give you plenty of options for layouts for both jog/trot and lope/canter overs. One day per week should be a recovery day. You may take your horse out for a relaxed trail ride or work on more ‘stretchy’ type work, long and low, then back to connection. Sore muscles can develop from the strengthening work, especially if the horse is coming back to work after time off. The recovery day will help release soreness from the muscles through light movement. Working the horse long and low (free jog, etc.) will help the horse release and relax all the muscles over the topline. Working in this way will also help develop the horse’s “swing” through the ribcage. Supple relaxed muscles will translate into smoother transitions and more willingness to move forward.

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Suppling exercises using pylons (spiral in/leg yield out).

If your horse has had some extended time off, keep the sessions short and spend most of it at the walk. Each session should always begin with a good warm-up at a free walk, ideally 15 to 20 minutes, to increase blood flow, lubricate joints, and stretch muscles, before moving on to faster gaits and/or collected work. Your walk warm-up can also include any lateral work you plan to perform later in the ride. A nice walk leg yield can begin to warm up the muscles that will be required to do the movement at a higher gait. Groundwork is always a good option to begin each session. In-hand work, lunging, and ground driving are great ways to build cardiovascular fitness and strength while still keeping sessions short. Each week you can gradually increase the length of the workouts or increase the time at the faster gaits (jog and lope). If your horse is out of shape, be reasonable in how much you ask of him, and never push him so much that he may injure himself.

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Lope work

Just as important as the warm-up is the cool-down. Keep your horse walking, either under saddle or in-hand, until his respiration has returned to normal and the temperature of his neck, chest and shoulder has cooled down. Soreness after a session can be greatly limited with a relaxed cool-down. The end of the ride is also a great time to do any stretches or massaging your horse may need. This is when the muscles are loose and still a bit warm from the workout. Never stretch a cold muscle!

In the winter time when it is cold, most of our session is spent at the walk, warming up and cooling down, with shorter sessions of jog and lope in-between.

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Warming up long and low (free jog). The horse’s nose should ideally be in front of the vertical.

It’s a good idea to keep a journal of the work you do with your horse to keep you on track and also to track the changes in your horse.

Make each ride count, and remember that even slow work can build muscle for your horse.

Photos by Rebecca Wieben

This article is the 24th 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 Level 2 Centered Riding Instructor, EC Coach, and Irwin Insights Level 4 Master Certified Trainer. Specializing in Western and English Dressage, she coaches near Bowden/Olds, AB. Lisa is also a Hanna Somatic Instructor and Practitioner in Training, working with riders, in class or privately, to learn movement exercises that target specific muscle issues in the body brought on by stress, injuries, surgeries, and overuse. A balanced rider equals a balanced horse. www.mountainviewtrainingstables.com.

 Birgit Stutz is an Irwin Insights Level 4 Master Certified Trainer and offers horse training, lessons (English and Western), clinics, mentorship programs, horsemanship courses, workshops, short courses and demos on various topics, and 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, body language, biomechanics, as well as fundamental riding skills. www.fallingstarranch.ca.

 

Western Dressage – How to correctly ride a corner. By Lisa Wieben and Birgit Stutz

February 26, 2018

This is our third year collaborating on writing articles on Western dressage, and we appreciate all the feedback we’ve been getting. Some of the readers asked us to write more about simple exercises that they can do with their horses. So in this month’s issue, we would like to explain a very basic movement: how to correctly ride a corner.

A corner is not just a way to get from one maneuver to another, but can be very useful in rebalancing the horse in preparation for the next maneuver. A well-ridden corner will do just that!

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Jacklyn Hegberg riding Maverick through a corner – Photo by Lisa Wieben

Each corner you ride in the dressage ring can be defined as the arc of a circle, which is one of the various arena (or school) figures. Riding arena figures correctly helps develop lateral flexibility, suppleness, balance and straightness in your horse. Straightness means that a horse is straight on straight lines and bent on bending lines, with his poll through to the tail on the line of travel. Riding arena figures accurately will also help your horse become ambidextrous, meaning he can bend as easily to the right as he does to the left (bend refers to the horse’s lateral bend through the ribcage). Furthermore, riding arena figures develops obedience and responsiveness to the rider’s aids and helps assess both your horse’s training level as well as your own skill level.

Depending on the level of your horse, the arc of the corner may be that of a 10-metre, or in higher levels that of an 8-metre, circle. If your horse struggles with small circles and loses impulsion, rhythm, and/or balance, only go as deep into the corner as your horse can manage.

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Jacklyn Hegberg riding Maverick through a corner – Photo by Lisa Wieben

We like the following exercise to help the horse and rider learn how to properly ride corners:

– Begin in the walk.

– Ride a 10-metre circle in a corner.

– Proceed to the next corner. You can use the long sides of the arena for some transitions (e.g. walk to halt, walk to trot, trot to halt, etc.), but make sure you are back in a relaxed, but forward walk before each corner.

– Repeat the exercise in the opposite direction.

– Using cones to mark the circles will give you a better idea of the arc that you need to ride. Cones will also help the horse with a visual line of travel.

– If your horse is evenly bent on each circle, go large and omit the circles.

– If your horse maintains the bend in each corner repeat the same exercise at a jog.

– If the horse struggles with the smaller circles in the jog, discontinue the corner exercise and take the horse onto a 20-metre circle for the jog work. You can spiral this circle down to find the the size your horse is still comfortable with in the jog. As the horse develops more suppleness the smaller circles will become easier.

Rider aids/positioning

When riding your horse through a corner, he should be bending into the direction of the corner, with his body equally bent through his entire body from poll to tail, and his inside hind leg more engaged. The following are the aids for riding a corner to the left:

– Half-halt your horse (using your outside rein) before you reach the corner to let him know that something is changing as well as to rebalance him.

– Draw your left hip back slightly and allow your right hip to move forward.

– Inside (left) leg directly under your body, asking your horse to bend the rib cage as well as to maintain the activity.

– Outside (right) leg can be moved slightly back to prevent the horse’s hindquarters from swinging out.

– Gently ask for flexion to the inside with your inside (left) rein. This rein should remain slightly off the neck and you should just see your horse’s inside eye and nostril.

– Outside (right) rein supports the bend and is kept steady in order to limit the degree of bend in the horse’s neck. The outside rein also helps in turning your horse’s shoulders in and will be closer to the neck. The deeper you ride into the corner, the more the outside rein will be needed to turn the horse’s shoulders and maintain bend. The outside rein also helps maintain the horse’s rhythm.

– It is important to remember that while riding a corner, always turn your body from your centre (core), while your eyes are tracing the line of the corner a few strides ahead of the horse toward the next reference point.

In order to bend and turn a horse correctly, we need both inside and outside aids to work together, with your inside aids bending the horse and your outside aids supporting and turning him. The horse’s hind legs should be on the same track as his front legs, and he should be bending around your inside leg.

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How to set up cones for riding a corner properly – Photo by Lisa Wieben

One of the biggest mistakes we see is the horse cutting the corner. The rider, instead of bending the horse through the corner, tries to pull the horse into the corner with the outside rein as the horse is trying to avoid going into the corner. This causes the horse to counter-bend, tilting his head to the outside, and dropping the inside shoulder into the corner. To correct this go back to basics and work on the bend in the walk and keep the circle size appropriate to the horse.

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This is a good example of the horse’s inside hind leg stepping under. – Photo by Lisa Wieben

We will be bringing you more exercises to help you develop your horse’s rhythm, suppleness, and flexibility. Until next time enjoy the ride!

This article is the 23rd 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 – 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.

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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.”

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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.

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.