Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Weekly Exercise #6


What did you think of the little trot transitions? Did you notice a softening in your horse and his way of going?

Dressage taxes the horse's pelvis. Walking over ground poles encourages a gentle rocking motion that loosens the lumbar sacral area of the horse.

Walking ground poles:

Set up 2 sets of 4 poles, 8 poles total, along opposite long sides of your arena. The individual poles should be about 2 feet apart. One set should be flat on the ground and the second set can be raised 6 inches.

To ride this exercise begin in a marching working walk. Do several walk-halt transitions to establish a connection to your hand. Your horse should stretch over the topline and make steady contact through the transitions.

Walk directly through the center of the ground poles and go over the poles several times in each direction.

Most horses will lean or drift to one side. Aim to keep your horse straight and in the middle of the poles, watch her shoulders!

Sit up straight and stay deep in the saddle. Leaning forward does not make the exercise easier for the horse!

Happy riding! -Erin

Do dressage outside! 

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Weekly Exercise #5

Whoa!! Time got away from me! It's already Wednesday and I owe you a weekly exercise so without further adieu...

As the horse becomes looser his gaits become more expresive. This week we will focus on loosening and softening the horse.

The little trot transition:

Small transitions made often will have a softening effect on the horse's body. To ride this exercise start at the walk on the rail. Go large (continue on the rail around the entire arena), after 10-12 strides of active walk ask for a slow trot. Trot for only 4-5 strides then ask for the walk. Execute these small transitions numerous times and in both directions.

Be comfortable with a small slow trot, don't push your horse. Do this exercise for 10-15 minutes. You want to feel your horse soften and make very smooth transitions between the gaits.

Happy riding! - Erin 

Monday, November 24, 2014

Weekly Exercise #4

Wow I can't believe it's already week 4!!

Hopefully you have been having fun with the canter pole exercise. I used canter poles last week myself and they were, as usual, very beneficial to my canter work.

This week we are going to focus on YOU the rider.


This exercise allows you to have a more independent and effective seat even when you're busy focusing on other stuff while riding.

Warning: this exercise seems easier than it actually is! Make sure you dedicate the prescribed amount of time to this exercise often. If you do you will see results!

To begin take your feet out of your stirrups and allow your legs to hang down long against your horse's sides. Walking on a loose rein (free walk)  focus on your lower back/lumbar sacrum area. For a full FIVE MINUTES breathe very deeply directing your breath to this area. Imagine inflating your lower back as if to push against a hand sitting there. Maintain the same feeling of fullness as you exhale.

Practice this exercise only at a walk and do it frequently for the full FIVE MINUETS. Stay focused and keep concentrating on your breathing.

I was taught that the very best way to begin every ride (to the greatest extent possible) is to allow the horse to walk freely on the buckle. By doing this you allow the horse to loosen his muscles gently while also preserving the horse's 4 beat walk. Often when the rider over-rides the walk the purity of the gate is lost and the walk becomes lateral. Again, the best way to guard against creating a lateral walk is to allow the horse to walk freely, every ride, coincidentally for FIVE MINUTES. What a perfect opportunity to work on your seat!    

Happy riding! - Erin

Monday, November 17, 2014

Weekly Exercise #3

Hello! We have arrived at week three.

Have you been working on your head-to-the-wall leg yield? Has your horse become more supple and sensitive to your leg?

This week we're going to take a look at an exercise that is just plain fun!

Canter poles:

Canter poles help develop suspension or jump in the canter. They are also excellent for reminding a dressage horse to watch were she's putting her feet!

For this exercise we will use a simple 20 meter circle with two equally spaced canter poles. There are all sorts of configurations for canter poles, when you become comfortable with this configuration I encourage you to get creative with your canter pole placement. Just remember to take your horse's stride length into consideration when setting your poles.

To ride this exercise canter around the 20 meter circle aiming for the center of each pole. The challenge lies in maintaining a rhythmical canter and proper positioning (bend) of the horse. Just remember to stay relaxed. If your horse rushes the poles do a downward transition before a pole, cross the pole at the walk or trot, then canter to the next pole. Repeat until your horse canters calmly to each pole.     

I love canter poles! I find them fun and super relaxing. I also enjoy the diversion from plain ol' flat work. I'm not the only one who values the canter pole. Last month while at a Conrad Schumacher clinic I heard Conrad himself say "I love the canter pole! It opens the horses back as well as his mind." 

Happy riding! - Erin 

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Weekly Exercise #2


Welcome to week 2 of weekly exercises, did you find the big-little oval a useful tool in your warm-up?

In honor of stirrup-less November today we'll take a look at an exercise you can certainly try stirrup-less.

The head-to-the-wall leg yield:

Ahh the leg yield. It is such an outstanding suppling exercise you could do it all day! A properly ridden leg yield will help to establish a clear inside-leg-to-outside-rein contact (or lateral connection) and will act to supple as well as straighten the horse.

To ride this exercise begin in an active working walk on the short side of your arena, you can start in either direction, today we will start walking to the right (our right leg is our inside leg). Ride a ten meter circle to the right at the corner before the long side of your arena, as you approach the final 1/3 of your circle straighten your horse and establish a slight flexion to the outside (left) . At this point you should be at roughly a 45 degree angle to the wall of the long side of your arena, 45 degrees is ideal however you can decrease the angle as needed until you and your horse get comfortable with the exercise. As you approach the wall ask your horse to yield sideways from your left leg while maintaining a slight flexion to the left and your angle to the wall.
image© Terry Church

There are a couple of important points to think about while executing a head to the wall leg yield.

1) The horse must maintain the rhythm of the walk i.e. an active 4 beat walk
2) The horse must maintain forward motion as well as sideways motion. Think about pushing your horse up to the wall to help maintain the forward component of the leg yield.
3) Your outside rein prevents the horse from running through the shoulder (in this example the outside rein is the right rein). Aim to maintain a clear line from your elbow to the bit.

When you have established a good leg yield at the walk try it at the trot. Remember, the horse must maintain a clear rhythm at the trot as well.

This may seem like an easy exercise but remember you're working on suppling your horse and making her sensitive to your aids and that takes time! In the mean time...

Happy riding! -Erin

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Weekly Exercise

Hello and welcome the first installment of HTH Weekly Exercise. Check back at the beginning of each week for a new exercise for the horse and rider. Each exercise is designed to help you become a thinking rider so that you can continue to build a healthy partnership with your horse.

A horse should warm up in energetic and loose gaits until he is limber and ready to work.

The sport horse is an athlete in much the same way that a track runner is an athlete. Proper warm up is imperative for an athlete's ability to continue to perform at their best day after day. All too often the warm up lacks focus. One of my favorite instructors Wolfgang Scherzer, recently reiterated to me that the rider must develop a program for the warm up so that at the conclusion of the warm up the horse is supple and on the aids.

Today I will introduce a very basic warm up exercise that you may have seen before. This exercise will encourage the horse to become tuned to the aids and carry herself with elastic, swinging strides.  
The basic big-little oval:

To ride this exercise ride at a rising trot in a large oval (rounding off your corners). At the top of your oval (along the short side of the arena) ride a smaller trot, as you come out of the corners apply your leg and ask for a larger, more energetic trot down the long side. Remember to strive to maintain a steady rhythm and make precise transitions between the two trots.  

Happy riding! -Erin

HTH Farm - Bow, Washington

HTH offers a complete program including horsemanship classes, clinics, hunter/jumper training, dressage training, in hand work, equitation, and sales along with an excellent lesson program.

This beautiful facility has indoor and outdoor arenas, excellent turnout, and a heated viewing lounge. HTH provides a friendly, professional atmosphere with individually tailored programs for you and your horse.

Minutes from I-5 Exit 232, HTH is one hour from Seattle, Langley, B.C., and Monroe Fairgrounds.
Boarding - Full access to our top of the line facility

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  • Blanket changes if necessary
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  • Heated tack room with individual client lockers
  • Indoor arena with heated viewing lounge, laundry, and restroom with shower