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Teaching a horse to be balanced and carry his rider in a way that looks lovely is something I love to talk about! So this video may be a little bit longer than normal…

Dressage is one of those equestrian sports that is quite breathtaking at the upper levels. It is admired for showcasing movement, control, and harmony between horse and rider. Many of us do “dressage” without ever truly understanding what its all about. Or we ride another discipline, or “just go trail riding” without ever stopping and thinking about how the fundamentals of classical dressage could impact our horse and our riding.

Did you know that you can help keep your horse sound, make him stronger, and make him a better mover by understanding dressage basics? Click play below to see what I mean.

Roundness, balance, and self-carriage are so important for our horses. We have to teach them how to carry our weight correctly for our comfort and theirs. And wouldn’t it be fun to be able to move your horse around simply by shifting your weight in the saddle?

If you are still new to riding, don’t think this is too advanced for you – start by working on your own position – your equitation. And watch how horses are carrying themselves – do they have their head high, with their back hollow? Or do they look strong along their topline, with neck lowered and hind legs stepping underneath their belly? Develop an eye for these differences and then feel what your own horse is doing when you ride. Give me your thoughts on this topic in the comments below.


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4 Responses

  1. Callie,
    I just watched the video on “what is dressage?”. It was a great explanation but how do you begin to teach your horse to be responsive or what steps do you teach him first? Can you show us how to begin?
    Thank you

    1. Hi Jackie,
      Thanks for your comment! One of the most important parts of developing responsiveness under saddle is timing. Meaning when you apply pressure or give your horse a cue or signal to ask him to do something, you want to reward his correct behavior as soon as he does the “right” thing. So even as you are working on something as simple as the halt, it is important to make sure that any pressure you are applying with the reins (or tension in your body) is released as soon as your horse even begins to stop, essentially saying “yes, that’s right” to the horse. I could be very long winded on this comment, but timing is the essence of responsiveness. I have two other posts that you may find helpful on this topic. The first is about timing, and the second is about moving your horse’s hind end, which just shows the “breakdown” of one of the things I did with Gretel in this video.

  2. Hi Callie: I just watched “what is dressage” and “moving your horse’s hindquarters”. I have a half Gypsy Vanner I am trying to teach to carry herself and me comfortably. What I need to know is this: how do you actually ask your horse to go onto the bit so she can round her back and bring her hindquarters under herself? What are the exact cues? I have been asking her to take bit contact by giving with my hands to allow her head to drop and pushing her forward with my leg. When I lose the contact, I slightly bend her to the inside to get her to move her hind end under again and drop her head. Is this correct? I love your website!

    1. Hi Elaine,

      Thanks so much for your comment and your support! This is a great question and it sounds as though you are definitly on the right track with your gypsy. I start by teaching the horse that when I take bit pressure I want them to stretch down and out with their neck. I do this by simply taking a contact with the reins, waiting, and then releasing as soon as I feel a slight down and out movement with the neck. This does take good timing and a softness through your arms as it is easy to accidentally release if the horse goes behind the bit and arches his neck, and by doing so he could learn the wrong thing.
      After they consistently can stretch down and out, then I will start working on bending, and then I will start asking them to hold the contact, so as I ask for stretch down I start to hold a soft contact and they learn to stretch to the contact where you start to get more consistency in how they move and stay round.
      Hope this helps! Callie

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