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How to train dressage horses

By Caroline Wood
How to train dressage horses

What makes a dressage horse? How do we train one?

Dressage horses come in all shapes and sizes. Any horse given the correct training can do a reasonable dressage test, they may not all aspire to reach the top but will do a good enough test to get placed.

You may be lucky enough to have found a youngster who knows the basic aids and commands but just needs more intense training to become a dressage horse or you may be re-training an older horse. The basic principles are the same; make sure you get the basics right before attempting more complicated manoeuvres.

Time spent on making sure you horse has a good walk, trot and canter will be well spend. It is also essential that the transitions from one place to another are smooth and effortless. A good dressage horse must have good rhythm, good paces and self carriage.

To work on a good rhythm and pace it helps to use poles on the ground to check that the horse is keeping a steady rhythm at each pace, he should neither slow down nor speed up over the poles. Alternatively count the strides your horse takes along the long side of an arena and check that this remains the same.

Transitions are equally important and should be smooth and effortless without a change in pace. Trotting or cantering round an arena for hours will not improve these paces or the transitions. Working in a circle with repeating transitions helps the horse move from behind. Leg yielding on a circle is also a useful tool to improve transitions and keeping the horse in a soft outline.

Counting out the rhythm will help you as a rider to maintain the same pace.

Do not forget to reward good work and allow the horse to have a stretch after working intensely. It should also be noted that horse being trained intensely also need relaxation time by going out for a hack, being turned out or having a pop over a jump.

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