Dressage Horse Training:  Putting tools together half-halt, yield, bend

Hello Everyone,

The goal with riding is to develop feel.  At the beginning you must have some logical, step-wise processes to follow, putting your horse in the right way, allowing you to develop your feel.  If you have a schoolmaster count yourself lucky although some schoolmasters are masters of evasions as well.  Dressage definitely has to be earned; horses do not give free passes.

Donzer is a short horse and from the beginning I’ve been educated that one of the challenges with a short horse is the horse is either correct or not because there’s no extra length to give you some wiggle room as a rider.  I can say that I’ve had moments of correct bending with Donzer but as a rule I do not bend him enough.  And, as you start schooling FEI you have to start thinking 3D including the longitudinal bend (think lifting withers and sitting behind) as well as the lateral bend.

Once I have Donzer’s head settled (see previous post), I move to this exercise next on the 20 meter circle.  Half-halt, leg yield out 1-3 steps, shoulder in.  For me I understand at the gross level what needs to happen but I am learning how much is enough; and when I do have the right level of effort I make sure to reward Donzer.  I love doing work at the walk because you can slow everything down and mistakes are not magnified with momentum.  As always, it is really me being trained, Donzer gets the exercise when I do.

Half-Halt:  I spread this out over at least half a circle and initially rode almost a full halt so I could verify the effort was being made on Donzer’s part.  My feel is not developed enough to always tell if my half-halt happened but I can definitely tell when a full halt almost happens.

Leg Yield:  The leg yield out is really more to create the bend in the body.  For me the challenge is to keep track of my inside leg and make sure my inside leg stays at the girth (My inside leg tends to drift to far back and move the haunches).  This ensures I have both the shoulders and haunches yield which is necessary to create a poll to tail bend in the body.

Shoulder In:  I find this very tricky to feel on Donzer.  From the ground it is easy to see a shoulder in and from the saddle I am not 100% confident I know where the sweet spot is but I can tell you the shoulder in requires a much greater degree of effort from Donzer than I’ve been asking for thus far.

Half-Halt, Leg Yield, Shoulder-In.  We have been on the 20 meter circle for four days now and it is exactly the work I need.  I know it is tedious for the instructor but this is the foundation for self-carriage that must be in place before time is spent on the movements.  There is a wide gulf between understanding a concept and affecting the ride.  The instructor/student combo with patience to solidify this part of the training process will more forward more quickly.  As a student I find I need the eye on the ground because I am doing what I think is correct but until my muscle memory is established I need verification.  As an instructor, I find many students get bored and/or do not really feel the nuances yet.  So, this is bite sized work to be done a little each day as the student is developing.  A bored student does not make for a better team because the horse keys in on the rider.  Having ridden the PSG I know how crucial this step is and feel lucky to have a patient instructor and six weeks of immersion.

Good Riding,

Tara, Author, Out of the Saddle: 9 Steps to Improve Your Horseback Riding

Out of the Saddle

Out of the Saddle

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