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KEEP YOUR DRESSAGE SCHOOLING FUN BY FRESHENING UP YOUR HACKS

Training for dressage, but not as you know it.  The aim is to refresh your training regime and encourage your horse to want to work. 

Keep your schooling fun
Freshen up your hacks with some suppling exercises and use your surroundings to your advantage.   
 
All of us school our horses towards goals, whether it be keeping our veteran horse fit and supple, working on better transitions and strength for show jumping, to compete in dressage, or to just generally keep our horse fit and healthy and to prevent injuries.
 
We all at some point dread going into the school either because you find the prospect too boring or resistance and misunderstanding of training.  But at times it just boils down to the fact we forget to keep it fun for the horse and ourselves and it becomes a chore. In this short article wel try to give you some ideas on how to freshen up your hacks with some suppling exercises and become an opportunist to your surroundings and using them to your advantage.  
  
In my area I have 800m of road to walk along until I cross the road onto the downs link.  My horses are normally quite fresh until I have walked for a good 15 mins.  So with some of my horses a new crisp bag that was not there before or a broken branch can be spooked at. At this point I would ask for a shoulder in, which is basically a turning of the horses shoulders and head towards the middle of road but staying on the edge of the road walking forward and pushing the inside hind leg towards the outside so the horse is walking in a three track line.  Once I am on the bridle way where the going is quite level I will repeat this exercise, changing the sides of the bridleway and using the shoulder in angle first for example on the left then changing sides and riding the shoulder in on the right.  I would also use this in trot for short distances of say 15 meters to supple the horse and get their attention and utilise the fact that my horse is more forward on a hack to develop the pushing power from behind that I may struggle with in the arena.
 
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Next I have a wide bridleway where I use leg-yield to encourage my horse to move away from my leg in a sideways motion so you get parallel crossing of the legs.  If you have never done this before ride shallow diagonal zigzag lines and try to just encourage you horse to step sideways,  e.g. if riding a left zigzag line with your right leg try to push the right hind leg over sideways until you can cross parallel through the horses body angle.  

I also have a great hill for trot and canter work.  I use this to get the horses stretching over the backs and start pushing from the hind legs to get a round back under my seat and a feeling of the horse's back up under my seat. I start with trot first and try to get them really forward and then allow the horse to stretch.  Don't worry if they find this difficult, once you pop the horse into canter they will start to tire and will stretch more easily but try to keep the horse cantering forward and not breaking.  You must judge how long you do this measured against their fitness levels.
 
 Lastly I have some great narrow winding paths in the woodland I hack through. I use these in trot and canter doing transitions down from canter to trot and back into canter on the sharp bends.  I also change canter leads to give variety so my horse does not always favour one canter lead more than the other.  This is also true for tot, try to change your trot lead also.
On the way home I let my horse stretch more almost to their knees in trot and a long rein in walk.  If you have a hill to come down, let your horse walk in a steady rhythm and not jog down.  This is a great way to work your horse's pelvis to be able to lower and move side to side which will be the horse's own physio workout for the deep muscles in this area.
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More related articles
PART 1 Polework can help a horse become more engaged Read more.
PART 2 Improve aiding and riding good corners
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