This exercise plan is primarily for horses that are showing Training Level and above. For young horses just starting one must be careful not to use much rein contact at the walk for this can ruin the walk quickly. Since the walk has no natural impulsion, too much work with contact at the walk can damage the quality of walk. The walk, once spoiled is nearly impossible to correct.
One of the most important exercises that you can do with your horse is a thorough warm up.
I believe that the warm up should be around 15 minutes.
So many times I have seen riders warm up without a “plan” – rushing through the process in some hurry to get to the “good stuff”. Warm up can be boring I suppose, but if you have a thorough plan for your warm up, it is amazing how much better the “good stuff” is!
My warm up starts at the walk and continues through the trot and canter, stretching both sides of the horse through gentle bends, initializing engagement of the quarters, and connecting the horse through longitudinal stretching. This warm up pattern is just one roadmap, I use several different methods just to keep things fresh but they are all based on the same ingredients, be creative!
Start with Longitudinal stretching at the walk:
No big secret here, free walk, free walk, free walk! Several times around the school in both directions without really trying to steer the horse anywhere particular, just go forward and straight trying not to interfere with the walk. I have my students stretch themselves whilst free walking. There are some excellent exercises out there for stretching the rider, I have the rider place the whip under their leg, drop the reins over the whip handle so that they can pick them up at any time and then have them start stretching legs, torso, arms, shoulders etc. Takes the boredom out of the free walk!
Next, Lateral stretching at the walk:
Pick up the reins lightly, not a true medium walk at first, let your reins be as long as you dare, but do not dare to lose the connection. So you should have a slight feel of the bit and it is not important if the horse has his nose out, he will come to the bit soon enough. As you ride through the following elements of this exercise your horse should start to offer you some loose rein, gently pick it up as you go through the next part of the warm up..
Read More Pages in this Dressage Training Article.
- Warming Up at the Walk, Riding 10 meter Circles
- Warming Up at the Walk, Riding Shallow Loops on the Center Line
- Warming Up at the Walk, Riding Shallow Loops Down the Long Side
- Warming Up at the Walk, Riding 4 Loops Down the Center Line
- Warming Up at the Walk, Riding 2 Loops Down the Long Side
- Warming Up at the Walk, Leg Yield Right to Half Pass Right
- Warming Up at the Walk, Leg Yield Left to Half Pass Left
- Warming Up at the Walk, Leg Yield In, Half Pass Back