Helen came to me with Andarino for lessons soon after she had bought him. We don’t know much about his early years, except that he was imported when he was 7 and was bought by Helen 4 months later. Andarino is a naturally short striding horse, and he was also very stiff, on the forehand and unbalanced. He also has an anxious nature and when we introduced a new exercise or if he finds the work hard, he curls his neck under or grinds his teeth, but as he has grown in strength, trust and understanding these signs of tension are fewer.
We began his work with basic circles and exercises to build his suppleness and strength, with a program of in-hand work in parallel to the ridden work, which greatly improved Andarino’s balance and created a strong bond between him and Helen. Working steadily through these early exercises we then progressed to lateral movements; shoulder-in, travers, half pass and renvers, to develop his strength and suppleness.
By carefully developing the qualities we needed for each stage of his work we began to see the benefits of the exercises: Andarino was starting to use his back correctly, soften and relax his poll with a lengthened neck.
We took great care to have the right amount of impulsion for Andarino: too little and he found the movements hard; too much and it pushed him out of balance on to his forehand and caused him to curl his neck under.
The work progressed through the introduction of rein back, walk to trot transitions, renvers and shoulder-in to renvers transitions and a short canter or a few lengthened trot steps when he was well balanced and in a good rhythm.
As Andarino's knowledge and physical abilities increased, so Helen needed to be quicker and lighter with her aids and more creative with exercises to develop his qualities more. We began to work more on the canter, making transitions at the start of the long side and asking for counter canter; along with developing more collection in trot and riding smaller voltes.
It has taken Helen many months of patient riding, but Andarino is now a completely different horse. Through the exercises, he has developed correct muscles, is supple and balanced. We have progressed his training slowly, so he remains confident in what he is doing, and are now working towards more advanced movements.
Diane Followell Classical Dressage Trainer