Buddy came to Dee as a 6-year-old who had been used for pulling logs in Ireland. Dee had a good position, but Buddy is a big horse and at that stage he had a limited understanding of the aids and was used to pulling himself forward on his forehand.
We began by working on basic circles, ignoring Buddy’s head position on the vertical, and focusing on having correct bend through circles and corners. Dee learnt to feel when Buddy was out of balance by the weight in his shoulders and how to correct this by adjusting his bend. This took a few weeks to become established, but it was important that Dee knew how to feel the issue and how to correct it, so that Buddy became better balanced, and started to develop suppleness in order to bring him out of his shoulders.
This work was done in walk so that both Dee and Buddy had time to learn what was needed before introducing a few steps of trot. Initially we kept to a jog trot, Buddy had a big unbalanced trot movement and the jog trot allowed them to develop the work done in walk through to the trot.
We also introduced shallow quarters out on the circle in walk to further supple him and began a programme of lunging and in-hand work to supplement the ridden work and help Buddy learn some of the techniques he would need for shoulder-in.
When Buddy was confident doing shoulder-in, in hand, we introduced it as a ridden exercise. He found the shoulder-in to the left much easier than to the right and to help correct this Dee rode some counter flexions on the left rein to bring Buddy off his right shoulder more. Linking exercises together helped to supple and strengthen Buddy, and we gradually increased the impulsion in trot.
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This type of exercise consolidated Buddy’s existing work, improved his mobility and suppleness, and set things up to start half pass. Using in-hand and ridden exercises we developed shoulder-in on small circles, travers, half pass and renvers, building Buddy’s ability to collect.
Rein back was started through the in-hand work and then ridden. Over several weeks it was developed further so Buddy could do rein back to trot transitions, as we continually worked on improving Buddy’s suppleness, strength and understanding.
We started in-hand trot work and then developed that on to trot shoulder-in from the ground, creating more suspension in the steps. Dee had to carefully balance her aids - asking for too much collection and Buddy would walk, not enough and he would flatten out - but when Dee’s aids were perfectly balanced, Buddy engaged his haunches more and lightened his forehand in self-carriage.
Extended trot steps were developed from the collected trot work to create some ridden lengthened steps, throughout which Buddy maintained his balance, not tipping on to the fore hand.
I focused on Buddy’s trot work because that would follow through into his canter. If we cantered too soon, Buddy would not have been able to keep his balance and the result would have been a very uncomfortable experience for both Buddy and Dee. Developing Buddy’s collection in trot allowed Dee to find the best possible moment to ask Buddy to canter, which is light, balanced and collected.
Buddy continue to improve and with Dee’s dedication and consistent approach we are now developing piaffe in-hand with him.
Throughout this steady, regular work Dee’s riding improved, Buddy would not let her be anything less than subtle and precise!
Diane Followell Classical Dressage Trainer