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An Exercise to Teach Your Horse to Be More HOT to Your Inside Leg Aid

In Dressage, we use bending both to develop and to prove our horse's lateral suppleness. When the horse is laterally supple, the rider will feel that it is easy to keep the horse straight, and that it is easy to change the bend back and forth when changing directions. Lateral suppleness will also allow the horse to conform his entire body to the shape of the circles and turns that we ride him on... which means he can perform those figures in balance.

The caveat here is that to achieve this suppleness, the horse must be giving you TRUE bend throughout his body (more on that here.) So you need to make sure that your horse is actually responding to your bending aids correctly! And one of the keys to this is to make sure your horse is truly listening to your inside leg - giving you an immediate response to even the slightest of leg aids just behind the girth. 

Here is a very basic exercise, suitable for horses and riders at all levels, that will help to improve the horse's response to the rider's inside leg:

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An Exercise to Help Improve Your Horse's Connection Over the Back

Some horses have a hard time really swinging and engaging their entire backs, due to tension or stiffness. Many of these horses show signs of improvement with good dressage training, but often continue to carry an area of tension - usually in their lumbar region or lower back. This is a great exercise to break through the tension or stiffness in this area, and improve the level of throughness over your horse's entire topline, and the overall quality of your connection. Read on to find out how to do it! 

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The Benefits of "Stair Stepping" Your Lateral Exercises

"Stair stepping" your lateral work when schooling your horse has enormous benefits! It helps to teach your horse to stay more truly connected throughout all of your lateral movements. You will become more aware of and be better able to fix any straightness issues that you may encounter. And it will help you to maintain more hind leg activity and impulsion throughout any lateral movement or exercise. Read on to find out how to do it! 

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Dr. Haefner's Corner "Ask the Doc", Question # 5

A reader asks… How does someone get over a traumatic fall? Basically, I had a fall several years ago and got hurt. It shook my confidence, etc. It took years to come back from it, but there are times where I still struggle with it. I think it's because at that time, my coach had told someone else that I should stop eventing, because of that spill and I had to hear it from the grapevine, but never from my coach. I've had people doubt my abilities as I was recovering; yet I was still riding and trying to move on, and 'practice my guts.' That spill wasn't even the worst one that I've had, yet it is one that has stuck with me. Why?
 
A - There are several parts to your question which I would like to address. The first is the question of “Why this fall?” Many riders have numerous falls or other horse related injuries and, for seemingly no reason at all, one of those falls or injuries sticks with us more than the others. I would be disingenuous if I was to claim to know with any certainty the answer to the question “Why?” What I can do is highlight some of the factors that may help determine the impact of any one incident.

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Does Your Horse Fall In When Lunging?

It is such a common problem for horses to fall in on the circle when lunging. Many horses do it mostly in one direction (usually when circling to the right), but others do it both ways. Why is this such a problem?? Because not only is your lunging not productive at that point, but it is very hard on the horse's body and joints to be traveling so incorrectly. And most importantly, if your horse does this on the lunge, he probably has a tendency to try to do this under saddle as well! Read on for a specific exercise to help teach your horse to stand up straight around his corners and turns. 

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The Crest Release, the Automatic Release, and Everything In Between (With Pictures!)

There are a huge range of possible different releases that a rider can use when jumping a horse over a fence. All the way from a "negative" release - which means the rider is actually pulling back on the horse's mouth in the air, like this: 





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The Test for Self Carriage

Self carriage of the horse is one of the most important goals in dressage. When the horse is in self carriage it is balanced independently of its rider, not using the rider's hand or leg for support in any way. How do you know if your horse is in self carriage? You should be testing him often throughout your work. Here's how you check to see if your horse is carrying himself:

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The *Volume* of Your Aids

Riding is supposed to be about developing a harmonious partnership between horse and rider. When done extremely well, the horse appears to be performing entirely on his own, just following the thoughts and desires of his rider by apparent telepathy.

More commonly, we see riders doing lots of strong driving, kicking, spurring, pulling, yanking, and overall using aids that are just... shall we say, a bit crude??

So, if the "crude aids" category sounds frighteningly familiar to you... how do you go about changing to the more "harmonious partnership" mentioned above, with a horse that is responsive to feather light aids??

It CAN be done. ANY horse can learn to be alert, attentive, and responsive to nearly invisible aids. The key is to... 

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The Benefits of Jumping Fences at Sharp Angles

Even though I already have an article about how to ride jumps at an angle, and how to teach the green horse all about angled jumps (check that out here,) I wanted to further discuss some of the benefits of jumping at angles - of which there are many! And I also want to cover what level of horse and rider should be working on angled fences on a regular basis. Read on to find out! 

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An Exercise For Riders at All Levels, That Will Improve Your Dressage Test!

This exercise has SO many benefits, using more attention to the corners of the arena to attain more bending and suppleness, and transitions between them to increase your horse's hind leg engagement and carriage. Read on to find out how to do it!

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