Posts Tagged ‘school your horse’

6 Steps to a Schooled Horse

January 21st, 2011

learning how to ride horses
Schooling your horse is done in six basic steps, relaxation, rhythm, contact, straightness, impulsion, collection (and extension)


Once you have got your horse backed and are starting to ride him, the first step to focus on is relaxation (lack of tension, response to aids etc).
On the top of neck and back the horse has a group of muscles that, when in contraction cause the horse to hollow its neck and back and a hollow back is a weak one, a rounded back is a strong one. When in the field a horse does this when alert (so we will refer to these muscles as the ‘alert’ group). When riding contraction of this group of muscles is caused by fear, resistance to an aid, confusion or heavy handed riders.
When the alert muscles contract the muscles on the underside of the horses belly and neck (the ‘relax’ muscles) relax using hollowness but when the relax muscles contract and the alert group relax the back is rounded and the head held in desired position.


In riding rhythm is essential. The sequence, as well as the timing of footfalls should be correct, even and movement should be smooth.
Some ponies have naturally smooth gaits, while others have naturally bumpy or uneven paces.
For regulating an uneven pace, walking and trotting poles greatly come in useful. Ride circles, curves and straight lines using correct spacing. Using short thick poles like old telegraph poles also encourages engagement of the hocks.


Contact is how the hands hold the reins. The reins should not be taut, nor should they be slack. The reins should be held gently but firmly. Imagine you were holding two gerbils. Don’t squash them, but don’t allow them to get away.
In the more advanced stages of riding, the horse should ‘seek’ the contact.
If the pony are riding is going too fast for comfort do NOT put a constant pull on the reins, instead sit up look ahead and sponge the reins or else the pony will fight your hands and hollow his back.


Horses are born naturally with a dominant side where the muscles are shorter, thicker and more bunched meaning that they naturally bend better to this side. On their other side the muscles are longer and weaker and stretch more easily than they contract.
Do lots of supplying exercises, and stretching exercises for the shorter side but don’t do them equally on both sides or else the horse will muscle up evenly on both sides causing one to still be predominant.


Impulsion is the surge of strength produced when the hindquarters are engaged, but it must never be mistaken for speed.
A young, green or unfit horse should not be asked for impulsion as they cannot produce it correctly.
Before you can ask a horse for collection he must be fit, and have completed every ‘rung’ on the training ladder(that is except collection(and extension!))
To ask for impulsion half halt then give the forward aid while the hands ‘contain’ the energy to avoid increase in speed, and the result should be a surge and lift and hind legs should be pushing off from the ground.
You can tell if a horse is moving forward by looking at their back legs. If their back legs form an upside down V the horse is using his hind quarters.


Before collection can be achieved the horse must have achieved impulsion.
To ask for collection ask for impulsion but use your hands to limit the forward movement there fore shortening the strides.


The opposite of collection, extension is produced by lengthening rather than shortening the strides.

None of the rungs in the schooling ladder should be missed out. Every single rung and all its exercises completed is the only way to go right to the top. If your horse can’t cope on a certain rung, go down a rung and redo the whole rung till there are no problems.

For more information you can read Successful schooling: Training your horse with Empathy by Karin Blignault or 6 steps to a schooled horse by Susan Mcbane.

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