Tue 17 October 2017 Tue 17 October 2017

1. How can I stop my horse tilting its head?

Q: My Irish gelding is working really well on the flat — he’s forward, soft and round. But he sometimes tilts his head to the left, especially on the left rein. How can I stop him doing this?

A: Unless your horse has sharp teeth or a worn bit, head tilting is usually a symptom of a hindleg issue. The solution depends on exactly how he tilts: whichever side his nose goes to is the problem side. Check that you don’t have a stronger contact on that side. When he tilts, deliberately lighten the contact on that side by exaggeratedly moving your hand forward. Push him more strongly with your leg on that same side — you need to get that particular hindleg to take a more energetic step forward. As his head straightens, allow him to reconnect to the contact, but only lightly: too strong a contact may block his hindleg from stepping forward correctly. In time, he will step into the contact equally without tilting. You can get some strong Dressage training Crawley by paying attention to these questions.

2. How can I stop my horse pulling?

Q: My cob leans on the bit when I school her and it feels like she’s pulling my arms out of their sockets. A friend suggested putting her in a stronger bit for a couple of sessions to make her respect it more. Do you think this is a good idea?

A: It is certainly one possibility, but you should first try to discover why she leans on the bit. Is she unbalanced and on the forehand? If so, you need to use schooling exercises to help her to find more balance rather than make her even more worried by using a stronger bit. Does she understand what you want? She may need to be educated as to what response you want her to give to the bit. Is she comfortable in her bit? Discomfort often causes pulling and it may be that a change of bit shape, thickness or material might solve the problem without trying a more severe type. If you are unsure, take her to an experienced trainer who can advise you on the best course of action.

3. What are the judges looking for in transitions?

Q: Lots of novice tests on Dressage Training Guilford I have ridden recently ask for trot-walk-trot transitions with two to five strides of walk. My pony does them really obediently, but I only ever score sixes. What are the judges particularly looking for?

A: These transitions are put into novice tests not only to check obedience, but also the correctness of a horse’s basic training. For the higher marks they need to be performed at the right place and with the required numbers of steps, but they must also show:
➤ A steady and correct outline throughout the transition, with the horse working genuinely through the back.
➤ No signs of resistance or stiffening, either physically or mentally.
➤ Increased engagement during both transitions, with the horse lowering his croup, while bringing his hindlegs further forward beneath himself in the downward transition, then springing off with energy in the upward.
➤ Good quality paces both sides of, and between, the transitions, with no shuffling or unclear steps.
➤ An enthusiastic, forward attitude.