Exercise of the Week

Western Dressage Exercise: Adjusting Strides to Halt

Western Dressage Jec Ballou

The introductory level Western Dressage tests intentionally require transitions to the halt on the center line through the walk. When writing this movement in these tests, we on the advisory committee wanted to ensure that riders did not attempt abrupt stops at the expense of the horse’s correct balance and alignment. A horse should learn […]

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Western Dressage Exercise – Bending Square

Western Dressage Jec Ballou

When a horse has a dominant side, and I’ve never met one that did not, he carries a majority of his weight in that respective front limb. This leads to him moving and performing with crookedness, with the dominant shoulder always leading his body. Lightness and correctly off-the-forehand movement will elude him unless this crookedness […]

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Western Dressage Exercise – Collecting Strides

Western Dressage Jec Ballou

Collection can be an elusive feeling. We strive for a powerful yet lofty output from the horse’s hind legs up through his back and forehand. We ask him to express this surge of expressive, energetic activity with calm controlled strides. To say the least, this is anything but simple. Most often, a rider ends up […]

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Western Dressage Exercise – Shifting Gears

Western Dressage Jec Ballou

One of my students describes the feeling of a horse moving correctly in balance as being like a hovercraft. This is the feeling that, in an instant, he can shift gears upwards or downwards smoothly without pushing his body weight forward onto his front legs. Exercises that help create this hovercraft feeling are ones that […]

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Western Dressage Exercise – Leg-Yield On the Wall

Western Dressage Jec Ballou

As you have read in previous posts of mine, the horse’s hindquarter musculature, responsible for both propelling him forwards and carrying him in balance, is all connected through a webbing of soft tissue called fascia. In other words, all these important muscles are linked together. For obvious reasons, this is both negative and positive. On […]

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Western Dressage Exercise – False Straightaway

Western Dressage Jec Ballou

For most horses, the goal of slowing down the lope is most easily accomplished by riding circles. Circles help shift the weight to the horse’s hindquarters because they draw the horse’s hind leg under his body and towards the midline, lowering his hip and in turn flexing all of his hind leg joints. The lope […]

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Western Dressage Exercise – Shoulder-In on the Circle

Western Dressage Jec Ballou

Correct execution of shoulder-in has remained throughout history as a prime means of straightening the horse. Due to its suppling effect, shoulder-in allows us to equalize both sides of the horse’s body, bringing his spine into balanced alignment and helping alleviate side dominance. Aside from its exceptional loosening benefit, though, shoulder-in provides a marvelous strengthening […]

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