Western Dressage Exercise – The 4 x 4 x 4

This week’s exercise is more for the rider than the horse. I assign it to riders struggling with their leg positions or effectiveness and clarity of their cues. Basically, it works by getting riders to use their legs instead of sitting passively on the horse. It brings the side effect of also opening the rider’s hips—something we all need! I have also found that, by moving themselves around in the saddle like this exercise requires, riders are then more able to isolate different body parts later in the ride.

I call this exercise the 4-4-4. You must start from a good hip-heel alignment. Be sure that a plumb line dropped down from your hip would intersect your heel. Also please remember to STEER your horse during this exercise. Don’t let yourself get so focused on doing the exercise that you forget to tell your horse where to go. This will require keeping your reins organized and looking ahead.

Now, let’s get started.

Illustration by Susan Harris

The 4-4-4

  1. Begin in a sitting jog. Establish a good working rhythm.
  2. Then, proceed in a posting jog for four strides (count strides on the horse’s outside shoulder. Each time it comes forward counts as 1 stride)
  3. Immediately hold yourself up in a two-point or “half seat” position for four strides.
  4. Then resume sitting jog for four strides.
  5. Repeat entire sequence several times.
  6. Be sure to maintain a steady jogging rhythm.

You want to be able to transition from sitting to posting to half-seat to sitting without any disturbance in the horse’s balance. So, remember to give him clear guidance with steering (it is easiest to just follow the arena fence for this one) and make smooth transitions between each type of seat position. For instance, do not flop down abruptly when you resume sitting jog; sit down lightly. Also, when you lift up for half-seat position, stretch your upper body tall and keep your knees supple to absorb motion. In all your transitions, control your body to make smooth adjustments. Also, stop and re-gain your hip to heel alignment any time you lose it! Otherwise, your half-seat position will be entirely unsuccessful!


Western Dressage Weekly Exercise – authored by Jec Ballou | Copyright © 2012


3 Responses to “Western Dressage Exercise – The 4 x 4 x 4

  • Riana le Roux
    4 years ago

    We are based in South Africa, and I would like to use your weekly exercices. We live very remote on a farm and do not have acsess to trainiers.

    • DMD-Admin
      4 years ago

      You are most welcome to use the exercises to help your horses become better partners. This is wonderful that joining us on this journey even though you live so far away!

  • Sara Breyman
    6 years ago

    Memories, yes this is a good leg hip alignment exercise . Remember doing this from my equitation days many times… 🙂