Western Dressage Exercise – Zig Zags with Turns on Forehand

Exercises that combine the loosening effects with the symmetry gained from lateral work while preserving the horse’s forward energy are like putting money in the bank. These types of maneuvers guide the horse’s neurophysiology to a more balanced recruitment of muscles and limb movements. Because of their fluidity (as opposed to being static and prompting bracing) and forward moving energy, they can eradicate poor postural habits such as one-sidedness, stiffness, and traveling on the forehand. Above all, as I have mentioned in previous posts, they assist us greatly in releasing tension from the horse’s sacral region where his pelvis attached to the body. This area, prone to stress even with correct training, can cause your horse numerous gait insufficiencies or disengaged hindquarters.

Below is an exercise I ride a lot with horses in clinic settings when we are new to each other. I like it because it allows me to help the horse’s body release and become more capable of better movement without frustrating the horse by fixing him on a figure. There are short little mental breaks built into this pattern, which allows the horse to refresh his forward energy, take a breath, or just enjoy several seconds without being asked for precise footwork. These brief moments are interspersed with high quality lateral steps aimed at creating better symmetry on both sides of his body, bringing his hind legs further underneath him, and helping him shift weight off his front legs. You will quickly see that this exercise can be modified for different shapes and various lines. Have some fun with it.

Western Dressage Exercise by Jec BallouZig-Zags with Turns on Forehand

  1. Starting from A in a working walk, ride a short diagonal line to K (you’ll be cutting off the corner between A and K. Rather than arcing in to this corner, ride a line directly from A to K).
  2. Before K, begin to slow down and ask your horse almost to walk in place.
  3. Then apply your aids to make a quarter Turn on the Forehand away from your right leg (horse’s haunches move towards outside of arena)
  4. Now ride a short diagonal line to B, refreshing the working walk energy.
  5. 1-3 meters before B, begin again to slow down and shorten the walk steps.
  6. Now apply your left leg for a quarter turn on the forehand.
  7. Proceed on the short diagonal to H. Continue riding this zig-zag pattern.


Western Dressage Weekly Exercise – authored by Jec Ballou | Copyright © 2013

*Download PDF Document of this exercise

Comments are closed.