Dressage School: A Sourcebook of Movements and Tips Demonstrated by Olympian Isabell Werth by Britta Schoffmann, Hardcover | Barnes & Noble
Dressage School: A Sourcebook of Movements and Tips Demonstrated by Olympian Isabell Werth

Dressage School: A Sourcebook of Movements and Tips Demonstrated by Olympian Isabell Werth

by Britta Schoffmann

Now you can join one of the finest riders of modern dressage competition, Olympian and multiple-time German, European, and World Champion Isabell Werth, as she helps demonstrate the "what", "how", and—most importantly—"why" of dozens of dressage movements, exercises, and school figures on several of her famous horses. You'll find out how each movement


Now you can join one of the finest riders of modern dressage competition, Olympian and multiple-time German, European, and World Champion Isabell Werth, as she helps demonstrate the "what", "how", and—most importantly—"why" of dozens of dressage movements, exercises, and school figures on several of her famous horses. You'll find out how each movement should look, get an idea of the common mistakes made by horses and riders and how to avoid them, and learn about the various benefits each exercise offers at various stages of training. Most importantly, you'll see how the simplest of school figures ultimately contributes to progressive planning related to the dressage Training Pyramid. Armed with this knowledge, your regular daily training program and the most mundane of schooling sessions will take on new relevance as you come to understand how each piece fits into the larger picture the optimal gymnasticization of the horse in order to keep him sound, healthy, and happy in his work. Before you know it, both you and your horse will find arena work more interesting, your horse 's attitude and way of going will improve, and your ability to plan a workout according to his needs present and future will be maximized. Formatted as a practical and easy-to-follow reference, this infinitely useful book promises to take the mystery out of dressage schooling forever.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"An excellent resource for any dressage rider who wants detailed instruction, plain and simple, on everything from half halts to pirouettes. Clear dressage advice, sans fluff."  —The Horsemen's Yankee Pedlar

The Horsemen's Yankee Pedlar
An excellent resource for any dressage rider who wants detailed instruction, plain and simple, on everything from half halts to pirouettes. Clear dressage advice, sans fluff.

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Trafalgar Square
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6.80(w) x 9.70(h) x 0.90(d)

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By Britta Schöffmann
Trafalgar Square Books
Copyright © 2005

Franckh-Kosmos Verlags-GmbH & Co. KG, Stuttgart
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-57076-411-0

Chapter One TURNING

Initiating a turn with the horse evenly flexed and bent, while maintaining the same tempo, in order to change direction or ride the line on a circle.

HOW IT'S SUPPOSED TO LOOK Many a rider might be thinking, "Turning can't be that difficult!" Just pull a little bit on the inside rein and the horse turns in no time-right? Theoretically, this is true to some extent, and sometimes might even work. However, if done this way, a turn will rarely look correct. Turning only becomes beautiful and correct when it's done completely smoothly on a more or less gently curved line with contact, tempo, and rhythm remaining the same, and the aids invisible. During the entire turn, the horse is supposed to bend evenly around the rider's inside leg, exhibiting lateral bend (see p. 76), while taking up more of his weight on his inside hind leg. This unburdens the horse's inside front leg, a process that not only keeps the horse's rhythm pure in the turn but also prevents-especially at the trot and canter-wear and tear on the joints, which contributes to keeping the horse sound. The latter, especially, should be the reason for every rider to work on turning correctly. After all, in any riding session you turn countless times-whether on a trail ride, in the dressage ring, or in the jumping arena.

MOST COMMON MISTAKES The Horse: evades through his outside shoulder; drifts sideways; is on the forehand; tilts his head at the poll; does not stay on the arc of the circle. The Rider: "pulls" the horse around; turns only using one rein.

CORRECT AIDS The key for executing a good turn lies in the correct orchestration of all aids, as in all exercises and movements. Begin with a half-halt on the outside rein in order to gain the horse's attention, then shorten the inside rein enough to slightly flex the horse to the inside. Your inside leg drives (the horse's inside hind leg) forward at the girth, and your outside leg is positioned slightly behind the girth, keeping the haunches under control and bending the horse around your inside leg. At the moment of turning, increase the inside rein aid a bit, yielding slightly with the outside rein.

However, be careful not to "throw the rein away" as this will cause the horse to run "through" his outside shoulder. The outside rein must keep enough contact to set a boundary for the horse's outside shoulder, and "give" just enough to allow the horse to stretch the muscles on the outside of his neck and prevent him from tilting his head at the poll. Your outside rein and outside leg take on the role of the arena fences or wall, so to speak, from which a horse would turn on his own. (If the horse still evades through his outside shoulder, most of the time it helps to counterflex him temporarily.) Ultimately, a horse that is trained correctly actually turns from the outside rein, while the inside rein only provides the flexion.

The better you are able to concentrate on your aids, the more precisely you will be able to turn your horse at any gait, using only the slightest of aids.

GOAL OF THE MOVEMENT Apart from being the tool used for changing rein or riding a circle, every turn that's executed cleanly and neatly also has the effect of bending the horse around the rider's inside leg for a moment, causing him to step more underneath the center of his mass with his inside hind leg, thus taking up more weight. The muscles on the inside of his body momentarily shorten while the ones on the outside stretch-an unspectacular, yet effective, gymnastic exercise.

FAST FACTS Basic exercise; improves lateral mobility.

PYRAMID FACTOR Rhythm*, relaxation/suppleness*, contact**, impulsion**, straightness**, collection**.


Connecting two voltes or circles to form an exercise ridden as one piece to resemble a figure eight.


If, for example, you take the arena as a whole and at "X" volte (p. 171)-or circle (p. 179)-left, then when you again cross "X," begin a circle to the right, you will complete a figure eight. It's supposed to be ridden fluidly, with both circles equal in size. At the intersection point after completing the first volte, straighten the horse for about one horse's length, and only then enter the second part of the figure eight. This creates two circles opposing each other, which should match precisely.


The Horse: is tight in the neck; allows his haunches to fall out on the circle(s); goes against the hand when changing flexion and bend. The Rider: plans circles poorly; makes size of circles unequal; rides circles misshapen; "pulls" horse around the turns.

CORRECT AIDS If you are able to perform correct circles or voltes, riding a precise figure eight is merely a matter of concentration. Many riders make the mistake of hurrying back to the intersection point after they ride the first half of the first circle-essentially cutting off the second half of the circle, instead of completing it roundly and properly before thinking about beginning the new one.

To initiate the figure eight: slightly shorten the inside rein, flex the horse slightly to the inside, and keep the inside leg at the girth while positioning the outside leg behind the girth, bending the horse around the inside leg. At the end of the first circle, briefly straighten the horse on the line where you "began" the figure eight, then immediately enter the second circle on the other rein.

GOAL OF THE MOVEMENT When performing a figure eight in a dressage test, you inform the judges about your ability to influence your horse and also about the horse's suppleness on both sides. When schooling, riding figure eights provides a great opportunity to further and improve this very suppleness-that is, lateral bend-both to the right and the left, especially if you ride several figure eights in a row. However, do not make the circles too small, as this puts too much stress on the horse's ligaments and joints.

Figure eights are best ridden at the trot, but you can also ride them at the canter, using either a simple change (p. 000) or a flying change (p. 000) of lead when changing direction.

FAST FACTS Basic exercise; suitable for the end of the warm-up, the work phase, and the cool-down; can be ridden at both a working and collected gait (see pp. 15 and 165).

PYRAMID FACTOR Rhythm*, relaxation/suppleness***, contact**, impulsion*, straightness**, collection*.


The transition from the halt, walk, or trot into the canter.

HOW IT'S SUPPOSED TO LOOK The canter depart should occur in balance and spontaneously; that is, promptly following the rider's aids with contact remaining quiet and consistent, and immediately resulting in the clear three-beat rhythm of a proper canter stride on the required lead. The horse's body should remain "straight" on the line of travel, whether on a line or the arc of a curve.

How is this done? The answer is quite simple: the strike-off on a straight line-on the short or long side of the arena-occurs with a slight inside flexion (at the poll) without lateral bend (p. 76), and the strike-off on a curved line-such as when riding on a circle-occurs with lateral bend, according to the line of travel. "Straightening" a horse does not mean making him straight like a railroad tie. Instead it means that he places his hind feet into or beyond the tracks of his front feet, not to the side of them. So, during the strike-off into the canter, the horse's leading hind leg "jumps" directly underneath his center of gravity, and all four legs step straight along the line of travel.

MOST COMMON MISTAKES The Horse: requires multiple attempts before cantering; takes the incorrect lead (counter-canter instead of "true" canter and vice versa); is against the rider's hand; has a tight neck; is on the forehand; breaks into the trot (when riding a walk-canter transition); has a high croup; is crooked; is against the rider's legs; kicks out. The Rider: uses too much spur and causes kicking out; allows her upper body to fall forward (attempting to create momentum for the canter depart).

CORRECT AIDS The aids for the canter depart are identical whether you depart from the halt, walk, or trot. The difference lies in the level of difficulty. The canter depart from the halt and walk requires a certain amount of collection and a higher degree of "straightness." This is because the transition is from a halt or movement without impulsion into a gait with impulsion. This requires more strength from the hindquarters as well as increased horse-and-rider coordination.

The canter depart itself is done as follows: slightly flex the horse in the poll to the inside, give a half-halt on the outside rein to tell the horse that a new task is at hand. At the same time, move your outside leg behind the girth, and with the inside calf give a forward-driving aid by applying brief and distinct pressure. At the moment when the horse responds and wants to strike-off, move your inside hand slightly forward. This "giving" action is particularly important because the horse begins the canter with his inside hind leg, which means that this leg comes more forward and under his body, bearing his weight for a brief moment-the prerequisite for the change from one gait into another. When a rider blocks this process by having a too tight inside rein, the horse will barely be able to strike-off on the correct lead. In such a situation, a horse that tends to take a strong contact often "takes" the rein himself by objecting with his head, while a horse that tends to take a lighter contact will "collapse" backward with his head behind the vertical in order to find the necessary space to complete the canter depart.

In order to make the canter depart fluid and available to you at any time, it's enormously important that you correctly organize the leg, hand, and seat (weight/back) aids. Part of this correct orchestration of aids is an even application of your leg and seat aids. This means that the outside leg behind the girth mustn't squeeze, since the horse might interpret it as a lateral driving aid and evade sideways with his haunches. Your outside leg should instead lie quite loosely on the horse and, at the most, prevent the horse from evading sideways to the outside, while the inside leg gives the forward impulse for the depart.

If the horse strikes off on the wrong lead-a common problem-it is often caused by a rider's failing to focus on "fine-tuning" all the necessary aids. But, it is also caused by a lack of "straightness" in the horse's body. When this is the issue, it helps to initially school the canter depart on bending lines, either in the corners of the arena or on a circle. When the horse's inside hind leg is already placed a bit more under the center of his body mass, and bend and flexion have already been established-at least, when the turn has been ridden correctly-most horses find it easier to obtain the correct lead. And, since riding on bending lines furthers the horse's "straightness," it most often is only a matter of time until the canter depart will work on straight lines, too, without any problems.

It doesn't help to swing your upper body forward and back to establish momentum, as many riders do to encourage the strike-off into the canter. A rider might in fact swing beautifully with his body-but he will not be able to establish momentum. Instead, he will usually achieve the opposite: at the moment he falls forward, he lightens his seat, and combined with the half-halt and one leg positioned behind the girth, almost gives the aid for the rein-back! Since his inside leg is driving the horse forward at the same time, the confused horse will react with incomprehension, possibly thinking: "What am I supposed to do? Do I canter forward or step backward?" Aids must always be clear-without ambiguity.

GOAL OF THE MOVEMENT The canter depart is mainly an end in itself: to transition into the canter from another gait. However, especially in combination with transitions into slower gaits, it can also help improve contact and the horse's relaxation and suppleness.

FAST FACTS Basic exercise; schools coordination skills.

PYRAMID FACTOR Rhythm*, relaxation/suppleness***, contact***, impulsion**, straightness**, collection*.


Setting the horse in motion from the halt into the walk.

HOW IT'S SUPPOSED TO LOOK Walking off from the halt should always occur spontaneously and immediately from the slightest possible aids. Ideally, the horse walks on perfectly straight and seemingly on his own, remaining quietly on the aids. When walking off, the horse should immediately reach for the contact, with the first stride rhythmical and with correct tempo.

MOST COMMON MISTAKES The Horse: delays motion; exhibits rhythm faults; is strung out; wanders. The Rider: uses too strong, too visible aids (pounding leg aids, overuse of spurs).

CORRECT AIDS In order for the horse to walk on correctly, he must respond well to your leg. This means that when you apply even, brief calf pressure, he immediately responds by moving forward. If you want him to walk from the halt, you must create this pressure from both calves, while giving a half-halt and slightly yielding with both hands. The better a horse reacts to the leg aids, the better the initial walk steps usually are. When the horse remains standing as if glued to the ground, or if he sluggishly responds to your driving aids only after you repeatedly ask, you must not hesitate to give a stronger tap with your calves.

It's crucial to also allow the horse to go forward at that very moment, whether or not he is perfectly on the aids. After he understands this go-forward cue, it will usually be enough to give a gentle squeeze with your calves, and he will respond by moving on immediately. However, if, after giving the stronger leg aid, you restrain the horse by moving your hands backward, he will definitely be confused. So, remember to yield your hands forward, thus rewarding the horse for going forward. Only then will the horse understand what you really want.

If you have problems with him moving off "straight," use this little trick: focus your eyes on an object or point ahead of you and ride exactly toward it. This automatically helps you distribute your aids more evenly. When practicing this, it's helpful to walk toward a mirror in the ring as it allows you to develop a feel for a straight line and the uniform, equal use of your legs.

GOAL OF THE MOVEMENT The horse not only sets himself in motion, he also activates his "engine"-the hindquarters-in order to move forward. For this reason, walking off is always a great, yet simple exercise to strengthen the muscles in the hindquarters.

FAST FACTS Basic exercise.

PYRAMID FACTOR Rhythm, relaxation/suppleness, contact, impulsion, straightness, collection.


The transition from the halt or walk into the trot.

HOW IT'S SUPPOSED TO LOOK Just as when walking off, trotting off should also be smooth and occur spontaneously from the slightest of aids. And, when riding a halt-trot transition, the very first stride should be a trot stride. Trotting off from the walk must be prompt, leading from the clear four-beat walk rhythm into the two-beat trot rhythm. The horse should be evenly on the aids and impulsion for the transition should come from his hindquarters. The more balanced and aligned a horse, is the better the walk-trot transition will be.

MOST COMMON MISTAKES The Horse: (from the halt) transition is not immediate; wanders; walks prior to trotting; (from the walk) jigs in the transition; is against the rider's hand. The Rider: uses too strong, too visible aids.


Excerpted from DRESSAGE SCHOOL by Britta Schöffmann Copyright © 2005 by Franckh-Kosmos Verlags-GmbH & Co. KG, Stuttgart. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
"An excellent resource for any dressage rider who wants detailed instruction, plain and simple, on everything from half halts to pirouettes. Clear dressage advice, sans fluff."  —The Horsemen's Yankee Pedlar

Meet the Author

Britta Schoffmann is a journalist, the recipient of a gold German riding badge, a Grand Prix rider, a competition judge, and an instructor. She is the author of "Klaus Balkenhol: The Man and His Training Methods "as well as several German-language books that focus on the value of a strong mutual bond of trust between rider and horse.

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