‘Ask the Experts’ – with International dressage rider Jessica Gale


We have asked a selection of pro riders to pass on their top tips to answer some of the most common areas riders struggle with when training and competing their own horses. This week we hear from International dressage rider Jessica Gale. Jess has competed at Internationals including Hickstead, Kapellen and the Spring Tour. Described as a ‘star of 2011’ by Horse and Hound magazine, Jess has gone from strength to strength this year. After a successful season at PSG and Inter I, she will be competing her own Umbro S (Neukey) at the invitational small tour at Hickstead.


1. When riding shoulder in my horse tends to lose impulsion, how can i correct this?

I think that the best way to do this is to keep the time you’re in shoulder in short lived. So your horse doesn’t lose the impulsion. Make sure your horse is in front of your leg before beginning by using lots of transitions. Then divide the long side up into two. So you end up doing a shoulder in to e/b then a 10 or 15m circle. This will build impulsion and then continue the shoulder in. Another useful exercise is to do shoulder fore on a circle and keep encouraging the horse forwards. This helps as the horse needs to get used to doing lateral work in forwards way. Then you can bring it back and contain it and the impulsion will come much easier.

2. In our test comments we constantly see ‘needs more from behind’ – what does the judge mean by this?

‘Needs more from behind’ usually means that the horse isn’t powering off his hind legs and pushing off them to propel forwards. The way to achieve this is to ride more transitions within the paces. This works well in encouraging the horse to be more on the hind leg. Collecting and then activating the hind leg by pushing forward (just be careful you don’t push the horse onto the forehand in the forwards transition).Use the arena to ride these transitions. Collect the pace around the short sides and extend down the long side or across the diagonal. Don’t allow the horse to just run forwards when you send them on though. Keep the transitions snappy and you will engage them better.


3. How can i maintain straightness in leg yield?

If you’re struggling with straightness in the leg yield, check the basics first. Make sure you’ve mastered keeping the horse straight down the 1/4 and 3/4 line. You can even use poles to help with this in the beginning. Create a tunnel effect to ride straight through, then take the poles away. Having some one on the ground watching is always useful too. Once that has been achieved then work on riding leg yield from the 1/4 or 3/4 line to the outside track. Keep both reins equal and don’t rush the steps, keep it progressive. As soon as you feel the horse losing straightness ride out of the leg yield and go straight again. Then once you’ve got the straightness back you can go back into the leg yield. Eventually the number of times you have to come out of the leg yield will decrease and you’ll have a super straight leg yield

4. Any tips for introducing counter canter to a younger horse?

Counter canter requires a horse to have lots of balance. Depending on the stage of training you can use demi-volts or circles. Long diagonals are useful introductions too. Ride a counter canter across the long diagonal and trot before the corner. Or ride your correct lead canter into the corner.
Commence a demi-volt. Come back to the track, keeping your canter, this time it is counter canter.
Remember to keep the true bend and keep your leg aid consistent so the horse understands what you are asking of them as you head across towards the corner. To increase the difficulty as you progress, try working on half 20m circles in counter canter. Make sure it’s a really shallow half circle though. Then slowly increase the depth until you’re riding into the corners.


5. In halt my horse can get tense and lose her outline, how can i avoid this?

In order to achieve a good square halt, the rider must have soft contact and the horses poll needs to be at the highest point. Many riders ride the halt in a backwards way and this can create tension in the horses frame. The halt does not come from the rein being pulled upon, more so the halt comes from leg forwards into a slightly more restraining hand. Prepare for the halt with a few half halts, use your seat and legs also to contain the energy and keep the horse level and straight. As the horse begins to halt soften your hand to allow the horse to step into the halt from behind, hold its frame, take the weight and stand evenly. You can use a pole tunnel again to help with keep your focused and the horse to remain straight in the halt. Trying to keep the hand soft and the focus on the halt coming forwards from behind will help to eliminate tension and make the transition a more positive one.

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