Address the Glitches in Your Dressage Horse’s Training with Adrienne Lyle

U.S. Olympian Adrienne Lyle explains how to tackle training problems. 

For riding exercises, if you are having a problem with something, drop it down a level and try to identify why you are having a problem with it. A lot has to do with straightness, I find, and with sharpness to your aids. So for example, if you’re having problems with the flying change, drop it back down to doing walk-canter transitions. You’ll notice as the horse leans left at every left-canter transition, or does it throw its butt right? And then that’s probably what’s happening to you in the change. So again, breaking it down to understanding why you are having a mistake and the mechanics of what’s happening in your horse.

And the same with transitions. Forward and back if you put your leg on, they better be sharp and jump. If you’re finding that you can’t even do a walk-canter without kicking, then you’re going to have to be kicking in the flying change. And when you kick in the flying change, they get crooked. So maybe it came from the fact that they weren’t understanding the placement of your leg and something as simple as a walk to canter transition.

Transitions – can you walk us through your progression of aids?

We always want to whisper our aid first. For canter, I ask primarily with my inside leg a little bit forward. That’s a little bit different for everyone and you’re going to have your own aid, but if I slip my inside leg forward and that horse doesn’t canter, you come with a kick. If that doesn’t work you tap him with the whip to get a reaction. And then you go always back and try whispering the aid again. Until he listens to the whisper. A lot of the times every rider will catch themselves saying “Ummm, I cheated a little bit on that one and started to use strength. I really knew he wasn’t as honest to my leg as he needed to be but I kicked for the change rather than went back, did a couple of transitions, got him thinking about the placement of my leg and then made sure that I could do the change on just a whisper.”

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