Fancy Footwork

My dressage trainer makes flatwork… fun. (Please don’t tell anyone I said that). Besides the fact that she’s a fantastic amazing rider herself, she is also a phenomenal coach. One of my favorite things about riding with her is that she has a plethora of exercises to practice on the flat. We’ve found a few key exercises that we use frequently, but every single lesson she throws something new in the mix.

Justin Flat.jpg

VHT in May when I pretended to be somewhat capable of dressage

Is Justin getting pissy while doing transitions in shoulder in? Since we’re trying to engage the inside hind, let’s try the same thing except in a leg yield, she suggests. I so appreciate her creative approach to training. This combined with her forgiving yet no nonsense attitude can really bring out the best in me and Justin.

We learned that lateral work is Justin’s friend. Not just his friend really, his best friend. The powder puff pony can start a ride pretty tight, and encouraging fluidity through his body helps unlock all those tight joints especially in his shoulders. A bonus feature I found from this is that when he finally gives in his back (his SI), he gives in the base of his neck! This was a huge breakthrough, so warmup is usually a hodgepodge of moving his body in, out, around, etc.


Justin’s first show four years ag0. ‘You want me to engage what now?’

Another hallmark of our flatwork is a spiral in/out. Seems simple, because it is. Justin doesn’t have the most naturally uphill canter, so she would have us canter a 20 meter circle and then spiral it in, all while keeping my noodle of a pony straight. She would have us come down to about a 7-ish meter circle before we could slowly push it back out. This showed my how amazing Justin’s canter could be – it was a night and day transformation just going through this once. I finally had that feeling of a powerful canter that seems to climb higher with every stride. The bonus is that it also forced me to give with my inside rein!


PR at Training level in 2014, 32.4. (Also one year later from the photo above…)

The list of helpful exercises goes on and on, but I want to know, what’s in your arsenal? What are your go-to movements or techniques? I’m not riding currently, but I need to build up my repertoire so I can be ready to finally be good at dressage (ha!).



6 thoughts on “Fancy Footwork

  1. Avery says:

    Sounds like you have a good trainer! It is so good to be able to accomplish the same thing using different kinds of exercises. To see it from multiple view points. More than one way to skin a cat, as they say. Every horse is different and every rider is different.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. nadsnovik says:

    My trainer is always telling me to ride the horse I have, because she is always changing, so we are changing our exercises as well! Before Georgie’s injury we were doing a lot of walk to canter transitions in a straight line. She would pick two points and I would walk to the point and pick up canter or counter canter and then at the next point walk, and then do it again. We also work into the mirror a lot because sometimes I don’t feel when Georgie is haunches in during the transitions. It is kinda fun… but don’t tell anyone 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Emma says:

    It’s amazing what a difference a great trainer can make in how enjoyable dressage is!! I’m just doing the basics for now with the new guy but can’t wait to see how he develops

    Liked by 1 person

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