What springs to mind when you think of “classical training”? Dressage? Andalusian or Lusitano horses? Airs-above-the-ground? The Spanish Riding School of Vienna? People dressage up like Napoleon in traditional tailcoats and funny hats or outdated uniforms?
Whilst these things are not, necessarily, wrong. They most certainly are not the whole truth...
Long-reining clinics are pretty popular in the USA, but long-reining is a bit of a dying art in the UK. Most people just do straight lines and circles when long-reining, or believe that it's just for young horses, don't they? The reality is, if you can do it from the saddle, you can do it all from the ground eventually! We can use poles on the long-reins too.
Many, many riders focus on the head and neck when schooling. At Elementary levels upwards, a greater element of collection is needed, but a lot of riders forget that their is an entire horse to collect. Their version of "collection", not that it really is that at all, comes from bringing the head and neck up and in. Meanwhile, the back end trails out behind the horse, who hollows their back and drops onto the forehand.
After a very quiet few months, due to a certain pandemic that need not be mentioned, I am finally back out teaching. Yesterday was the first day back, and it was both busy and brilliant! 12 lessons taught in all, and all went superbly.
Each clients is different, with different horses, needs, ambitions etc. so each lesson is different.
Horse can't bend? Shoulder-in. Horse not bringing the inside hind under? Shoulder-in. Horse heavy on the outside shoulder? Shoulder-in. Pulling in transitions instead of pushing? Ride them in shoulder-in. Needs the wall for balance? Shoulder-in. Not enough expression or suspension in the paces? Shoulder-in.
I use these exercise a lot, they are an absolute staple, both when producing horses and coaching riders of virtually all levels.
4 poles positioned at '12', '3', '6', and '9' on a 20m circle or slightly larger if your arena allows. It's very simple, you ride around the circle over the middle of the poles, generally in trot or canter. It's great for testing how regular and consistent your horse's paces are and working to improve the regularity of paces, it tests how accurate you are as a rider and makes you really think about control, it encourages horses to settle because it's very predictable, and the poles help to create more hind-end engagement whilst inside bend is maitained on the circle. More advanced horses and riders can raise the poles slightly, and advanced combinations can replace the poles with fences (but don't go too mad with the height, steering is required for this exercise!).
I am a dressage trainer and general equestrian coach in Surrey, Sussex, and Berkshire. I teach dressage lessons, and hold a range of riding and equestrian clinics around the UK, and use my blog to share horse training tips, advice, and resources.