THINK EQUESTRIAN - Equestrian  & Performance Coaching
Equestrian Coaching
Hilary French on Elvis
Warming up at a show
 of the horse and rider warmed up ready to carry out the requirement of the test so working on lateral and longitudinal suppleness work is key. After a long journey of over an hour, most horses will be tight and holding themselves from the effort of travelling so walking in hand can often be the biggest contributor to improving the relaxation of those muscles. The rider may also need to do some stretching and loosening work before mounting especially if they have driven a long distance.
Safety is paramount so you may not be able to stretch your horse as much as you would normally or, if your horse is tense, it may not be safe to do so at the start. However you should keep an awareness of the need to stretch the horse at various points, perhaps by letting out the rein a little for half a circle then taking it back to a shorter contact and then repeating to encourage the horse to gradually take a longer frame and stretch his muscles. Once again, the number of people in the warm up may make this more difficult so finding somewhere you can walk and trot the horse away from the warm up may be better for your horse at some venues. Some horses benefit from a relaxing work out for 20-30 minutes and then being returned to their lorry/trailer/stable for 30 -40 minutes before being brought out again for 20 minutes before the test.
You should know the test well enough that you do not need to ride through it in your warm up , but you should know what are the main elements being tested .Focus your warm up on those- perhaps transitions or circles are the main feature or the lateral work is going to gain the highest number of marks – if there are 2-3 movements that require you to stretch the horse then ensure you practise that thoroughly.

The psychological approach to warming up will be looked at in a separate goal within performance coaching however you should always be focused and know how long both you and your horse needs before you are ready to perform.

Kim On Late O'Leary - Winter Championships  
Understanding the movements-shoulder in
.The purpose of the shoulder in is to improve the degree of collection of the horse and also the Durchlassigkeit (the degree of responsiveness and throughness). The exercise should always be ridden on 3 tracks by bringing the forehand to the inside of the track so that the outside shoulder is directly in front of the inside hind leg. The horse is flexed and slightly bent laterally away from the direction in which he is moving. The inside hind leg joints carries more weight and increases the engagement and collection which itself increases lightness and balance.

The rider should always maintain his inside leg close to the girth and never take the leg back as this could cause the horse to swing the quarters out changing the movement from shoulder in to leg yield. The outside leg stays a little behind the girth in a passive position but that, if the quarters try to push out to avoid the engagement then the leg becomes active. The rider should always be riding the horse forwards and sideways and be aware of where each corner of the horse is so that the true bend is maintained.
To ensure that the horse is ready to start the shoulder in, the rider should ride 10 metre circles ensuring that the horse maintains the bend and does not swing the quarters out or lose any of the activity, energy or  rhythm. Secondly ride the leg yielding exercise to ensure that the horse moves away from the inside leg (inside always means the side of the bend and is not relative to the inside or outside of the arena). The shoulder in is an amalgam of these two exercises.
Start by riding a 10 metre circle immediately after coming out of the corner from the short side, then as you finish the circle, use the inside leg to continue in the shoulder in down the long side, making sure that the angle is just enough for the outside shoulder to be in alignment with the inside hind leg and no steeper. Always make sure that the inside rein is not dominant as this can cause too much bend and then the horse will fall through the outside shoulder. Your body should turn slightly so that your shoulders remain in alignment with the horse’s shoulders (as always), keeping soft eyes (utilising the peripheral vision techniques from previous articles) so that you can be aware of the line you are taking but also so that you can see the shoulders and the bend of the horse. Finish the exercise by riding a 10 metre circle at the end of the shoulder in so that you can help the horse to re-energise the trot.

(by kind permission of Ian Barr Images- see links)

 Home Gym for your horse (2) 
We all enjoy being pampered and a massage for your horse is both enjoyable and  very beneficial  providing you do it correctly. There is a very good website that sets out detailed guidance for massaging your horse at This sets out all of the various areas of the horse that can be massaged, the methods you should use and  things to avoid. By increasing the range of motion of the horse then this can increase the horse’s stamina, performance, the circulation and the general disposition of the horse.
In addition, passive stretching (the rider  rather than the horse does the stretch for the horse) can also be beneficial but it has more potential for damage if done incorrectly. A useful website for range of motion exercises and guidance as to what to do and pitfalls to avoid can be seen at or book a physiotherapist to show you how they should be done.
 Another useful form of stretching is the “carrot stretch” offering the horse a treat and only allowing him to have it if he stays still in his body and just stretches his neck area. Always remember to make the stretches even on each rein- start by offering the treat by the elbow, secondly near the haunches, thirdly between the front legs near to the  girth area. To flex and extend  the poll (atlantico-occipital joint) and also a number of straight muscles of the upper neck which is particularly useful after exercise, is to offer the carrot as high up the chest as possible, allowing the horse to stretch out and down to eat the treat afterwards and ensuring the neck is kept straight in the stretch itself. Also a lateral flexion of the poll can be done after work again on both sides- asking the horse to stretch down & forwards then bringing his nose up to one side following the treat whiles keeping his neck as straight as possible (using your hand to steady the neck if necessary. However be aware of your horse’s temperament and if this is likely to make him nip then it may be better to try alternatives stretching techniques.


If there are specific articles that you are interested in then please send me a contact form
Rona Willicott of Sound Schooling with Flynn
Goal of the Month: Improving half pass

Most of us are used to using shoulder in and travers to develop and prepare half pass but this month we are going to use an exercise which is used much less often. This movement is renvers which is similar to travers in that the horse is bent around the leg and brings his quarters in on the same side. However in this exercise the shoulders are moved to the inside track and the quarters remain on the outside track with the horse looking in the direction he is going.
The exercise is for you finish your half pass at the track, position the horse into renvers so that it effectively continues the half pass positioning. This teaches the horse to wait for you to straighten him and so you finish the half pass correctly. Turn down the centre line at A, position the horse in shoulder in and start the half pass towards B or E, as you reach the inside track (1 metre before the track), using a half halt, make the shoulders and forehand wait as you continue moving the quarters over on to the track. Maintaining the bend and positioning, ride forwards in the renvers, just before the final marker, half halt again, place the shoulders back on the track and ride forwards.
The added benefit is that it can help to improve the control of the shoulders in the shoulder in by switching from the shoulder in to renvers and back again. This increases the rider’s control of the movement and makes the horse wait for you and makes the rider think about the ending of the movement
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