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Straightness is your Friend!

Ride down the centerline. Ride down the quarter line. What happened to my straightness? Where did that long side go that I'm so straight on when I ride? Seems simple enough, yes? Let's just walk through a basic beginning test, Introductory A, and see how easy it is to go down the center line straight. You need to enter at A and go down the centerline on a horse that’s not straight with a rider that’s not straight, either. A major maxim of dressage is to ride your horse forward and make them straight. It’s not easy because horses are left or right handed, like humans, and the training process involves us learning to be ambidextrous and training our horses to be the same. Then you have to do that in a steady tempo. It’s actually a good thing for several horse types that there isn’t the pressure of a halt at the beginning of the test, so plan a smooth walk transition. If you’re just riding the Introductory tests, after X there should be a walk transition, but the transition should not be at C! The movement says between X and C. Dressage tests are tests of execution--or following directions--for a movement. Walking at X or not walking until C means it didn’t happen between X and C. Plan to start to ask for the walk transition as you pass X. You then have to turn at C. Think about riding very straight to C but start to plan your bend in the direction of the turn a stride or two before C, so the turn is balanced and you and your horse are looking in the direction of the turn. An exercise idea is to put cones down the center line from A to X so you can plan your walk transition. Then place a cone where you want to start changing the horse from straight to bend for the corner. Walk around the cone to the corner with a cone in the corner so you have a visual aid to bend the horse around. For this entire movement you receive one score so ride each ‘section’ of the movement well. I'd say that's a lot of directions for just a simple “A enter on a straight line!” If you find straightness to be a challenge – don't give up! It's not easy but it's fun to try, and 3 steps add up to 6 add up to 9 and so on until it's strides and then, voila! You have straightness on the centerline!

Stay tuned for next week’s Two-minute Training Tip! If you need help building a training plan, you can always email me questions at or check out for upcoming events and information. Like us on Facebook at!

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