If things are going wrong with your training, you should ask yourself what is happening, why is it happening and what is the solution? The art of seeing a problem is being able to interpret what is happening and to decide what the solution is.

Flatwork is all about good foundations, which I call 'fundamentals', and they are very simple and straightforward:


If you have that framework you can go anywhere and you need to have all of them to different degrees and levels.

Lacking impulsion

I don’t like the word impulsion as I find it a bit overused as a phrase. The horse should be going into the bridle and he should be slightly in front of the leg. What I mean by that is he should always be going forward from the leg into a nice polite contact. When you ask the horse to decelerate he should do so without being impolite i.e. leaning on you, inverting, trying to run.

You have a polite contact when he is light in the hand; he should be soft in his lower jaw, not crossing his jaw or trying to get his tongue over the bit or grinding his teeth. You should feel as if you are able to ride him on a piece of elastic.To achieve this make sure that you are not getting heavy and that he is not using your hand as the fifth leg to help himself balance. He should be holding himself. Again it is the fundamentals

As I said earlier, riding is supposed to be pleasurable. If your horse does not go forward and you are having to do all the work you will be asking yourself where is the enjoyment in that? A good exercise that I use to Improve the horses' responsiveness to your instructions and to get him listening and concentrating on you is the ‘Fives and Fives’.

The Fives and Fives is used to improve balance, responsiveness and calmness. Here is how it works:

I. Take up your canter on a 25m circle.

2. Ride five strides of canter followed by five strides of walk then five strides of canter and so on.

3. Repeat approximately five circuits on each rein.

What happens is that the horse starts to understand what will happen next. He is going to canter in a minute and so becomes very alive in his walk and in canter he doesn't get heavy because he knows he is going to walk shortly. He starts to be very receptive to what you are asking.

This exercise improves engagement because as the horse goes into walk he is expecting to go into canter at any minute so he is engaged and ready to strike off. As he goes into canter he knows that he is going to start walking at any second so he does not get forward or heavy. Again he is holding his own balance because he knows he is going to be changing pace. He also becomes more receptive to the aids for the strike off to canter and the downward transition into walk.

Tim Stockdale

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Comment by Desirea Herrera on June 27, 2009 at 12:02pm
I think they would be effective for your horse if you did walk trot instead of canter walk transitions. You'll get responsiveness and focus out of your horse. The horse will need to calm down to focus on you and respond in a timely manner.
Comment by Ann Crago on June 27, 2009 at 10:03am
...me too Freda....my Ziggy is no way ready for canter...I think they kinda need to know to relax in Walk Trot before you do something as "exciting" as canter....which quite frankly just scares Ziggy at this point and he just surges forward in a run.......Also Tim.....what IS the best and safest way to begin to teach canter.....my Zig tends to "buck into it " most likely because it startles him and he is still unbalanced......

Advice on teaching canter would be GREATLY appreciated !!!!!
Comment by Puzzle on June 27, 2009 at 8:48am
Having a baby, who has not yet mastered the C/W, W/C transitions I wonder if the exercise done in C/T, T/C would have the same results and get the horse more fw thinking?

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