When riding a dressage test, many riders make the experience even more challenging by not using the arena properly.
In busy tests where the movements come thick and fast, every inch of arena space counts! You can make the best use of the arena by riding the corners efficiently.
Here’s how to ride good corners.
Why are corners important?
So, why is riding good corners so important?
Making full use of the corners of the arena is essential, as doing so effectively makes the arena bigger and gives you more valuable space. Riding deeper into the corners enables you to prepare your horse for the next movement, which is crucial in the higher-level tests where the exercises come thick and fast.
You can use the corners to rebalance your horse by riding a half-halt as you enter the corner. That, combined with the inside bend that you’ll need to ride the corner properly, helps to bring the horse’s inside hind leg underneath him, thus improving his balance and lifting his forehand.
Riding corners correctly also helps to make your horse more supple to the bend.
The golden rule for riding corners
The golden rule for riding corners is that you should only ride them as deep as the smallest circle required for the level at which your horse is currently working.
For example, if you are competing at British Dressage Introductory level, the smallest circle you’ll be expected to perform is 20-meters. Therefore, the corners you ride will be fairly shallow, no deeper than the arc of a 20-meter circle.
Elementary horses are expected to negotiate 10-meter circles, so the corners you ride will be correspondingly deeper.
This rule ensures that your horse stays relaxed and well within his comfort zone.
He’ll be able to maintain the correct rhythm as he moves through the corners without variance in the tempo.
He’ll also be less likely to lose his balance and fall onto his inside shoulder or his forehand, and he won’t swing his quarters out in an attempt to evade a degree of bend that is beyond his capability.
Exclusion to the rule
This rule is temporality broken if you are preparing to turn down the center line or ride across the diagonal. In which case, you may need to ride the corners fractionally deeper.
How to ride good corners
The art of riding good corners is in the preparation. You must look and think ahead.
Remember to balance your horse by using a half-halt as you approach the corner.
Make sure you have the correct inside bend and keep your leg on to ride the horse’s inside hind leg underneath him as he negotiates the corner.
Ride forwards into and out of the corner; don’t allow the impulsion to dwindle, or the rhythm to become slower.
Horses often struggle to maintain the correct bend as they move through the corners of the arena. Here are a few exercises you can use to help improve this.
In walk, ride your horse a couple of meters in off the track on the long side.
Just before you reach the last letter, leg-yield into the deepest part of the corner where the long and short sides meet, asking for a clear inside bend as you go.
As you begin the exercise, have your inside leg on the girth, your outside leg behind the girth to control the quarters, and use an indirect inside rein so that you don’t end up with too much neck bend.
Keep riding forwards and don’t allow the horse to slow down as you negotiate the corner.
When your horse can perform this exercise confidently in walk, ride it in trot and canter. Use the same aids, but ride off the track a little sooner to allow you more time to push your horse right into the corner.
Ride around the arena in working trot.
Just before the corner, ride a downward transition to walk and ride your horse deep into the corner.
As you do so, visualize your horse bent almost at a right angle, with his forehand on the short side and his hindquarters on the long side. As you exit the corner, go back into trot again.
When your horse is confident in trot, ride the exercise in canter.
The transition helps to engage and balance your horse and helps to break the habit of skimming around the corners, rather than riding through them properly.
Each corner of the arena is effectively a quarter of a circle. If your horse lacks bend through the corners, ride him onto a circle of an appropriate size, centered at one of the corners of the arena.
Maintain the bend on the circle and thus through the corner.
Move on to the next corner and repeat the exercise.
Now ride the corners without the circle, being sure to maintain the bend as you do so.
This exercise is very useful for helping you to remember to ask your horse for the correct bend through the corners – something that many riders forget to do!
You can maximize arena space by making the best use of the corners.
That makes riding a test much easier as it gives you more time to prepare between movements. You’ll also pick up more marks if the judge can see that you have your horse correctly bent and supple through the corners.
Remember, only ask your horse for the amount of supple bend that he is able to give you for his level of training so that he can confidently negotiate the corners of the arena without losing rhythm, balance, or relaxation.
- How to Get Your Horse to Bend
- How to Ride From Your Inside Leg to Your Outside Rein
- How to Ride a Good Circle
- What is the Difference Between Bend and Flexion?
- How to Stop Your Horse from Tilting its Head