Friday, August 5, 2011

Get In Your Box

I once cliniced with a person who used this phrase to describe a way to ride a horse.  You imagine your body as a box, then you ride the horse into that box.  The visual didn't work well for me, but I do find it amusing to yell "Get in your box, dammit!"  at my horse when he's not cooperating.  This post is not about figurative boxes, though.  I'm actually talking about a literal box.

I've discussed my corner cutting before.  It's a bad habit, and I've endeavored to fix it.  My arena doesn't have a fence, so I took my cavaletti (and other lumber I scavenged from around the property) and made myself corners to ride in.  Unfortunately, I don't have enough cavaletti to ring the entire arena, so I just made a smallish box.  It's about 20 by 20 meters, I think.  (I sort of just eyeballed it)

The Old Masters used to ride in very small arenas.  I always assumed that was because they didn't have the wide open spaces over there that we have in America, but it has recently come to my attention that it's actually an advantage to ride in a small arena.  The corners come up quicker, you need to prepare more.  This is not a bad thing for me, since my corner riding finesse is seriously lacking.   

The corners should ideally be ridden in shoulder fore.  In my case, they should be ridden in leg yield.  Not because that's literally how they should be ridden, but because I need to exaggerate it that much to compensate for my slacking and my horse's natural stiffness.

After the fifth or sixth (or possibly twentieth, who's counting?) time Spider and I blew through the corner, it finally clicked.  All the sudden I had the feeling..... the feeling we live for in dressage.  The feeling that I could wing his hind end around like crazed motocross rider, that I could launch him across the diagonal like a rocket.  The feeling that I was sitting on his hind legs and the entire horse was stretched out in front of me.

 In working through the corners, thinking "leg yield", Spider's collection and flexibility have improved greatly.  I am pleased.

Of course, the Old Masters didn't always ride in the arena.  They also took their horses out into public parks to ride.  Now days there aren't too many public parks with bridle paths left, not in New Jersey anyway, but there is always the neighbor's hay field and my pasture to ride in.  It's important to not do too many tight circles with a horse, bad for the hocks.  Plus, Spider likes to have a little gallop sometimes.  He is a Thoroughbred,  after all.


  1. "The test of a good dressage horse is in the field." Another quote from some old master or other. The reason I don't tend to take Tucker out in the field....*G*

    Well done with the corners. I do like how those exercises get the horse engaged behind. Spider must feel great when he works like that.

  2. Sounds like you had a nice ride - "squaring the circle" :)

  3. I'm also guilty of corner cutting. Sounds like you've got it figured out, I'm going to give that a try. Thanks.


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