Sunday, August 26, 2012

Riley is suddenly UPHILL!

I don't mean his conformation either.  I started doing hill work with Ri, and vive la différence!

I need to credit the trainer who started Riley, Oliva, and her mentor Felicitas Von Neumann-Cosel. Olivia often suggested that Riley do hill work, and  FVN-C wrote an article on the subject in Dressage Today.

I read the article and bought it in theory. However, at the time Ri was newly under saddle with a questionable front foot and shoes that flew off in heavy dew. I worried about his working on hard ground or in too-soft ground. Olivia worked him on hills "when the footing was good" (my request) which in NE PA is not that often. I never rode him on trails, much less on hills.

Changing up our program
 Well this season I have started to feel more comfortable with our ring work, and his feet are doing really great -- he goes a whole six weeks between shoeings, which is like a miracle to me.  While we aren't stinkin' up the arena at horse shows, our canter work leaves much to be desired. One look at his topline and the problem is clear. What to do? Let's see... Um.. Maybe now is finally the right time to go...

Over hill over dale...
This last week, I started riding Ri on trails with gentle inclines and declines, which are in abundance at our barn. I was pleased with our first trotwork uphill, with Riley pushing easily, energetically, and happily up the inclines. He liked to wiggle going downhill at the walk, but having read the Dressage Today article I knew what that was about, and I kept him straight with halt transitions.

One week, big difference
So for four days, I started each ride with a trail ride up and down around the pastures at the farm -- maybe 15 minutes. We ended the "trail" portion at the outdoor, where I did walk/halt and trot/halt transitions, a few circles, then proceeded to canter work.

The canter work is awesome. He's sitting down, he's even in both reins, and I have this place to put my seatbones where I can regulate the speed and bend. I don't think I've suddenly become an awesome rider, I think that as Felicitas says, hill work gives the horse muscle memory for working the tush and over the back. The pump is primed, and I just have to sit there.

Sometimes I overlook answers to problems that are "too obvious." I need to stop that.


  1. Someone suggested I do that with my green bean as well, but I'd forgotten about it til I read this post. Thanks for the reminder, maybe it will help us get through this stage we seem to be stuck at.

  2. Very, very cool.

    I hear you on the obvious answers thing. It is easy to forget to keep things simple.

  3. Fly Riley over to our yard. Lane to/from turnout field = hilly. Routes in/out of yard to all hacking options in all directions = hilly. Actual local hacking area = 75% hilly. All our horses are fit and ripped as standard :)

  4. Love this - sometimes the answer to better work in the arena is to get the heck OUT of the arena. :) Can't wait to see Riley as he builds muscle and his canter!

  5. just curious what did the article say about going down hill?

  6. I think it talks about helping the horse get a feel for carrying weight on the hind quarters, but it only talks about it at the walk, I think. Focuses on how to sit, giving the horse his head, but keeping him straight and doing transitions if they get too wiggly.

  7. I think it was a line from an old calvary trainer's book that said, "The test of a good dressage horse is in the field." I think what we have here is another version of the same concept, "The field is the place for the dressage horse to develop a good test."

    Well done.

  8. Which month was that in? I seem to remember it but not sure which one.

  9. Full article is at


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