Suppleness and Responsiveness

A supple and responsive horse is a pre-requisite to performing any equestrian discipline well and to progressing a horse’s training. Of course, every horse is different and will require a slightly different approach. Top riders on Horse Hero show the various ways in which they achieve this at home. You’ll find lots of ideas and techniques in these videos to improve your horse’s way of going!

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Hannah Biggs trains suppleness and responses in Weltzin
Dressage rider Hannah Biggs works on suppleness and quickness of reactions with her home-produced, 11 year old stallion Weltzin, in preparation for advanced moves. Having recently stepped up to grand prix Hannah says it's now about absolute precision in all moves. Weltzin is laid back so an instant reaction to her leg is vital, as is maintaining energy at all times. Hannah works in trot and canter on flexion and bend, as well as varying the tempo, so that Weltzin is supple and forwards before moving on to working pirouettes and canter changes. Hannah says, "It is the body, not the hand that is used for half halts." Her explanation of the aids is invaluable.

Anna Ross Davies works on the basics with Boris
Boris is an talented ten year old working at small tour level. But he came to Anna as a nervous horse and still lacks confidence. Anna's aim is to keep him relaxed and have fun. The plan is to build his strength and gymnastic ability by working on the basics, so in this session Anna tests Boris's reactions in lots of different ways. While focused on connection and taking the hand forwards (as he easily drops behind the bit), Anna uses flexion, bend and changes in tempo in both trot and canter to ensure Boris is with her. Starting in a long frame 'with a bit of stretch', Anna progresses to a more grown up outline in preparation for training advanced moves.

Grid-work to create a 'sharper' jumping technique Julie Tew prepares for 4* test moves
Sir Roselier prepares for Badminton with event rider Julie Tew. Lumpy (as he is known at home) is a legend in the Tew family. He has completed 27 three star events and 4 four stars. Now 17 years old, he tends to start off a little stiff. Julie shows us how she works towards softness and evenness in the contact, as well as activity from behind, prior to attempting any of the advanced movements from the four star test (shown in another video). Using counter bend in trot and canter, on a circle and the diagonal, Sir Roselier becomes more supple and forward going. Julie also provides a crystal clear explanation of the aids while she is working.

Laura Bechtolsheimer trains her youngster, Dan

Olympic dressage rider, Laura Bechtolsheimer, works her young horse, Dan, at home. He is aimed at Prix St George next season. Laura discusses her approach to warming up and progression through to collection. This video offers a great insight into Laura's thinking and riding.

Maria Eilberg & Rockstar work on transitions

National dressage champion, Maria Eilberg, works at home with her stallion Woodlander Rockstar, fresh from a successful Sunshine Tour where he won all the Owner classes! Maria uses transitions to keep Rockstar on her aids and to create energy but, conversely, she also uses them to ensure the forward going seven year old 'waits for her'. As lateral work is easy, the emphasis is on straightness and self-carriage. Maria explains how she explores Rockstar's boundary for collection in canter and shows the start of pirouttes. Stretching is a reward but it's also a useful exercise to ride on the buckle without losing the connection!

Maria Eilberg & Two Sox work on suppleness

Two Sox (Eddy) has been at Grand Prix for 5 years. He was travelling reserve for the Olympics and British National Champion '08. Eddy knows all the moves so Maria spends time at home 'keeping his mind and body happy'. A typical session is largely stretching which Maria demonstrates masterfully! Working on the buckle end, 'the professor' shows a complete understanding of the stretch, which takes years to achieve. With transitions, Two Sox begins to swing through the back. Maria then shows a few moves. "It's amazing that a horse with plain movement can, through his personality and correct training, become extraordinary", she says.

Fiona Price has a jumping lesson with Shane Breen Jane Gregory & Soul Sister warm-up for advanced work

Bought as a 4 year old, this stunning mare has been successful in young horse classes. Now she's 8 and on the Equine Pathway aiming for London 2012. Olympic rider, Jane Gregory, takes us through her warmup in preparation for working on advanced moves (in another video). "Soul Sister's a good mover, active and has a fantastic brain", says Jane but right from the start the focus is on the basics drummed into Jane when training with Ulla Salzgeber - straightness, half halts, flexion and bend plus riding a good corner. Jane plays with the energy and checks the mare's responses. She shows us various exercises and also tells Soul Sister's story!

Show jumper Shane Breen trains an opinionated stallion Jane Gregory's warm-up with Dances with Wolves
Jane bought this fabulous horse as a 4 year old. He is now 7 and over 18 hands! He has a fantastic attitude to life but is very sensitive. Jane's aim is to develop him without him ever knowing how big and strong he is. The session is a warm-up for advanced work (the subject of another video). In working in, Jane is focused on the detail straight away including corners, straightness and accuracy. She says speed and neck control is vital to help her create a good but light contact. She builds the power in gradually. Jane does some exercises to move Golly off her leg. Olympian, Jane Gregory, has great ambitions for this super-talented horse!

Sarah Millis trains Privaldi on responiveness in collected work Sarah Millis trains Privaldi on responiveness in collected work
Grand Prix dressage rider Sarah Millis trains the 14 year old Grand Prix horse Privaldi on responsiveness and self-carriage in collected work. Initially, the focus is on tempo control and balance. "When I close the upper thigh, he must wait, let my seat in and step under more," says Sarah. Walk pirouettes and transitions increase the collection leading to piaffe half steps, then piaffe-passage-piaffe transitions. Sarah says "he needs to be relaxed but active and ready, and working off light aids, especially as I am so small". She concludes "I always try to make it easy for Privaldi to keep his balance but he must want to dance underneath me".

Susanne Miesner trains Lesley and Garuda on the warm-up Susanne Miesner trains Lesley and Garuda on the warm-up
Classical German dressage trainer Susanne Miesner says "the aim in the warm-up is for the horse to stretch his back, be steady in the contact and move off the leg'". Susanne asks Lesley Peyton-Gilbert to start her 10 year old Prix St Georges stallion Garuda in a hacking walk. "If the horse comes too early to the contact, he will never properly stretch his back" she says. Riding between a working and a mediocre trot engages the hind leg. "The horse must be infront of the driving aids before you can bring him back" says Susanne. Lesley drops his nose so it's level with the shoulder joint, which helps Garuda swing along and allows the aids through.

Jane Lavington works on suppleness with Ed the cob Jane Lavington works on suppleness with Ed the cob

Ed is a ‘proper cob’ according to dressage trainer and judge Jane Lavington. The 7 year old is stiff through his body and has a tendency to draw his head and neck up, so the aim of the session is to improve suppleness and achieve a more secure connection. First of all, Jane works on responsiveness to the aids. "Ed must go for himself from a single leg aid and maintain activity within the pace" says Jane. This is vital for more advanced work in the future. Working on a circle tests Ed's balance as heavier types tend to fall out through the shoulder. Ed has moments of true flexion where he lets go at the base of the neck and seeks the contact.


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