Perfecting your lateral work

Lateral work is an essential component of creating a supple and responsive horse. It's also the basis for more advanced moves. But it's an alien concept to the horse and can be tricky to teach! Horse Hero has made a fabulous range of videos with top riders from different disciplines (and cultures), who offer their tried and tested methods of teaching lateral work under saddle and from the ground. Top British dressage rider Laura Bechtolsheimer starts trains her youngsters and gives a lesson to top pony rider Claire Gallimore, Grand Prix dressage rider Hannah Biggs rides the impressive Spanish stallion Torri, top eventer Julie Tew uses lateral work to supple an older 4* event horse and Portuguese classical trainer Francisco De Braganca works expertly on the ground with his Lusitano stallions. Great stuff and lots of food for thought!

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Grid-work to improve your horse's jumping flexibility Lateral work with Laura Bechtolsheimer
Laura Bechtolsheimer continues the training with her 6 year old Dan, who is working towards Prix St Georges next season. Focusing on lateral work, Laura demonstrates the sequence of exercises she uses leading up to Half Pass. Dan is a darling but Laura, who is still only 23 (though she has already been to an Olympics), shows astonishing insight and empathy. She also has the gift of clarity! This is a gem of a video!

Bounces to improve your jumping, with eventer Harry Meade Hannah Biggs trains her Spanish dressage stallion
Dressage rider, Hannah Biggs, has an unusual resident in her Dorset yard, a stunning 7 year old, dapple grey Andalusian stallion called Torrijo (Torri) who she's aiming at PSG this year. Hannah shows us how she tactfully manages his exuberant nature and extravagant movement. She also explains (with great clarity) a variety of movements from transitions and the contact, to shoulder in, travers, renvers and half pass. We challenge you not to fall in love with this magnificent horse! We did and we will be returning to film more in the future!

Laura Bechtolsheimer starts Step on 'baby' lateral work
Four star event rider, Julie Tew, is a perfectionist about her jumping! Here she demonstrates an exercise she learned from show jumper, Ted Edgar, to sharpen your horse's front end over a fence. Riding her own lovely young eventer, Lord of the Owls, Julie starts by establishing the right 'feel' in canter over a pole (and deals with some spookiness too!). She progresses to a single fence and then on to a grid of four parallels. Julie offers some great tips and crystal clear explanations on how to improve horse and rider technique over a fence.

Laura B does lateral work with Claire Gallimore

Having focused on holding Gigolo with her seat in the first part of this lesson and allowing the neck out more (the subject of another video), Claire works on the half pass with Olympian Laura Bechtolsheimer. Laura provides a crystal clear explanation of how to apply the aids and ride the movement, so that Claire doesn't block Gigs or give him anything to 'get stuck' on. "The neck needs to be longer to allow the hind leg to step under and the front end to come up more", says Laura. "Imagine you are riding travers against a wall on a diagonal line". Claire and Laura also work on walk pirouettes plus canter where Laura wants to see a living, breathing contact.


Gemma Green works on 'Small Tour' moves with Fine Time
Fine Time (Bruno) is Gemma Green's 8 year old Westfalian stallion who has already won at Advanced Medium. We are lucky enough to see the pair working at home preparing some 'Small Tour' moves including flying changes, passage and piaffe. Gemma only asks what Bruno is capable of giving at this stage. She also shows the difference between Bruno's trot during the warm-up and 'proper' work and makes the point that there are no extra marks for being flashy in the collecting ring! Gemma's explanations are crystal clear. This video is packed with useful insights and tips and we challenge you not to be mesmerized by the fabulous Fine Time.

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.

Lateral work on the ground and under saddle
Classical dressage rider Francisco de Braganca works with an 11 year old advanced Lusitano stallion, on the ground and under saddle. Francisco is a master of lateral work and shows how the moves on the ground translate to ridden work. He says it's vital that the rider's shoulders remain parallel to the horse's shoulder in lateral work. The advanced work begins and ends with shoulder-in. In between he does leg yield, renvers, half pass, piaffe and passage. Franscisco explains his aids and how important these exercises are in building suppleness. This work follows on from the basic and advanced groundwork videos made with Francisco on location in Portugal.

Advanced work in hand with Francisco de Braganca
Classical dressage trainer Francisco de Braganca works in hand with his Advanced six year old Lusitano stallion. "Ground work is the best preparation for riding" says Francisco, who demonstrates his training method combining a cavesson and a bridle. Moving the stallion with a hand on the shoulder and using a traditional Portuguese stick behind the girth, Franciso creates an understanding of bend, simulates a light contact with the mouth as well as leg pressure. He shows lateral moves including shoulder-in and travers on a straight line and on a circle, plus leg-yield and the start of half-pass. He also stresses the use of voice.

Lunging & work in hand with a young Lusitano stallion
Classical Portuguese dressage trainer Francisco de Braganca starts the five year old stallion Alecrim (meaning 'beautiful flower') with work in hand. "Groundwork is a Pas de Deux between horse and rider", says Francisco. "Working face to face, you see the whole horse and he understands the man." Francisco explains what lunging gear he is using and why. He moves the horse around using the long sides as well as the circle. He then starts lateral work in hand. "Groundwork is preparation for acceptance of the rider", Francisco says. He moves the horse with the whip in place of the leg and achieves shoulder-in as well as leg yield.

Teaching lateral work through clicker training Teaching lateral work through clicker training
"Good balance is a pre-requisite for long term soundness," says clicker trainer Amanda Martin. "It's also the foundation for lateral work." But before teaching Marco to move sideways, student Tasmin must correct her own postural balance as the horse will mirror this. Amanda becomes a 'human horse' working with Tasmin on the ground, so Tasmin can experiment with body language. Transferring this to in-hand work with Marco, Tasmin clicks as he begins to engage the inside hind leg. "The horse must find and maintain his own balance rather than us micro-managing him, then it can be transferred to ridden work," says Amanda.

Natural dressage trainer Karen Rohlf makes lateral work easy Natural dressage trainer Karen Rohlf makes lateral work easy
Natural dressage trainer and past US team Young Rider Karen Rohlf shows her unconventional method of teaching lateral work. Using an 8 year old Friesian gelding, she says "the aim is to find the easiest place for the horse to learn balance, self-carriage and relaxation within lateral work and this is in the halt." Karen explains the power can be added later once the horse understands the aids. This method also teaches the rider to activate a position, remain relaxed and ride forwards into a downwards transition. Once the horse learns to land easily in shoulder-in, counter shoulder-in and renvers, Karen repeats the exercise from trot.

Erin Williams and Dynasty channel the power, with Sonia Baines Erin Williams and Dynasty channel the power, with Sonia Baines
GB pony team member Erin Williams works with trainer and Grand Prix dressage rider Sonia Baines on harnessing Dynasty's huge movement. Blondie (as she is known to her friends) is "a horse in a pony's body" says Sonia. The warm-up is about getting the mare supple in her back so she can channel power from the hind end, through the shoulder into a still head and neck. Erin uses bend and lateral work to achieve this, as well as moving the mare forwards and back. A working pirouette helps Blondie collect, as do half steps in the trot. "Blondie has a huge trot which earns her high marks but the challenge is keeping it in balance" says Sonia.

Dr Bechtolsheimer helps Lara develop Kristjan's balance and strength Dr Bechtolsheimer helps Lara develop Kristjan's balance and strength
The 7 year old home-bred Kristjan is competing successfully at Medium with the Bechtolsheimer's yard rider Lara. Braving the rain, Dr B says "the aim is to transform Kristjan into an athlete and he now needs to develop more balance and strength." Transitions on a circle from a regular trot into a balanced canter and going forwards and back, build strength in the hind leg. Simple lateral work supples the rib-cage and ensures the weight is carried behind. Baby pirouettes must remain active with short steps. Canter changes are a work in progress. Dr B says "some days they are better than others but the key is not to make an issue."

Laura Bechtolsheimer and Dr B develop Teddy's power and balance Laura Bechtolsheimer and Dr B develop Teddy's power and balance
Teddy is now 8 and his work is more advanced. But at nearly 18 hands and boystrous at times, Dr B says their approach is tactful! The work begins with stretching on the bit, in small and large circles. In walk pirouettes, breaking the move down into sections helps Teddy keep going and balance himself. The pace and cadence varies between more and less collection in lateral work and regular breaks help to relax the muscles and let Teddy switch off. Dr B helps Laura with the start of piaffe, where confidence and strength must be built together. Teddy learns to shorten his huge canter but "his size dictates the pace of his training" says Dr B.

Susanne Miesner fine tunes lateral work with Lesley and Garuda Susanne Miesner fine tunes lateral work with Lesley and Garuda
Classical German dressage trainer Susanne Miesner helps Lesley Peyton-Gilbert and Garuda with lateral work after their warm-up (in a previous video). First, half-halts help with engagement, then shoulder-in and shoulder-fore at different tempos on a circle help Garuda step the hind leg up under his centre of gravity. Susanne says "leg yield is the key movement for all lateral work as it shows if the horse is in balance, stepping to the outside rein and going 'forwards' sideways". Lesley combines leg yield with half-pass on a zig-zag, then lengthens the trot on a circle to regain power and stretches low and deep to release the muscles.

Pammy and Pippa Hutton teach Rubin the start of lateral work Pammy and Pippa Hutton teach Rubin the start of lateral work
Leading dressage trainer Pammy Hutton works with aspiring GB Young Rider team member, daughter Pippa, and the enormous 5 year old Talland Rubin. Starting with leg yield, Pippa rides a straight line to show Rubin where to go and then introduces a few strides of leg yield. "In the early stages, crossing isn't as important as forwards," says Pammy. Half pass is taught in three stages - straight, bend and over. Then, to develop the gears in canter Pippa moves Rubin forwards and back on a circle. Pammy says "a little canter half pass helps with lateral suppleness". Finally, Pammy explains how to introduce a youngster to sitting trot.

Pammy Hutton's lateral work gymnasium! Pammy Hutton's lateral work gymnasium!
Pammy Hutton, Talland's leading dressage trainer, works with daughter Pippa who is aiming for GB Young Rider team selection in 2012 on the 10 year old mare Duella. Pammy puts the pair through a series of exercises in lateral work designed to improve the horse's way of going, rhythm and throughness from the hind leg to the contact. Pammy explains the angle of the perfect shoulder in and Pippa works on transitions of pace and gait within the move, and repeats in half pass. Pammy explains how to correct too much bend in lateral work and makes the exercises more challenging which eventually reveal Pippa's homework!

Marne Martin-Tucker & Natalie Allen train the super-athletic Royal Coeur Marne Martin-Tucker & Natalie Allen train the super-athletic Royal Coeur
Amateur Grand Prix dressage rider Marne Martin-Tucker works the super athletic 7 year old State Premium mare Royal Coeur (Riva), with the help of Grand Prix rider and trainer Natalie Allen. Riva went to the World Young Dressage Champs in 2011 and is now working at Advanced Medium. As she is so expressive, the emphasis is on balance to control the power and enable her to relax into her big rhythm. Lateral work exercises such as shoulder-in, circle, travers assist with controlling the bend. In half pass Natalie says "think ears, thumbs, marker". Cantering on a square helps Riva to sit and controls the shoulder and tempo.

Wavavoom learns lateral work with Maria & Ferdi Eilberg Wavavoom learns lateral work with Maria & Ferdi Eilberg
British team rider and past National Champion Maria Eilberg begins training 5 yr old stallion Woodlander Wavavoomon on lateral work, with help from father Ferdi. Following on from Voom's warm-up in a previous video, Ferdi says "he must combine an understanding of the technique with a quick response to what's asked". The shoulder must be open and flowing, so that other questions can be added. "If it's not open, the sideways is worth very little" says Ferdi, who reminds Maria to "play the outline card first and let the angle come to it." The rhythm and roundness of the trot should not be compromised by introducing 'the sideways'.

Eventer Joseph Murphy fine-tunes his dressage with Pammy Hutton Eventer Joseph Murphy fine-tunes his dressage with Pammy Hutton
4* eventer, and Irish elite squad member, Joseph Murphy has a lesson on his top horse Electric Cruise with Grand Prix dressage rider Pammy Hutton, at Talland. Aiming to qualify for the London Olympics, Joseph works on fine-tuning his dressage. Pammy encourages Joseph to experiment with what's 'too fast' and 'too slow', in order to find the right tempo. Pammy tells Joseph, "when you lose rythym it's something to do with the timing of your rein aids", so Joseph rides with one hand and the lateral work improves! Pammy helps Joseph with collection after the medium canter and offers advice for staying calm during the changes.

Diane Thurman-Baker trains 13 year old dressage rider Joanna & Apollo Diane Thurman-Baker trains 13 year old dressage rider Joanna & Apollo
Nine year old Apollo arrived at the Thurman-Bakers as a problem horse. Trainer Diane spent nearly a year working him in hand. Apollo has now progressed to Advanced level dressage and is a GB Junior team prospect for her 13 year old daughter Joanna. They work on the team test and then on more advanced moves, for fun! Diane uses her trademark lateral work on a circle to get Apollo supple and between hand and leg for Joanna. In sitting trot, the emphasis is on building power. Half pass and counter canter help the flying change. Joanna moves on to tempi changes and finally baby piaffe and passage, which they initially learned together in hand.

Lateral work in-hand & under saddle with the Thurman-Bakers Lateral work in-hand & under saddle with the Thurman-Bakers
Junior GB team member (and Grand Prix dressage rider) Samantha Thurman-Baker and her mother Diane, provide a fascinating insight into their early training system, based on the Portuguese classical method of starting horses in-hand before transferring the aids to ridden work. Sam begins the session with Jack (a problem horse) on the lunge, before doing lateral work in-hand to soften and relax him, prior to getting on. "Shoulder-in is the Aspirin of the ground work" says Diane, who also explains why they teach backing-up in a large figure of eight. She says "the start of piaffe mobilises the quarters and Spanish walk helps to open the shoulder".

Jon Pitts helps Flora Harris to be balanced in the saddle Jon Pitts helps Flora Harris to be balanced in the saddle
Fitness coach Jon Pitts works with 3* eventer Flora Harris to help her gain awareness of how she sits in the saddle. "Body dominance controls our weight distribution in the saddle", says Jon. "It creates a bias to use the side we feel most comfortable with, more strongly". This can be the cause of loss of rhythm or balance in the horse, and why we find lateral work easier in one direction. Jon helps Flora to correct her pelvic balance and her horse improves accordingly. The conclusion must be that our horses' issues often reflect our own imbalances, and work on ourselves is equally as important as work on our horse!

Jane Lavington teaches Ed the cob the start of lateral work Jane Lavington teaches Ed the cob the start of lateral work
Having developed Ed's reactions to stop-go commands, gained control of tempo and speed and worked on flexion (in a previous video), Jane teaches Ed the start of lateral work. "A turn on the forehand helps him to understand the sideways request" says Jane, while she must focus on staying in the middle of him and not being tipped to one side. This develops into leg yield on a circle. Moving up into trot, Jane notices Ed is softer in the neck. She asks him to step his hind leg across but only when she has control of the outside shoulder. Ed finds one direction more difficult, so Jane returns to walk to re-iterate the basic principle.

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