Leading international dressage rider and trainer Hannah Biggs provides advice on how to improve rider position, courtesy of her sponsor Haygain® Hay Steamers.
When starting out your journey in the world of dressage, it is important for all riders to understand the basics correctly, so they can progress with ease up to higher levels making consistent progress along the way.
At some point every rider will encounter problems when training on the flat, especially with young or inexperienced horses. It is important to get to the bottom of these problems before they develop into bad habits, which are even harder to correct. It is often the most basic things that riders forget, as not enough attention is paid to them.
Rider tension can become a huge problem if not managed. As a rider becomes nervous or anxious, they can often become tense. This tension will make a rider stiff, rigid and often make them grip on the horse’s mouth. Try to keep relaxed at all times, letting the tension drain away from all parts of the body. Being a relaxed and softer rider will help you focus on the horse and its needs.
Position is important for all riders. It is something that must always be worked on and kept consistent throughout your training and competing. A strong seat is the basis for all riding. Sit straight; if you tip forward you can lose your balance. Similarly your heels should always sit directly under your hips.
Your hands must be level. Even if one hand is slightly higher than the other it will cause unevenness in the horse’s mouth and result in the horse’s head being tilted unnaturally to one side.
Your thumbs should be pointing towards your horse’s ears providing contact straight through your shoulders, arms and hands, down the reins to the horse’s mouth.
Communication is the key to a successful dressage relationship. The rider must give the correct aids and the horse must understand what is being asked of him.
Dressage movements should be supple and precise. It would be easy to forget the length of time top riders spend to build a unique relationship with their horse as they make everything look effortless.
Time and patience will pay off in the end as we all know practice makes perfect. For me, dressage is all about creating a bond with an individual horse; once the trust has been established, a unique partnership will follow. This element of horse and rider working together in harmony is without a doubt the most important part of dressage.
Here are some top tips from Hannah:
- Be prepared to put in a lot of work
- Work for free, sit and watch riders at competitions
- Take every opportunity to ride and build your experience at a big yard
Hannah uses Haygain® Hay Steamers and takes the care of her horses very seriously:
Adds Hannah: “With Haygain® I have complete peace of mind that my competition horses are getting the full nutritional value of their hay with no detrimental respiratory problems.”
For more information on the Haygain® range visit www.haygain.co.uk