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01May 16

Corners, so very useful

Years ago, when I finally had convinced, a then very novice, Martyn Humphprey to get the rake out and tidy up the corners, which lacked some serious TLC, he told me at the beginning of the next lesson: 'I just can't believe how long the short side is, all of a sudden'. That is so true, but not just the short side, coming on to the long side it is now so much easier to start the diagonal in time, or to set up a lateral movement. 

The longer I teach, the more it has become clear to me that most riders, who are bringing on  a young horse for the first time, are so very pleased when their horse accepts the bend around the inside leg, that they do not dare, or just not think of the possibility, to ride straight into the corner and only turn last minute, keeping the horse in a much straighter frame. Often the horse needs the outside leg on the girth to help it to turn the shoulder quicker. The corner might look like a quarter of a ten meter circle in the earlier development of your horse's career, but it needs to outgrow that as the level of training goes up. 

My second blog, from the 28th of May in 2014, I wrote just after having judged at Lanhydrock Horse Trials. One of the pet hates for a judge is when there is no difference to be seen between the corners and the twenty meter circles at A and C. It all seems to happen on the same track. The corners are too 'round' and the circles too square. What a shame, so many easy to make points down the drain!

Learning to ride corners takes time and it is first of all a riders effort. They need to be approached with a similar determination and focus as if there was a jump there. (This, by the way is true for all movements.) It is a gradual process and it can not be achieved overnight. It needs to be practiced in walk first to find out how tight you can make it. When trying it in trot it helps to initially make a transition to walk, still straight, as near the first corner at the beginning of the short side, as possible, proceeding to trot on  as soon as the corner is finished trying the second corner in trot. Remember, it is a gradual process, your horse shouldn't get the feeling you're trying to knock it over!

So, first you teach your horse to bend, only to have to take the bend out of it again. This basically will go on all the way through your and your horse's dressage career. And the more lateral work you do, the more you always will have to check whether you can still go straight. Inside track and nicely ridden 'square' corners are an exercise never to be forgotten or underestimated.

One more piece of advice: never try to  make your corners tighter at a competition than you manage at home. If anything, it works the other way around, especially for the younger or less experienced horse, different terrain and lack of concentration sometimes make it impossible for your horse to give 100 percent. 

Well, let's see what the corners look like at Lanhydrock this year!




Dressage Training

Dressage training needs variety, including pole work

Dressage Training

Dressage training needs variety, including pole work

About Liz Barclay

Her love for horses together with her dedication made her into the trainer and dressage rider she is, today. She is versatile and inventive and likes a challenge; whether it is a technical training question, a confidence issue or a problem involving the management of the horse or pony.


My book 'THE FARMER, THE COAL MERCHANT, THE BAKER...' with the subtitle 'A Personal Impression of the Development of the Gelderland Horse World' has been received with more enthusiasm than I possibly could have hoped for. Click here to contact me and I will send you a copy. £7.50 + postage, or click here to order from Amazon.