Every dressage arena comes equipped with 4 corners and every dressage test requires horse and rider to negotiate said corners every time they navigate around the ring. That’s 4 opportunities every circuit of the arena where riders can improve their performance and thereby, their final score. I believe that the undervalued corner contains important elements that can help to make every dressage test better – if riders will remember these few simple ideas.
Improvement #1 occurs when riders utilize each corner as an opportunity to rebalance their horse by using a half-halt as they approach and enter the corner. Half-halts serve to engage our horses by asking them to shift more weight off their forehand and onto their haunches, which then encourages them to lighten and lift their shoulders. Improvement #2 occurs when we laterally supple our horses in each corner by pushing their ribcage out with a strong, active inside leg at the girth, thereby helping to correctly connect our horses to the outside rein. Too often we merely steer our horses through the corners by tugging on our inside rein, which means we end up pulling them through the corner instead of pushing them through the corner. This may seem like a subtle difference in riding technique, but it can make a dramatic improvement in our horses, especially as it helps them to maintain their balance and straightness.
So make an effort to think about riding every corner you encounter in a more focused, proactive way and see if you don’t find opportunities to improve both your horse and your test scores!
Susan Moody, IEO President