PLUS: HEATH RYAN EYES PARIS QUALIFICATIONS, TOM QUILTY WINNER ASHLEY COLE, QUIET ACHIEVER CHARLOTTE PEDERSEN, PONY DRESSAGE WITH ALISON GILL, PREVIEWING THE YOUNG HORSE CHAMPS, ROGER FITZHARDINGE’S HEADSHAKER, KERRY MACK ON PERFECTING PIROUETTES, KEEPING HORSES ON SAFARI, LADY GAGA & DJANGO UNCHAINED.
AUSTRALIA`S BEST EQUINE MAGAZINE
click here to start reading
click on left side to read the previous article
click on right side to read the next article
scroll down or click icon to read article
A Few Words
FROM THE PUBLISHER
LET THE QUALIFYING GAMES BEGIN
BY HEATH RYAN
THE EQUINE MAGIC BEHIND OUTBACK SPECTACULAR
BY ADELE SEVERS
FROM BACKSTEP TO DRIVING FORCE
BY ADELE SEVERS
FAB FOUR EARN OUR TICKET TO PARIS
BY ADELE SEVERS
AUSSIES ON THE WORLD STAGE AT ERMELO
BY ADELE SEVERS
AN ENDURING PARTNERSHIP
BY ADELE SEVERS
‘DJANGO UNCHAINED’ BEHIND THE CURTAIN
BY SUZY JARRATT
JEREMY HAS ME SCRATCHING MY HEAD
BY ROGER FITZHARDINGE
CHARLOTTE PEDERSEN, THE QUIET ACHIEVER
BY MIM COLEMAN
BEING A HORSE IN AFRICA
BY DR MAXINE BRAIN
ALISON & DENALI RAISE THE PONY PROFILE
BY ROGER FITZHADINGE
THE LADY WHO LOVES HORSES
BY BERNARD BALE
BY DR KERRY MACK
Charlotte Fry and Glamourdale in the canter pirouette. Image by FEILeanjo de Koster
The ultimate goal of dressage training is to produce a supple horse who is able to balance his weight more towards the hind leg, to be collected. The ultimate in collection is the levade, where the horse balances just on his hind legs, crouching. This is one of the airs above the ground. These are not included in the competitive dressage repertoire and are really specialised.
The ultimate in collection is the levade where the horse balances just on his hind legs, crouching.
The highest collection in trot is the piaffe, where the horse stays very close to on the spot but energetically moves in the rhythm of trot. The canter pirouettes are correspondingly the highest level of collection demonstrated at canter. Of course, success in the pirouettes depends on the perfect preparation both in the training and in the ring.
When training the pirouettes, we start in walk. Just ride a 10m circle at walk and put the horse into travers on the circle. You hold the shoulder to the outside of the circle with your outside rein and push the hindquarter in so the hindquarter is on a smaller circle. Ensure that he maintains the rhythm and activity of the walk and just allow him to keep marching around the circle until you feel him becoming able to relax in this difficult movement. Don’t try to turn this into a walk pirouette until he is really comfortable in it.
Then, when he is established in this preparation, you can ask him to turn more and make it small like a pirouette. The inside rein, of course, invites him to turn, and asks for the bending. Remember though that too much bending will actually push the shoulder to the outside and make it harder for him to turn. To turn more you can use the outside rein to get him to make smaller steps; the outside rein pressure tells him “don’t go forward”. This use of the outside rein to help the horse balance is very important. It might seem counter-intuitive that we are, for example, turning to the left, but the left rein will be relatively soft and the right rein is containing the horse.
A correct pirouette depends on the correct canter, advises former Spanish Riding School director Alois Podhajsky. Before you can train the canter pirouettes the horse must be able to produce a very collected canter on a straight line and a large circle. Step by step you ask him to gradually develop the strength to be able to canter almost to walk speed. The rhythm of the canter must remain correct, with the diagonal pair touching the ground together. If the canter becomes 4-beat, or if he is bobbing his head, you will need to get some more energy, perhaps by allowing the circle to be a little bigger. Refresh the canter so it is correct in the rhythm. Don’t hold him in this short canter too long when he is learning as he will become fatigued and the hind leg will slow down. But do practise coming in and out of the pirouette canter staying very straight.
Walking in travers on the circle. Image by Roger Fitzhardinge.
The walk pirouette is the next step. Image by Roger Fitzhardinge.
When you start training the canter pirouettes you can start just by getting the pirouette canter and developing his balance by riding a small circle of 6-8 metres. You can put a witch’s hat in the spot the pirouette is in the test and use this as a marker. Just allow him to find his balance.
William Cavendish, the Duke of Newcastle. Image from 'A General System of Horsemanship in All Its Branches', 1743.
Then you can work in this circle to build control of the shoulders and the hindquarters. Establish the circle then ride shoulder-in in the circle. Bring the shoulder on a smaller circle. This exercise was recommended by William Cavendish, the Duke of Newcastle, in his book of 1743. Soft inside rein. Then take the shoulder back to the circle line and push the hindquarter in. This is travers on the circle. Just continue on the circle and alternate the shoulder-in and the travers so that you both become familiar with being able to control the circle and keep the balance.
“A correct pirouette depends on the correct canter.”
When you can do this, you can take a little outside bend. This is renvers on the circle and is very difficult. But riding this will give you a really good feeling of how the outside rein can control the shoulder, which is important in the pirouette. Podhajsky recommends training renvers at canter on the circle but not to demand an exaggerated bend, just a slight bend. He says, “keep up the pace” as the too-short canter will induce fatigue with the hind legs losing their activity. If the head bobs, ride him more forwards in the exercise.
When you can do these exercises, you can start the pirouette by asking him to turn more. It can be very effective to turn him with your eyes. Look back over your shoulder in the direction you are going in. Keep your weight to the inside so you are asking him to step underneath you. Keep your shoulders parallel to his shoulders and your hips parallel to his hips. Your inside leg is on the girth still motivating his energy, and encouraging him to bend around that inside leg, and your outside leg is back a little keeping the quarters.
It can be very effective to turn him with your eyes. Look back over your shoulder in the direction you are going in. Image by LL Foto.
“There are six to eight steps in a full pirouette.”
There are six to eight steps in a full pirouette. Each step must be even and balanced. To achieve this you need to be able to control the shoulder and the quarters each step, to make little adjustments. You may need to bring the shoulder in to the middle more to turn more, or you may need to push the quarters in to the middle or hold the shoulders out to keep the balance over the hind leg.
An excellent exercise to practise control is to ride a small square with quarter pirouette turns. Start with a 10m square with two to three steps of pirouette in each corner. Ensure that you go into the corner in shoulder-fore position and come out straight on your line. Maybe use some markers to aim for to keep the square accurate. You goal is to be able to make a tiny square, two or three steps forward before you turn again. This teaches him to wait for the aids and helps him think forwards in the pirouette. Even in a Grand Prix pirouette you may need to ride forwards one step if he starts to turn too quickly and makes it too small.
When you start putting it all together into an actual pirouette, think of three parts of each pirouette. The beginning: the preparation to pirouette canter, shoulder-fore position, and then a couple of steps that turn as much as you can to stay on the line. The middle is some even-balanced easy steps and the ending you allow the last couple of steps to go a little more forwards so that you meet the line out with a straight horse.
When you are training at home by yourself, try to keep in mind the training scale to evaluate your progress. Can you maintain rhythm, suppleness, contact, impulsion, straightness and collection? Which of these qualities are you losing? Then you must work on maintaining that quality. The feeling of the contact, even in this highly collected work, is that he should be reaching into the contact. There should be a sense that he is keeping a long neck coming up out of the wither, not that you have shortened the neck when you shortened the steps of the canter.
“A pirouette can be a thing of beauty.”
A pirouette can be a thing of beauty. Image by Ridehesten.com - Kristine Ulsø Olsen for the FEI.
A pirouette can be a thing of beauty, with the rider having a sense of the horse being perfectly balanced and in self-carriage underneath her. It is fun to train but, as always, just ask for him to build his ability step by step. If dressage is training for obedience, suppleness and balance, remember that he cannot be obedient to the pirouette until he is supple enough and has the ability to balance in this difficult work. So, it is your job to train the suppleness and balance before you expect obedience. These exercises will help you achieve this.