The best way to break up your dressage training to keep your horse motivated is by going out on a trail ride. Especially a horse that goes out on trail rides must be sensitive to your aids. It is a lot safer if your horse can halt when crossing a road with traffic. When your horse responds to your leg aids when you open a gate. Once that base is in place, you can go out on a trail ride and practice your dressage training on any fairly level sand path.
Do you also find dressage training in the arena boring? Riding laps in the sandbox while there is never really enough space to take a sprint… It is boring to me and to Lacos. So we combine our dressage training with lots of trail rides. We can practice intense collection on a forest path and then relax by an explosion of energy in a gallop or by completely relaxing with a long rein.
Any sand path or fairly flat forest path is suitable for dressage training. On wider paths you can practice pivots or lateral movements by zigzagging from left to right on the path.
Because you have more open space, your horse may be inclined to accelerate. Practice staying calm and relaxed yourself. Watch your breathing and your posture. Do not dive into the focus on the exercise you want to perform. Just keep a soft and open eye on the environment. Be the leader your horse needs you to be to stay calm. Listen to the birds and the wind in the trees while you gently ask your horse for a shoulder in or travers
Chances are that your horse will not understand what you want the first time. He expects these exercises in the arena and trail riding is for long reins and relaxation in his eyes. Be patient and don’t expect the best performance the first time.
Some horses are so concerned with their surroundings outside on the trail that they actually pay almost no attention to their rider. It is precisely by this dressage training that you ask him to keep his attention on you.
Once your horse is used to dressage training in the forest, you can use this as a distraction during stressful moments. Try to grasp his attention if he gets tense or stressed out on a trail ride. That way you can regain peace and continue your trail ride safely.
The ultimate trailhorse is a horse that knows dressage, jumping, agility and has the endurance to carry you around on diffrent terrains. These must be level headed horses that trust their riders and the riders need to trust their horses. Trail riding especially in difficult terreins is the ultimate test of your companionship with your horse.
You might like to read this blogpost in Dutch or read other blogposts on trailriding like: How to open a gate without dismounting or check out the video from our 2-day trail ride along the river IJssel Or when you like to make your own riding skirt to keep you warm during the winter, check out the tutorial
Did you know you can find like-minded trail riders on the facebook group? Go check it out
Which dressage training do you use during your trail rides? Please let me know in the comments.