Mar 22, 2022

Challenging Position, Aids, and Communication In Your Flatwork with ICP Instructor Emily Beshear

By Meagan DeLisle - USEA Staff
Emily Beshear coaching at the 2022 ICP Symposium. USEA/Meagan DeLisle photo

Looking to up your schooling game to enhance your performances in the show ring? The certified instructors of the USEA’s Instructors Certification Program (ICP) are here to help. This month ICP instructor Emily Beshear shares one of her favorite flatwork exercises to challenge the horse and rider.

“My exercise focuses on a whole range of challenges to both the rider’s position, aids, and communication, as well as the correctness of the horse’s balance and alignment. In turn, it will give very clear feedback to the rider as to whether they’re accomplishing what they’re intending. While it’s definitely meant to be for Preliminary level and up, there are aspects that can be easily modified and I utilize a similar exercise for young horses and lower-level riders as well.

Ideally, I would introduce this exercise first in a very large ring or even open space instead of a dressage ring. Once the horse and rider have an idea of what is being asked, then I will add performing it in a dressage ring to increase the challenge.

The exercise primarily uses simple trot/canter transitions. The first step is for the rider to be able to pick up either canter lead on a straight line. From there, I progress to asking them to pick up the counter canter lead along the long side of the ring. They then transition to trot before the end of the ring, keeping the horse positioned to the outside so that they can repeat picking up the counter lead as soon as they are straight on the next side.

There are many ways to adapt how the rider is utilizing the aids and communicating what they want depending on how clearly the horse understands what is being asked. The next step is for the rider to be able to change the horse’s positioning and pick up the true canter lead at the end of the ring. So the short side of the ring is in true canter, then there is a brief canter/trot transition where the rider repositions for the canter lead and is able to pick up the counter canter along the long side. Then you repeat the exercise.

The next stage is to maintain the counter canter, but instead of going all the way to the end of the ring I have riders perform a half-circle from one long side to the other. If the quality of the canter starts to falter, I utilize the trot transitions as a way to rebalance the horses. I prefer doing all of these transitions through the trot and not the walk because I feel it gives the riders a better sense of making sure that they’re truly rebalancing and not just stopping the horse. The biggest challenge of the exercise for the higher level horses is to be able to perform the counter canter/trot/counter canter transitions on a circle.”

About the USEA Instructors’ Certification Program

Instructors are essential to the training of riders and horses for safe and educated participation in the sport of eventing. The USEA Instructors’ Certification Program (ICP) was initiated in 2002 to educate all levels of eventing instructors with crucial training principles upon which those instructors can continue to build throughout their teaching careers. ICP offers educational workshops and assessments by which both regular instructors, Level I through Level V, Young Event Horse (YEH) instructors, and Young Event Horse professional horse trainers can become ICP certified. Additional information about ICP’s goals, benefits, workshops, and assessments as well as names and contact information for current ICP-certified instructors, YEH instructors, and YEH professional horse trainers are available on the USEA website. Click here to learn more about the Instructors’ Certification Program.

The USEA would like to thank Stable Secretary and Parker Equine Insurance for sponsoring the Instructors’ Certification Program. Additionally, Parker Equine Insurance offers 5% off to all ICP instructors and Stable Secretary provides a 25% discount on their subscription services to all ICP instructors.

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