Schooling for Success

Amanda Brewer

Our trainer: Amanda Brewer

Amanda Brewer has competed at international level in both eventing and dressage and trained with many of the world's leading trainers including Captain Mark Phillips for eventing and Conrad Schmacher, Ellen Bontje and Nicole Uphoff for dressage. She works with riders in all disciplines.

Part 1- The Warm Up

Schooling movements only have the desired effect if they are ridden correctly. The same applies to the warm up, whether it is for everyday schooling or for a competition.

Warming up is a matter of knowing what is correct for your horse i.e. are you riding a young horse that needs to be worked in with a contact, or an older horse that needs more canter work than trot or is your horse tense by nature or lazy? All these will determine how you ride your warm up.

Like all training if you do it incorrectly neither your horse or you will benefit and if you do not realise that you are warming up your horse the wrong way you could be setting your horse back more than you think.

The same rules that we would use for warming ourselves up before working out in a gym also apply to your horse. Start off in walk and if it is cold and your horse is clipped out keep an exercise sheet on until the muscles start to warm and work. You don't see athletes warm up without their track suits on.

The Walk

The walk in the warm up is very important and should last about 12 minutes. Take into consideration; your horse's type, weather conditions, where you are working in and safety. If your horse is not too spooky and fresh and it is not blowing a gale, unless you are a lucky enough to have an indoor school, then start off with a good free walk, on a long rein is preferable or a light contact. Ride around the school a couple of times on both reins taking the time to think about your own position and the rhythm and quality of the walk. Try to keep your horse round and supple in the neck even o the long rein.

Warm Up in Walk for about 12 minutes

On long reins the contact is light and the horse is asked to pay attention to the work but he can still have maximum stretching but under control.

You need to keep the horse concentrating. If you just walk round and round he will soon become bored and switched off so introduce some three loop serpentines. Use the school markers to ride accurate shapes, creating inside bend around the loops. When you have done this and as you pick your horse up into a shorter outline then maybe do some gentle leg-yielding and also a couple of turns on the forehand on both reins.

Riding school movements such as serpentines and circles will help suppleness and concentration

If you are riding a very stiff horse or an old horse you may need to spend longer in walk. An alternative to riding round the school is to go for a short hack of 30 minutes or so, this will help your schooling session no end as this encourages the horse to think forward and stride out.

Introducing Trot and Canter

Once you are happy with the walk and can feel your horse starting to swing through his back and use his hocks to push himself forward you can introduce trot and canter. You will need to shorten your contact before starting a good working trot, rising. The lazier your horse the more energetic you will want the trot, ride him forward and around the school and across the diagonals rather than riding too many circles.

The trot should be forward and active stepping through from behind but note the longer, deeper outline because he is still being warmed up

Nerro stretching down in canter, loose, soft and relaxed

If your horse is the more tense or lively type then you will want a quieter trot in a slower tempo and ride more bends and circles as this helps to release the tension.

Contact and Frame

I am often asked;'Should I be working my horse long and low or on a contact when I am working in?'

Ideally, taking account of your horse's type and safety, your horse should be on a light contact during working in. Care should be taken when asking the horse to go long and low because if not correctly ridden the horse can end up running along on his forehand with his hind legs trailing behind him and instead of a soft and supple back he is very stiff. The horse also then needs to be taken from long and low to an uphill frame for his schooling session. For maximum benefit this needs to be ridden correctly.

Trotting poles are a useful exercise in the warm up to help the horse stretch down whilst maintaining activity in the hind legs. Place three poles, as a general rule between 4'6"- 5'6" apart; the distance is determined by the size and stride of your horse. Take rising trot and ride over the centre of each pole taking care not to tip your head and look down, allow forward with your hands as he goes through the poles encouraging him to stretch down and loosen his back, ride straight after the poles and then repeat on each rein so that your horse is worked evenly.

If your horse is tense you can do this exercise on a circle, however with the lazier horse you may find it easier to ride over the poles on a straight line.

Nerro is now coming up and in front of the rider and ready to start more concentrated schooling

Always have someone on the ground when you are working with poles to help put them back in place if they are knocked and also for safety.

Over the poles for the first time Nerro is over emphasising his steps

By riding a good quality warm up with your horse you will achieve nicely warmed up muscles with the blood circulating through the body, as with us this can help reduce the risk of injury.

As you end your warm up your horse should be:

More relaxed, he is starting to stretch down whilst still maintaining activity

Our Model

Viquino known at home as Nerro is owned by Claire Randall and her mother Angela Collins. Claire, who has trained with Amanda for many years, first saw Nerro with Amanda as a four year old in Holland. Nerro is by Negro and having tried him Claire made the decision to purchase him and bring him home. He started out in his prelim classes and has subsequently had many wins in prelim, novice and elementary including Hickstead Masters and Area Festivals and he is now competing at medium and they will compete in advance in spring 2011.

Claire has trained Nerro with Amanda since his purchase and he has been based with Amanda for the last two years. Amanda is based at Pauline Waite's livery yard, Greenway Farm,Tockenhan. Many thanks to Pauline for the use of the lovely facilities on the day, our photoshoot.