Horse Riding Lessons Blog

Preparing For Your First Show: Part 1 – The Rider’s Dress Code

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This month we’ve been assessing your readiness to enter a horse show, and how to successfully compete at the beginner rider’s level of dressage tests.

You can also take a look at the ebook Horse Riding Lessons: Training Yourself to Ride. This is an excellent how-to manual plus explanatory video and a useful horse riding online tool showing how to ride the way the tests require.

The Show

Today we’ll look at how you need to be outfitted for the type of show you should start competing in.

You need to find ‘schooling shows,’ locally run competitions designed to encourage the amateur rider. Look up your area’s dressage association by searching online. At the barn where you take horseback lessons, ask other riders where they compete. Your instructor will be able to help you, too.

The local tack store is another source of information on shows in your area.

The Rider

Since you’ll be starting out by going to schooling shows, the dress code for riders will be more relaxed than at the nationally licensed competitions. Your local horse riding association will give exact details online about their dress code, but you will be safe if you wear the following:

  • a black riding helmet which meets ASTM standards and is SEI certified
  • a polo shirt (white is best)
  • light or white riding pants
  • long black boots, or short boots with chaps (but not the Western kind)
  • white gloves

For this level it’s not necessary to purchase a show jacket, especially since most shows are in the summer when the weather is hot. It’s a useful item to have, but if you use it in dressage or jumping competitions, you also need to wear a stock tie with stock pin on a proper riding shirt.  Save this expense for when you know you’ll be competing a lot.

Go to local shows as a spectator before competing and see what the riders are wearing to get a better idea of what is acceptable.

Next we’ll be looking at the horse’s dress code.

Integrating Horse Riding Online Information into Your Riding Schedule

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For virtually every situation you encounter in the saddle there will be others who’ve been through the same issues. And luckily for you, a lot of those people will have posted their experiences of horse riding online for you to find.

Of course, your first resource will always be the person from whom you are taking horseback lessons. This trainer knows you and your horse better than a faceless online writer, and should be your initial point of contact when you encounter a problem or have a riding question.

But sometimes you’ll want to know how others have dealt with the issue, and compare notes or take advice from someone who’s been there, done that, and succeeded in overcoming it.


These are a good place to find answers to your questions. Simply put ‘horse forums’ into your browser and you’ll find a host of places where you can look up existing answers to your questions or post a question of your own.

You will be surprised at the number of responses you receive.

However, you need to be discerning about which to believe and which to take with a pinch of salt. Don’t be afraid to tell your trainer what you’ve found out. He or she will be pleased that you take your riding seriously and will be happy to help sort out the good from the bad advice.

If this doesn’t seem like a good route for you – perhaps you don’t see eye to eye with your trainer on something – then post the same question on several forums to see how many replies agree with the ones you got from the original forum.

You can always ask me a question, too!


Improve Your Horse Riding Online

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There has never been a better time for riders to get the information they need. The internet has opened up a whole new arena and you’ll find pretty much anything you want to know about horse riding online.

Diversity of Information

One of the interesting aspects of riding is that every horse is different. What works for one horse may not work with another. The basic principles of English riding can be applied with some flexibility. By searching online you’ll find others who have had the same experience and problems as yourself and can offer valuable advice and insights.

When I looked up how to give the aids for the leg yield, a lateral suppling movement, I was intrigued to find there were three different methods. Clearly each one worked for the individual who described it.

The canter is another example: some riders say the horse should canter off the rider’s outside leg, others swear by the inside leg!

If you feel overwhelmed by conflicting information, check with your riding instructor or a good rider friend.


Forums are a great way to enter debates about horse riding online and for sharing your experiences with others. They are useful in other equine areas, too, such as horse care issues.

Here you’ll find down-to-earth people writing about their passion for horses, who are also interested in the details of your riding life. Type in any horse topic which interests you and the search results are sure to include forums.


Many of us riders are sharing our knowledge through the medium of blogs. Take advantage of this and ask questions about riding which perplex or bother you. We’re all here to help and want you to enjoy your riding to the fullest.

Knowledge is power: use the knowledge you find online to improve your riding!

Bending Your Horse the Correct Way

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As we saw last time, flexion is necessary for bending your horse and correct bending is necessary to ride a turn or circle properly.

You can turn your horse without correct bend, but it will be awkward - he won’t be balanced, and the movement will be difficult for him.

Make it easier on your horse by getting that bend right. Look at photos and videos of dressage horse riding online as the riders turn, to see examples of correct bending.

Description of Correct Bend

This is when your horse is bent laterally, with his whole spine curved round your inside leg. His neck mustn’t be more bent than his rib cage, and his hind legs must follow the tracks of the forelegs on a curve.

What is ‘Lateral Bend’?

Lean sideways to touch the outside of your knee with your hand. You are now bending laterally.

Your Horse’s ‘Chocolate Side’

Most horses bend more easily to one side than the other, usually the left. Their muscles are shorter on this ‘chocolate side’ as the Germans call it (Schokoladenseite) including their neck muscles.

With correct bending, the muscles will become even on both sides of your horse.

Aids for Bending

  • Increase your inside leg aid on the girth
  • Place your weight on your inside seat bone
  • Flex the horse to the inside, with your outside rein controlling the neck bend and your inside rein creating the flexion
  • Hold your outside leg behind the girth to prevent the horse’s quarters from swinging out.

A horse that wants to avoid bending in the rib cage will overbend his neck, and his shoulders will continue on the original track without turning. Straighten him up, flex him again, and maintain a stronger outside rein as you ask him to bend.

Correct flexing and bending keep your horse supple and easy to ride. Use your horseback lessons to flex and bend your mount the right way and you’ll have a comfortable, controllable horse.