Our training programs progress through the Seasons, starting as basic little 'seedlings' in Spring, developing into glorious 'mature plants' in Winter. Browse through the Seasons using the icons above.
Spring 01 - The Six Connections
Imagine knowing the answer before you’re even asked the question? In this film, Jenku introduces Tracy & Fleur to the ‘Six Connections’. Tracy learns to clean up her riding using Jenku’s simple Lego Man and Barbie Doll analogy which will stick in your mind forever! It all begins with the Invisible Box, where the horse learns to find neutral and a place of relaxation. What follows are simple exercises done either at a halt, or on the spot that will help Fleur later in more complex ridden work. Jenku then teaches Fleur and Tracy about the Six Connections. Your arms, legs, shoulders and pelvis correspond with the horse’s body. Everything above your belt controls what’s going on in front of the girth. Everything below your girth, controls things behind the girth. Approaching riding in this way, your horse becomes an extension of your body, which is an incredible feeling!
Key points: invisible box, six connections, Lego Man, Barbie Doll, rider body corresponding with horse’s body, neutral place of relaxation, halt.
Spring 02 - Nose to Wall
Is your horse dead to the leg? In this film, Jenku shows Tracy how to get Fleur light and responsive to her leg aids. This is helpful as Fleur doesn’t have ideal dressage conformation and can get quite strong if she loses her balance. It’s easy to get into the bad habit of squeezing madly with your leg, lifting your heel as you do so. This ends up disrupting your balance and - before you know it - you’re standing on the balls of your feet. Leg yielding, using the wall of the arena as a guide, is an excellent way to help Fleur soften through her back, and at the same time, train the leg aid. Instead of constantly driving with her leg, Tracy uses light pressure in time with Fleur’s hind leg as it steps across and under. Then, as a seamless progression from leg yielding using the wall, Fleur and Tracy can move into travers. Tracy uses her body as a pendulum to help her horse take bigger steps, Fleur’s back is relaxed and so she’s able to use her abdomen to bring her hind leg forward and under. Textbook!
Key points: dead to the leg, light and responsive, leg aids, dressage conformation, balance, rider lifting heel, rider balance, leg yield, loosening back muscles, travers, using seat like a pendulum.
Spring 03 - Rider Posture & Engagement
If you feel that you’re doing everything right but that your horse is still not engaging, in this film Jenku will show you how to set up your own body so that your horse can consistently engage its inside hind leg correctly. Fleur and Tracy have been a good team for over a decade and are keen to do advanced dressage movements with grace and balance. This means regular schooling and fine tuning but schooling should not be torturous for your horse. Getting the results you want means allowing the horse to stretch and release lactic acid build up in between short bouts of schooling. Sadly, horses are often held in a contracted frame for too long until the lactic build up is so extreme that they act out in order to get some relief. Tracy schools Fleur on the circle until she offers the engagement that Tracy is looking for. Tracy clicks and rewards Fleur immediately giving her very precise feedback. Tracy loves this quieter way of riding, and so do her horses as they are motivated to keep trying to give the right answer.
Key points: engagement, foundation for advanced dressage movements, balance, releasing lactic acid, click and reward, precise feedback, rider position, soft elbows, quieter way of riding.
Spring 04 - Shoulder-In to Renvers
You know you’re a bit of a dressage geek when you get excited about the connection between the inside corner of your horse’s mouth and her outside hind leg. In this film, Jenku shows how shoulder in to renvers can be achieved quite simply by breaking down the movement into manageable chunks. Tracy and Fleur start by playing around with the connection between the inside rein and the inside hind leg. This disengages Fleur’s hind legs and is a great movement for flexibility and relaxation. Then, while riding shoulder in on a circle Tracy cues Fleur to pick up a counter curve on the circle to change the bend in her neck and move into renvers. For Tracy, an accomplished dressage rider and trainer, this is a light bulb moment; ‘the feeling of connecting Fleur’s mouth to her inside swinging hind leg is amazing. This concept is helping me in other movements, like in half pass if I feel like I need more crossing I have a new button - it’s like magic!’
Key points: shoulder in, renvers, counter curve, connecting mouth with swinging hind leg, breaking down movements, flexibility, relaxation, continuous nature of circle, stress-free ridden work.
In this Summer Season we can already see huge improvement. Follow each step and we will soon be in 'full bloom'!
Summer 01 - Shoulder-In to Renvers
Fleur and Tracy are a well-established team, but they are always eager to up their game. In this film they work on shoulder in to renvers at the trot. Jenku is keen to help them sprinkle some magic as they work on cadence and relaxation to ensure that Fleur finds her swing! A simple way to get to grips with this movement is to imagine a plate with a banana next to it with the curve towards the plate. In shoulder in, the front of the banana is closer to the plate. Flip the banana to face away from the plate and Voila! Now you have renvers. The whole point of this exercise is to loosen your horse’s back and help her swing her inside hind leg forward and under so that you have a lovely rhythmic trot and a soft bend through the whole body. Remember to keep your legs long and soft. You can do this by training your horse to listen to your leg aids. Ask once and if she doesn’t listen, follow up with a tap of the whip. Slowing down will give you time to think and will help you develop cadence, which you need for piaffe and passage.
Key points: developing cadence, shoulder in, renvers, relaxation, swing, loosening your horse’s back, engagement, rhythm, suppleness, rider position, leg aids, lightness.
Summer 02 - Rein Back
Does your horse block or rush backwards in the rein back? In this film, Jenku shows Tracy how to get control over each foot fall to ensure the rein back is straight and light. Forget what you’ve learnt about traditional rein back aids, instead move your legs back behind the girth without squeezing. Make light contact with the alternate mouth corners, and your horse will take a step back. To begin with all Fleur needs to do is take two steps back, then Tracy releases the rein pressure and rewards. If your horse’s quarters fall into the arena, try setting up in shoulder in position as this will help to straighten. If you get stuck, instead of pulling harder on the mouth ask a friend to stand in front of you with a whip to cue each front foot to step backwards. Your horse will soon understand what you’re trying to communicate and move away from the pressure. To up the criteria, Tracy and Fleur leave the security of the wall and test their rein back in the middle of the arena. Looking good!
Key points: rushing backwards, control over each foot fall, straightness, lightness, correct leg aids, release pressure, shoulder in, ambidexterity, groundwork.
Summer 03 - Canter Transitions
Transitions! Transitions! Transitions! We do them all the time but it’s important to have control over each body part to ensure an elegant transition. In this film, Jenku works with Tracy and Fleur on canter transitions. You will see how breaking down movements into smaller component parts makes it so much easier to communicate what you want from your horse. In transitions your form is important as your body weight will set the horse up. If you shift your weight slightly to the outside of the circle, your horse will weight shift and lift the inside shoulder. This makes it possible to strike off on the correct inside lead. If you’re in Lego Man position, by default as you weight shift outside, your inside hand will raise slightly. This will cue the corner of your horse’s mouth to lift the shoulder. All the building blocks that Tracy and Fleur have been working on fall smoothly into place in this film. Jenku shows you how to go from trot to canter, walk to canter and finally rein back to canter. Poetry in motion.
Key points: canter transitions from trot, walk and rein back, control over each body part, rider posture, body weight, balance, correct canter lead, Lego man, building blocks, biomechanics.
Summer 04 - Hock Flexions
This film is about two things. The first is about recognising and rewarding the 'smallest try' and helping your horse have an “Aha!” moment understanding the subtlest aid. The second is about practising hock flexions in preparation for piaffe. Tracy starts with Fleur’s nose to the wall and leg yields down the side of the arena. Next, they move onto a circle where Tracy can make sure that Fleur is responsive to a light leg aid. Don’t nag your horse, otherwise she will end up dead to your leg. Ask once and follow up with a tap with your whip if she’s not responsive. If you’re struggling to feel the inside hind swinging through nicely, stay with this exercise before moving on to hock flexions. When you do hock flexions, it helps having a mirror so that you can see when your horse lifts her hind leg. In the beginning it might be so subtle that you won’t feel it and you don’t want to miss the smallest try. So far in this journey Jenku has helped Tracy build in buttons with Fleur, and although very subtle now we can clearly see the results, as Fleur lifts the hind leg that Tracy is asking using only a rein aid. This is a magical moment and the beginning of great things to come!
Key points: rewarding smallest try, subtle aid, clarity of the aids, preparation for piaffe, lightness, engagement, using mirrors.
Our lessons are starting to 'bear fruit' in this Autumn Season, as more complex movements are beginning to take shape.
Autumn 01 - Shoulder Control (Flying Changes Part 1)
Flying changes! Tracy and Fleur understand that in order to improve their flying changes, they need to break the movement down into smaller parts. In this film, Jenku explains that the more you have the mental picture that there is a connection with your horse’s mouth corners and her front legs, the better you will be able to communicate what you want your horse to do. Controlling the shoulders is the first step. Imagine that you’re a puppeteer controlling your horse’s front leg - this is a really fun exercise! It’s important that you’re aware of where your horse’s balance is. Flying changes are all about weight shifting so that your horse’s front legs are free to lift in front. When lifting with your inside rein, be careful not to put too much slack in your rein as this will result in you jerking your horse in her mouth. Think about following the leg with your hand rather than giving too much. Ask yourself – can I get my horse to step wide with her front foot? Take a break as soon as she lightens and steps wide. Remember to keep asking for a little more each time so that she doesn’t get bored and begins to make a clear connection between your hand and her shoulder.
Key points: flying changes, break movement down into smaller parts, connecting mouth corner to front leg, controlling shoulders, clear communication, balance, weight shifting.
Autumn 02 - Rider Posture (Flying Changes Part 2)
In this film, Tracy and Fleur are working on the controlling rider posture which is essential for the flying change. There are three things that influence the horse: your hand, your seat or balance and your leg. For flying changes there are three aids that happen in a specific order. If Fleur recognises that you give the cues in the same order then - after being very deliberate with each individual cue - you will be able to compress these to make them happen instantaneously. But if you are not in control of your posture to start with the signals will get confused! Then exercise starts in a shallow counter canter loop and then gradually we make the loop deeper and closer to the centre line. You’re building up to crossing the centre line. Because Tracy is rewarding her, Fleur is starting to think and not just rush forward which is what she used to do. Horses often have anticipatory anxiety during flying changes. The more Fleur realises that there are lots of breaks, the more she will learn to wait and be calm. This is a great exercise to train the rider to really focus on their posture and develop better ‘feel’ in order to do the flying change.
Key points: flying changes, clear cue sequences, hand seat leg aids in specific order, counter canter, shallow loop, anticipatory anxiety, canter serpentine.
Autumn 03 - Simple Changes (Flying Changes Part 3)
Tracy has a light-bulb moment in this film, as she learns to control Fleur’s hind end in preparation for flying changes. To help horse and rider develop a consciousness of where their bodies are, it’s helpful to work on a figure of 8. Begin by circling right in renvers, then as you come across the centre line maintain the same bend and then circle left - by keeping the same bend you are now in travers or quarters in. By changing rein and practising maintaining the bend, your horse learns to follow your lead and take heed of how your weight shifts. Once you’ve established this in a walk, practise in a trot. OK next exercise - now we can pick up the canter and do the figure of 8 in travers bringing your horse back to walk as you cross the centre line each time. In this way, you’ll be able to practice your set up and control the hind quarters and shoulders. The canter needs to be nice and bouncy to allow airtime for the changes in the next step. Fleur is doing really well! Tracy lets her stretch in between to release the build-up of lactic acid and allow red blood cells and oxygen back into her muscles.
Key points: flying changes, light bulb moment, figure of eight, travers, renvers, simple changes, engage, air time, stretch, lactic acid.
Autumn 04 - Putting it all together (Flying Changes Part 4)
In this film Tracy can’t help smiling as they are finally putting all the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle together with some amazing results. Tracy has worked hard to get Fleur’s hindquarters and shoulders yielding left and right. Most importantly, there is a proper shift of balance, so Fleur is finding it easier to come up in preparation for the next lead. All the qualities of a good flying change are there, now this team just needs to add impulsion. Tracy starts on a 10 meter circle to the left. She cues Fleur to lift her inside left shoulder. As she loops back to the track, Tracy shifts her weight to the left and Fleur is able to jump off with the right leg lead. Tracy must be careful not to look down, as this shifts the weight onto the front shoulders which you’re trying to free up. These are very deliberate steps, so Fleur knows what’s coming and isn’t taken by surprise. In the beginning the cues must be obvious so that both the rider and horse understand what’s happening. As you get better at the changes, your cues will be barely observable. Tracy is thrilled. It feels like flying rather than just riding!
Key points: flying changes, hind quarter control, shoulder control, shift of balance, impulsion, shoulder, deliberate cues, rider looking up not down.
Finally, this is where it all comes together. In this Winter Season, our lessons which started as 'little seedlings' in Spring, have developed into glorious 'mature plants' - wow this is impressive!
Winter 01 - Canter Pirouette Elements
The canter pirouette is the pinnacle of dressage. It looks so timed and deliberate. To get it right so that it’s stress-free and unrushed, it’s important that you understand the elements of the canter pirouette and that these make sense to you and your horse. Once you’ve got the first stride, then all you need to do is duplicate, duplicate, duplicate. In this film, Jenku works with Tracy and Fleur to show them how to build up to the canter pirouette. Tracy warms up at a walk in a figure of 8 to the right in renvers, and as she crosses the centre line she circles left in travers. You need to feel that you can put your horse’s hind legs where you want them to go. Now work on your canter transitions in travers. Tracy asks Fleur to move her hind quarters into the circle in travers to really bring her hind quarters under her. Then she asks for the transitions. Tracy clicks as soon as Fleur strikes off. Next Tracy works on an even smaller circle and clicks as Fleur takes one single canter stride. Everything is done so slowly, it gives Fleur plenty of time to think and anticipate the movement. All the elements stack up in a logical way and she doesn’t need to stress about what’s expected of her. Tracy realises that taking it really slowly in the walk is the best set up. If she goes faster, Fleur’s body tightens, and Tracy isn’t able to feel the right moment to ask for the strike off.
Key points: canter pirouette, pinnacle of dressage, deliberate clear aid, weight aid, bend through body, figure of 8, renvers, travers, canter transition, click and reward, stacking up elements in a logical way.
Winter 02 - Canter Pirouette
‘Up and over, up and over, up and over - Yes! Like that! Encore, Madame, Encore!’ In this film Jenku, Tracy and Fleur put all the elements together and are looking for that ‘Goldilocks’ moment when the canter is not too big, not too small but just right when the horse goes into the perfect circle doing a canter pirouette. It’s important to refer to the previous film where Tracy was able to ask Fleur to do a single canter step. Now that they have 1 step, they can add more. On a square Tracy does a ¼ pirouette in the arena corners or where she feels that Fleur is in her best balance. Tracy needs to make sure that Fleur is really wrapped around her inside leg, is up in the poll and has a banana shape. Because of all the work they’ve done previously, Tracy has a whole toolbox at hand to address any problems. Tracy clicks and rewards as soon as it feels good so that Fleur recognises the feeling. Now to progress to ½ pirouette. The moment they cross the centre line, Tracy asks for the pirouette and then leaves to go off on the half circle again. The reason for the half circle is to help the inside hind leg engage more. Be sure to work on both reins and then you’re ready for the full Monty. If things fall apart, now that you know the progressive steps, you can take it back a notch or two if you or your horse are unhappy. Tracy and Fleur have got it!
Key points: canter pirouette, progressive steps, ¼ pirouette square, wrap around her inside leg, up in the poll, toolbox, shoulder-in, travers, click and reward, marginal gain, Lego Man arms, weight aid, ½ pirouette loops, full pirouette.
Winter 03 - Piaffe
The piaffe is the key that opens the vault and really gets the horse’s hind legs forward and under. This is engagement - the very essence of dressage. In this film, Jenku helps Tracy and Fleur with their piaffe and the results are fantastic. To warm up start with shoulder in to renvers as we learned in the Spring season this loosens up your horse’s back behind the saddle and makes her steps nice and springy. Asking her to come up in the poll lifts the base of her neck, and encourages her to drop her tail bone. Remember to reward the smallest try. Jenku then explains the piaffe aids; start by shifting your legs back as though you are going to ask for a rein back but before Fleur steps backwards put your leg on to say ‘go forward’. Hey, presto! We now have some piaffe steps. The next step is to build impulsion using trot transitions, so Tracy takes Fleur on a circle, and as she comes back to the wall, she slows the energy down significantly and Fleur channels it into trotting on the spot. Because Fleur is swinging her hind quarters into the arena, all Tracy needs to do is shift her Barbie Doll hands to the left to make the correction. Be sure to stretch in between to allow the lactic acid to flush out of your horse’s muscles. Tracy and Fleur now have the piaffe under their belt - this is the dream!
Key points: piaffe, hind legs forward and under, engagement, shoulder-in, renvers, loosen horse’s back behind the saddle, drop tail bone, cadence, rein back, weight shift, stretch, lactic acid, straightness, Barbie Doll correction.
Winter 04 - Tempi's
Mamma Mia! In this film, Jenku helps Tracy and Fleur tackle tempis. For many riders tempis are terrifying. It feels like the sky is going to fall on their heads and they are so afraid to try. But, because there are so many prerequisites that you need to have in place before you can do tempis, you don’t need to panic. If things start falling apart, all you need to do is take a step back. As long as the rider stays relaxed, half the battle is won. Fleur has been known to tank off across the arena in flying changes so for the warm up, Tracy asks Fleur to go from walk to canter, walk to canter. All Tracy needs is a few canter strides to help Fleur tune in to her. As she shifts her balance to the outside, her inside hand comes up and Fleur feels the inside mouth corner, so she knows that she needs to bring her inside leg up. These cues give Fleur plenty of time to process what she needs to do. Now Tracy and Fleur must build impulsion. To do this they canter four strides, then really collect and then go again. When all the buttons are checked, it’s time to work on tempi changes first every four strides, then three and then finally the two’s. For Tracy this is a culmination of an amazing journey. Most riders have self-limiting beliefs but if you follow the steps, it’s so much fun and this is where the magic is. Woo hoo! What an amazing Christmas present at the end of a jam-packed year.
Key points: tempis, prerequisites, don’t be afraid to try, warm up, canter walk transitions, weight aid, inside hand up, cue inside mouth corner, build impulsion, self-limiting beliefs, magic.