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Creating more cadence with your horse

In this training article we are looking specifically at how to add more cadence into your horses paces. If you aren't sure what cadence is or how it relates to training a dressage horse you can find all about it by clicking here





How to create more cadence?


The easiest way to do this is to introduce it in little bits as you train your horse through the levels. Little trickles where you up the cadence a notch and then sit there for a bit and then up it a little more. This allows you to add in the cadence as your horse becomes stronger, more established in those scales of training and more established through the levels.


At 4 or 5 i start with transitions. These are a multi talented thing because you work on these to create your impulsion and your rhythm but in the background what you're doing is starting your horses journey to more cadence and essentially starting those first building blocks towards your passage and canter pirouette canter.


When you start, you teach your horse that your leg means more push from behind, when they're young this push is forward and up into walk or trot or canter but later on in their careers we will teach them to hold that power on their hindleg and push up too. We also teach them that our leg seat and hand when used in a certain way means take more weight and balance on your hindleg, compress your body into a downward transition.


Then we move that to the transitions within the paces. When they're young this may only be a slight compress, take more weight behind, lift in the shoulder and take a shorter step or on the other end, to open out, take a longer stride and cover more ground. But as they get stronger we ask for more, more weight behind, more push from the hindleg, more uphill tendency - and this essentially is where your cadence work really begins. Eventually these will become transitions from a collected trot to a passage (which has loads of air time and cadence) back to collected trot into medium trot and so on.


So, if you're wanting to improve your horses cadence, transitions within the paces are a great place to start. Start slow aiming for a little sit back on their hindquarters and a slightly shorter step and then a slightly longer step and an opening of their neck and back. Then you build on that. Really focus on using your half halt to bring your horse back onto their hindleg, bringing the shoulders up and activating that hindleg to get more push up and out. If your horse is just starting out in the collected work you can try bringing them onto a 15m circle or riding in shoulder fore to help get that sit. Then when you push forward make sure you dont let everything fall back onto the forehand. Stay tall in your upper body and focus on keeping that uphill frame of bum down shoulders up and ride up and out with the hindlegs. Imagine it needs to feel like a plane taking off. The half halt is a big deal in this so if you aren't sure what it is, how to use it or what your hands, legs or seat should be doing in it then we do have a whole training article on it. Click here to head to it.


Remember though the focus is always on creating more 'air time', and to do that you need your horse to sit and push from their hindleg and be in an uphill frame (in other words, bum down shoulders up). And you want to achieve all that without destroying all those basics you've spent a long time establishing. Keep it at that sweet spot where your horse always stays balanced, where you feel like you are getting more air time but not over powering your horse to the point where they lose balance and cant actually maintain it whether that's because they're not strong enough or they don't yet understand the concept.


Problems you can encounter when creating more cadence.


Like we've already said, you may find that your basics go to pot. As you ride through the transitions pay particular attention to those basics, do you lose the rhythm, the contact, the suppleness and so on and are you able to manage that or do you feel like you have to stop and get everything back together again. If the latter is the case then maybe you are pushing for too much too soon. Remember its all about keeping your horse within that region where they are still balanced.


If you find you are losing the suppleness though, try doing the transitions on a 15m circle or within lateral movements if your horse is more established. It will help to keep your horse loose, swinging and through whilst you are adding in the cadence and air time.


The ultimate thing i want you to take away from this is that cadence is just as much about changing your mindset and position from a young horse to an advanced horse as much as it is teaching your horse to push more. Its always got to be about enhancing the trot and canter so any cadence you create must add to your way of going not take away from it. Remember we want to keep all those good basic scales of training, not lose them!



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