Welcome to your fourth e-Training lesson with Keith Robertson. This week Keith explains how to improve your centre-lines and takes a look at prelim 13, which includes three of them! Once you’ve put his advice into practice, remember to let us know how you got on!

Session 1: Nailing your centre line

You’re required to ride three centre lines in prelim 13, so it’s vital that you perfect them for this test.

When you don’t have the luxury of warming up outside the arena, you can often trace a bad centre line back to the horse not being turned correctly at A. The rider either overshoots the centre line with too much neck bend and lets the horse’s quarters fall in or out, or doesn’t complete the turn, meaning the quarters are not following the shoulders. Both these faults mean the entry cannot be straight, which leads to a low mark.

To try at home…

If you’re in a 20x60m arena, work on an accurate turn and trot down the centre line with confidence with the horse working between your hand and leg — imagine you want to ride through the judge at C.

If you have the space, enter from outside the arena so you’re already straight and on the centre line by the time you enter.

If the line gets wobbly, straighten it by asking for more power using your legs — don’t try to straighten the horse with your hands.

Think “short reins and longer arms”, so you don’t end up riding with your hands in your stomach. You want there to be a straight line from the bit through your hands to your elbows. 

You also need to practise turning back onto the centre line, as it can be a tight turn. It’s better to practise steadying slightly and achieving it comfortably.

If your horse tends to overshoot, pay attention to the outside contact and turn him through the shoulder rather than the nose. Remember, the judge will prefer to see a turn that is slightly smaller and drifts, as this is the easier correction, rather than a horse overshooting the centre line.

The key to making a good turn is to think about riding the horse straight into both reins with only a small amount of flexion at the poll to control the bend. Don’t push the horse sideways, as you will cause his legs to cross. Instead, think about turning just a little bit with every stride, lifting your ribcage and looking ahead.

It is easy for the horse to drop behind the leg and start anticipating the halt, so at home practise plenty of turns onto the centre line, but do not halt every time. Instead, use half-halts so he learns to accept the preparation, but keeps moving forward.
If you have to chase your horse down the centre line to prevent him jamming on the brakes, you are advertising the fact that he is behind your leg.

Let others know if you found this session useful by sharing your progress and pictures with the rest of our e-Community. 

Session 2: Practise the whole test

It’s now time to practise riding the test, remembering what you learned in session one, but first watch this week’s test riding video with Isobel Wessels:

We will focus on other movements throughout the series that will also help improve your prelim 13 marks but, taking things one step at a time for now, ensure that you are comfortable with the following given Keith and Isobel’s advice:

  • Mid test centre line
  • Transitions to walk for one horse’s length
  • Give and retake of reins
  • Trot to canter transitions on a circle
  • Changing the rein in free walk (double score)

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