Horse & Hound asked Britain’s top trainers across a range of disciplines which phrases they often use during training sessions and, as you might expect, some common themes emerged.

  • Free forward movement

    Daniel Sherriff (dressage): “Get the handbrake off!”

    People hang on to the handbrake because they are frightened of riding forwards. Saying this breaks the ice, making them chuckle and forget their fear – and most people’s problems stem from fear.

    Di Lampard (show jumping): “Impulsion, rhythm and balance”

    You can’t jump without having a good, balanced canter. This has an effect across all levels. If we are not careful, we get out of rhythm and end up going too fast – you need to be in a constant rhythm.

    Georgina Frith (driving): “Forward!”

    One of the biggest problems with carriage driving is getting the horse to engage from behind and work from the back forwards, so you are constantly persuading the driver to get the back end engaged.

  • Straightness

    Yogi Breisner (eventing): “Keep straight”

    Straightness is something you are working on all the time – it gives the rider control over the horse. It propels all the energy from the hind legs forward and nothing gets lost in the shoulder. If the horse is straight, he can extend his stride to the maximum.

    Susie Gibson (show jumping): “Look forward to think forward”

    To ride with straightness is one of the hardest things to do. If we get riders looking and thinking forward, the straightness comes; when driving a car you don’t look at the bonnet – you look down the road.

    Matthew Lanni (show jumping): “Look where you’re going and stay to the correct line”

    So many people will ride a course and won’t be central: they will encounter problems they wouldn’t if they were on the correct line.

  • Impulsion not speed

    Ken Clawson (eventing): “Have energy, not speed – speed does not always relate to energy”

    When clarified during instruction, this phrase appliesto professional and amateur riders alike.

    Dot Willis (eventing): “Keep the engine running, keep the revs up”

    I use this phrase across all levels – it is relevant whether the horse is pre-novice or doing three-star competitions.

  • Back to basics

    Peter Murphy (show jumping): “Learn to walk before you can run”

    A lot of people try to jump bigger than they can before they get their basics sorted. This applies to all levels, from kids on 12.2hh ponies to international riders.

    Jonquil Hemming (eventing): “If you can’t canter you can’t jump”

    That came from Carmen Lanni. It really made me understand that if you don’t have the right quality canter you can’t jump and that goes for showjumping and cross-country. If you can’t develop a good canter you are always changing your rhythm.

    Andy Austin (show jumping): “Take your flatwork into the arena with you”

    We don’t jump fences until the rider has balance and rhythm on the flat. People see jumps and become very excited, tense or apprehensive. Most people are fixated on taking off in the right place – they need to stop being obsessed with seeing a stride and instead become focused on balance and rhythm.

    Jane Kidd (dressage): “Imagine you’re bouncing a ball on your head”

    I find if I say “sit tall” or “put your shoulders back”, the rider stiffens, but if they imagine bouncing a ball they get taller without stiffening.

    Ruth McMullen (eventing): “The rider must be in balance to allow the horse to be in balance”

    Straightness and balance of the rider are very important. A lot of riders need to take a step backwards in order to go forwards, and the way the horse goes is a mirror of how the rider rides.

    Don’t miss more expert advice from top names in Horse & Hound’s training focus in this week’s issue (6 February), or click here to subscribe and enjoy Horse & Hound delivered to your door every week.