Four-star event rider Coral Keen provides one H&H forum user with some helpful advice on how to prevent too much neck bend and improve straightness while riding on the flat
Q: Straightness exercises: “I finally got round to entering my first dressage test at British Dressage (BD) intro level and one of the judge’s comments was that I need to work on is straightness as my horse bends too much to the right. I have looked at the video and he is bending in the neck coming down the centre line. His teeth have been checked recently and they were fine. Do you have any hints, tips or training advice?”
A: Firstly, check that your horse is as supple to the left as he is to the right. If he isn’t and is fixed in one position, you need to do some work to make him equal on both reins.
Keep practising riding down the centre line and straight lines that are off the track, such as down the three quarter line, and use your legs to really channel the horse. It is tempting to get stuck on the track when you are training at home, but do make sure you ride off it regularly.
Ride with your hands very still and level, checking that they are even on either side of the neck. It might be that you are more dominant with one hand than the other, so work hard on keeping quiet, level hands and ride forward with your legs.
If you have mirrors use them as they are a great training tool, but if not ask someone to film you, standing directly in front of you are you ride towards them.
You will be able to tell if your horse is straight as you will be able to see both cheek pieces or both eyes, and if you can see one more than the other that normally means you are not straight.
As well as looking at the horse and making sure he is supple, it is really important that you as a rider are supple too, so perhaps something like pilates could help. Not only can this build up a good core strength, but it will also enable you to stretch so you can see where you might be less supple.
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