Walking the Square
One of my favorite exercises is “walking the square”. In this exercise, you will start putting everything together from the previous exercises. You have already started on your dressage journey. You have learned not to interfere, but to follow your horse’s movement with your seat and hand. You’ve taught your horse to stop and go and to answer your aids. You have already started increasing his responsiveness with the half-halts. So now, we are going to put everything, aids and responses, together creating the basics of flexion and roundness.
Walking the square will help by connecting your horse’s front end to his hind end. It will place him between your inside leg and outside rein. You will be using the outside rein to gain control over his shoulder and control over his bending body rather than just bending his neck. Riding the square will equalize your leg and hand aids for a more correct riding style.
Sit evenly on your seat bones staying relaxed. Track left on a 20-meter square at the walk with your inside leg at the girth and your outside leg a little bit behind the girth. Pulse your inside (left) leg in time with your horse’s walk stride as needed to keep him moving forward and bending. Keep your right leg (outside) behind the girth ready to hold his haunches if they start to swing out. Now slightly open your inside rein, do not pull your horse’s horse’s nose around, you want only to show him the direction his nose should take. Slowly bring your outside hand toward your inside hip (do not cross his wither) as you press your outside leg against him to ask for his shoulder, barrel and hindquarters to follow his nose. Continue the square, bending your horse before the corners, turning him with your outside leg.
When you have the basics of this exercise, let go of your inside rein to the point of where your horse’s shoulders turn and see if you can bring his shoulder, barrel and hindquarters around the corner only using your outside aids.
Remember, the straighter the rider sits, the more evenly the aids will be applied, the straighter your horse will go. It is always beneficial to always look at your riding position frequently. I have found it helpful, if you don’t have a mirror, to video tape yourself riding towards the video camera and then away from the camera so that you can review your position at the front and back. Realize that the majority of horses move crooked because it requires less effort than moving straight. Only through straightening can a horse be taught to be ridden in balance, which is so necessary for all dressage performance. Riding the square, you will reach the goal of developing a balanced and supple horse much quicker. Be sure the maintain rhythm through each corner.
Good luck, Larissa