Dressage Exercises for the Trail

As dressage riders, we spend a lot of time in the school, drilling, practicing, learning, and, well, dressage-ing! We can sometimes forget that a change of scenery is important. It’s great to get our horses out on the trail to give their (and our!) minds a rest from the post and rails.

If you are more a trail or pleasure rider, it is good to bring some structure into your trail ride and make sure your horse is on the aids (without ever having to go into a school!)

Either way, we can always land on a happy balance between recreation and education when riding our horses!

With that in mind, this week’s video I’m showing you three simple dressage exercises that you can do, while out enjoying the scenery on the trail.

Exercises on the trail have numerous benefits.

  • Keeping your horse’s mind active and engaged and therefore decreasing the likelihood of spooking.
  • Ensuring that your horse’s ability to follow the aids isn’t dependent on the calm and confinement of the school.
  • Giving you both a welcome change of scenery while getting quality work done!

Here’s three easy exercises that can be done almost anywhere!

Trail Serpentines
Serpentines are such incredible exercises for suppling your horse so why not do them out and about! These can be done just like in the school and if your horse is spooky, increase the depth of the serpentine to keep them listening to you.

Free walk to connected walk.
Trail riding is a relaxing experience where you get to take in the beauty of nature at a relaxed free walk pace with your horse. Free walk is a dressage move too as we know! So practice taking your horse from free walk to a medium or collected walk at regular intervals.

Trail laterals!
Why just move forward on the trail! Move laterally too! Try doing some leg yield zigzags across your trail. It’s good not to be reliant on the rails for your dressage geometry and a real challenge to keep your horse focused outside of the ring!

Transitions transitions transitions!! You can ALWAYS be doing transitions. Walk-halt-walk. Trot walk trot. Trot-halt-trot. Pick a segment of the trail and fit in as many as you can! Once you’ve done some transitions, let your horse relax and leave them alone for a bit.

Whenever you’re on the trail, stay talking to your horse, vocally and with your body. It’s nice to reassure them that you’re there and in control. Also you need them on the aids in case they spook. So let them have fun, but check in with them from time to time. It’ll keep you both safe.

Check out the video of Kensington and I practicing our moves on the trail, and give it a thumbs up and a comment if it helps you!

Thanks for watching and happy riding!


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