The Right Track is divided into groups of patterns starting with ‘Warm-up Exercises’, which then move into exercises for beginning riders and/or green horses through to more difficult patterns for advanced horses and riders.
Sarah’s book is not only aimed at riders training their own horse and wanting to make their training more interesting and effective, but also at coaches who want to put together really interesting lessons for a group of students.
For the exercises we show here, we will be using Sarah’s ‘horseshoe’ coding system, which is a simple guide to the degree of difficulty:
EASY – walk, trot, canter
NOVICE – lengthen, shorten, leg yielding
MORE ADVANCED – lateral, medium and collected work
The exercises have been designed for a 20 x 60 metre dressage arena (21.87 x 65.62 yards). You can set this up yourself as long as you have an area that is big enough, but it must be level with a good even surface (not rocky, boggy or sloping). Just buy or make cones that are marked with the dressage letters for the outside of the arena. It is also handy to have another six cones to use in the arena to clearly mark-out the patterns. This is not essential, but it does help when you want to practice 20 metre and 10 metre circles.
Sarah also recommends that you should only ride two or three exercises in a one-hour session. You should choose a ‘warm-up’ exercise involving halt or walk (allowing at least 10 minutes), then progress to a trotting exercise and, depending on capabilities, add canter to the ‘trot’ exercise or find a suitable canter exercise.
Be aware of your horse’s fitness level to ensure plenty of rest breaks (walking on a long rein) between exercises and to cool your horse down before dismounting. To cool your horse, a nice long walk may be sufficient, however on very hot days or after extreme activity you may need to dismount, hose-down and find shade. (We have included a research story on ‘the dangers of overheating horses and how to cool them off’ in the Horse Health article, which you can find in the Horse Care menu)
Following the Exercises
We will not be reproducing all of the exercises from Sarah’s book (there are just too many), instead selecting a number from each group. We will also concentrate on an individual rider rather than a group lesson – this will make the patterns easier to understand.
Our first series of animations will start with the critically important part of any training session: the warm-up. Warming your horse’s muscles, and for that matter your own, is really important if you want to avoid injuries to your horse. You are also making sure that your horse is physically and mentally ready for the lesson. Warm-up exercises should involve walk, trot and halt and may include a suitable canter pattern.
We have animated each pattern and added some tips on your riding position, aids and when you should start to prepare for a turn, corner, transition or change of flexion, however it would be a good idea to read our articles on Riders Correct Position, Paces and Footfall and Aids, which can all be found in the Training menu.
Each exercise uses various patterned lines to indicate what your horse should be doing at a particular time. There is a Key on each animation which explains this, and you can click here or on the image alongside to view a full list of the different patterns used.
To make sure you understand the exercises, we suggest you play each animation right through once to get an overall feel for what is required, then watch it as many times as you need, pausing where necessary as there can be a lot to take in.
When you are ready, just click on one of the buttons below to go to that exercise page.
About Sarah Venamore
Sarah is an internationally experienced horsewoman. She is renowned amongst her students for the clarity of her teaching, and her book, The Right Track, encapsulates the essence of her style.
She began riding when she was 16 at a trail riding school in Toowoomba, Queensland. Following a Diploma in Horse Husbandry from the University of Queensland, Sarah travelled to the United Kingdom to take up a position at the Talland School of Equitation in Cirencester. At Talland, Sarah worked for and studied under Mrs Molly Sivewright and gained her British Horse Society Assistant Instructors Certificate.
After returning home, Sarah worked for the Dalson Park Equestrian Centre in Brisbane and obtained her National Coaching Accreditation, Level 1 through Equestrian Australia (EA).
She then worked at the Highlands Equestrian Centre on the Southern Highlands of New South Wales, where she trained EFA Level 1 candidates.
After two years she began her own equestrian coaching business and continued to teach privately when the Pony Club Association of New South Wales asked her to take the role of State Dressage Coach.
While still retaining her position with the Pony Club Association she was also the manager and instructor of the equestrian facility and programme for the New England Girls School (NEGS) in Armidale, New South Wales. Sarah recently left NEGS, but continues with her roles as the State Dressage Coach for the Pony Club Association, as well as training her private students.
Her book is on EA’s recommended reading list. Sarah has now published two very successful books, The Right Track and The Right Track 11…moving forward. Sarah is greatly sort after as a Dressage coach, is internationally successful in the sport of Vaulting, and is a National Vaulting Judge.
Sarah’s books can be purchased at some saddleries or online, through equiste.com.au.