My Uberstreichen Excercises

Hi again. A week or so ago I mentioned my uberstreichen excercises and many of you wrote in asking more about them. Well, the good news is that I have just given the green light to produce a series of DVDs on how I use them. These will be coming out later in the year and in the meantime, here is a piece I wrote about how the excercises can help with dressage. Uberstreichen or more correctly, überstreichen, comes from German although there doesn't seem to be a literal translation you can use (unless you can tell us otherwise!). What I like about the exercises are that they can be used on all horses no matter what level of training they have received. The purpose of the exercise are to enhance the forward expression of the horse's gaits. They improve collected and extended gaits by giving the horse the ability to perform with ease. They support the horse's way of going by removing locked muscles while simultaneously schooling the horse to respond correctly to rein and leg aids.

The eight uberstreichen exercises are exaggerated requests of the half-halt. There are eight because they cover the different ways we want the horse to respond to the half-halt request. Half-halts to create upward and downward transitions, to increase the engagement in the same gait and/or to re-establish self-carriage or a collected frame, are just a few uses of the half-halt. The secret to a well performed half halt is how well the gas pedal and brake work in relationship to the suppling and directional aids. A good thing for a rider to remember is that a half-halt is not completed until you release the contact of the half-halt to an unlocked performance that you were wishing to establish. This is what creates elastic gaits.

I use the uberstreichen exercises on all horses, from beginner to finished schoolmaster. They have three uses. First I use them for schooling. After the horse can perform them easily I use them as warm-up exercises before riding. I can also use them as a test to find the horse's response to the rider's aids.

As schooling exercises on green horses they prepare him to respond lightly to turning, suppling and halting aids. In a step-by-step way, they teach him the meaning of rein aids in relation to the leg aids used in various forms of half halts. By separating each case scenario for how the horse should respond to the many forms of half halts, the horse acquires a better understanding of the rein and leg aids. Once the horse has learned the uberstreichen exercises, my first ride is light and forward and the horse is much more in balance than one started without this technique.

Once the horse has learned these exercises I continue to use them as daily warm ups. I also use them to evaluate horses for clients. How a horse responds lets me know the skill level and how he will perform under saddle and what needs to be developed in his training for a better performance. With an untrained horse, they give me an understanding of the horse's athletic ability, personality and trainability. If I am going to ride a strange horse, I use them to evaluate the direction of my warm-up exercises under saddle.

As a daily warm-up, I first test the horse's response to each exercise. Then I work from the ground on getting the perfect response by continuing to ask him to perform each exercise until he does so with ease. When he is soft and willing from the ground they regulate the inconsistencies in the response to the aids a horse develops during day-to-day riding. When at ease with the ground exercises, the horse is nicely to the aids before he is ridden. It cuts down time and wear and tear issues compared to under saddle warm-ups. It's amazing how well the groundwork translates to the saddle.

I will tell you more about how I use them on Thursday.

Till then, best wishes

Carolyn