Enjoy Your Training with Sophie Wells

Sophie-wells-1In this article we catch up with Black Country Saddles sponsored dressage rider, Sophie Wells MBE for some top training tips as we go into the winter months.


  • Dressage is not just for dressage horses and riders – All horses can benefit from dressage, keeping them supple, flexible, moving easily and in harmony with their rider.
  • Working-in for a workout – Dressage is gymnastics for horses so if you don’t warm up correctly injuries can occur when you start the more complex work. Try walking for around 10 minutes to start with, encouraging your horse to work long and round, stretching the muscles in front of, and behind, the saddle.
  • Stretching off muscles – Encourage your horse to stretch regularly throughout training sessions to help him relax, reducing tension that comes with repeating individual movements. This can be achieved by lengthening the rein, lowering your hands and squeezing and releasing the rein to gently massage the bit in the horse’s mouth.
  • Mixing it up – Dressage may be your thing but try mixing up training sessions with some hacking and jumping to help keep your horse interested….. And more importantly for you, relax and have some fun!
  • Hill work – Hacking up hills can help with fitness and developing and strengthening muscles.
  • The Saddle – I ride in the Vinici Dressage Saddle from Black Country Saddles. I am very fortunate to be sponsored by Black Country Saddles who provide me with their bespoke, made to measure saddles that are simply the best. The team understand what I need and I work very closely with them when designing and developing a saddle for me and my horses.
  • Repeat, repeat, repeat! – Dressage is about repetition so once again make sure your training is varied. Repeating exercises over and over again until it becomes a natural movement for the horse is what we do, but if things aren’t going too well and the horse becomes upset or less responsive try some other movements. You can always come back to it later, it’s all about dedication!
  • Rhythm and balanceSophie-wells-2Two very important aspects of dressage. To help you maintain a rhythm while training sing a song in your head while you ride. For balance try using lots of half-halts before you ask for any other movement which will steady him and allow him to naturally find his balance.
  • Working the trot – Try lots of transitions from trot to canter and canter to trot. This will help improve your trot work making your horse carry more weight on his hind quarters.
  • Achieving Self-Carriage – To help get your horse to carry his head and neck ask for a few lengthened strides before coming back to a working pace. Keep repeating this until he achieves good self carriage.
  • Mirror, Mirror on the wall… – Mirrors situated around the school are one of the best training aids. You can see exactly what your horse looks like and you can also have a look at your own position.
  • Reward with a Treat – A great treat to reward your horse during training is sugar lumps. They encourage the horse to drool a bit and he will become lighter in the hand.
  • Standing Square – A good square halt on the centre line is something that is often overlooked but is something that we should train for. Teach your horse to always stand square even when you are mounting and dismounting.
  • Cool down – A cool down is just as important as a warm up and help prevent stiffness and injury. Gradually slow the pace winding down, especially if you have been practising any complex movements. Your horse should be feeling tired so let him stretch out in walk for a good 10 minutes or so.


Telephone: 01543 578 243 Web: www.blackcountrysaddles.com

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