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what is Dressage?

Dressage, What Is It?

The word "dressage" (pronounced or rhymes with "massage") is derived from a French term that means to train. Dressage is not only a method of how to school, but also a competitive equestrian sport.

What Order & What Does The Dressage Letters Go/Mean?

The Dressage Letters

The Dressage letters start in the North (or West) end of the short side of an arena.

The Letters start:

X Center of the Arena

The verse used to remember these letters in the correct order is:
All King Edward Horses Can Make Brown Fudge.

How do I salute before a show jumping round ?

Saluting for jumper classes

All showjumping classes require a salute before beginning. After entering the arena , face the judge, take your reins in your left hand,
Ladies: drop your right hand at your side and nod
Gents: remove and tip ur helmet

Watch and wait for acknowledgement and the start whistle or bell and YOUR OFF!

Should I wear a helmet?

Always Wear A Helmet

Always wear a helmet!

How do I perform a good posting trot?

Exercises To Perfect Posting Trot

Develop feel for your upper body in unison with horse's motion. Bend at the hip and adjust the open/close angle between thigh and upper body. This fluctuating between an open/close angle of the hip, will allow you to feel yourself ahead of, with or behind your horse's motion. If your strength is weak use crest support by placing your hands on the crest and pushing into the horse's neck. This will help to support your upper body until you develop more strength and control in your hip and waist.

What bit will make my horse stay "on the bit" consistantly?

Bits and Bitting

A bit does not make a horse work properly, proper riding does, the bit is supportive. While different horses have different mouth conformation, and different sensitivity levels that require the use of different types of bits, it is the riders responsibility to learn the horsemanship skills necessary to properly COMMUNICATE with the horse.

What are acceptable saddle pads in Hunter Classes?

Saddle Pads In Hunter Classes

Contoured/Fitted in White or Cream Saddle Pads Only are acceptable in Hunter Classes.

How To I Determine My Helmet Size?

Proper Sizing of a Helmet

To properly size a helmet, measure around the circumference of the head, about 1 inch above the eyebrow.

If you have long hair that you wear up under the helmet, be sure to do so before you measure.

That will give you your helmet size.

What pads will help if my saddle doesnt fit?

LIft Back Pad

Lift back, wither, air cushion and therapeutic pads all assist in gaining a more correct fit and balance for you, your saddle, and your horse. They can protect and or prevent back and shoulder soreness or injury when properly used. They will help you to rebalance your saddle if it does not easily fit a certain horse, allowing you to maintain proper riding position. All should be used under the initial supervision of someone familiar with each type's purpose.

how does Dressage generally help horses?

How Dressage Helps Horses

Dressage has been referred to as "classical training" because it incorporates gymnastic exercises (which are a series of movements, patterns, and up/down transitions performed at precise moments) which have been studied and improved upon for centuries. When performed systematically and correctly, the exercises will cause the horse to be supple laterally, and to respond willingly and obediently and exactly while moving freely and energetically (called impulsion) with pure gaits and eventually, to the maximum level of its personal athletic ability.

what class levels are there in jumper competition?



Jumper divisions are scored mathematically, based on penalty faults incurred between the starting line and finish line. Penalty faults include disobediences, falls, knockdowns, touches and time penalties.


Fences should be attractive, varied and appropriate to their setting. They and/or their components must be capable of being knocked down. Safety jump cups must be used in all jumper classes. A typical course consists of a minimum of eight obstacles that must include a combination (two, three or more obstacles with a maximum inner distance between them of 39'5") and permanent obstacles such as banks, ditches and water jumps.


The competitor has 45 seconds from the time the judges sound the audible signal to cross between the start markers in the proper direction and start on course until it reaches the finish line. If a refusal occurs while on course, the clock is stopped until the fence is rebuilt. Once the fence is rebuilt, the rider may continue on course, starting at the fence in which the refusal occurred. Regardless of the time, or fence in which the refusal occurred, a penalty of four seconds will be added to the time in which it takes to complete the course. The winner will be determined by the fastest time and least amount of jumping penalties in the jump off.

Jumping Faults

Knockdown of obstacle or foot in water - 4 faults
First disobedience on course - 4 faults
Exceeding Time Allowed - 1 fault for each second over
Fall of horse and/or rider - Elimination
Off course - Elimination


Junior Jumper: A horse that is ridden by an individual who has not reached his/her 18 th birthday. Courses to be set at Level 4-7.

Amateur Owner Jumpers: A horse that is ridden by an Amateur Owner or an amateur member of the owner's family. In either case, classes are restricted to riders who are no longer eligible to compete as junior exhibitors. Leased horses are not eligible, and multiple ownership is not permitted unless all owners are members of the same family. In addition, horse/rider combinations may not have competed within the previous 60 days at the International level. Horse/rider combinations that compete in the amateur owner jumpers (low or high) are not eligible for any jumper classes offering $25,000 or more in prize money at the same competition that is not an amateur class. Courses to be set at Level 4-7.

Children's Jumpers: To be ridden by exhibitors who have not reached their 18 th birthday by December 1 of the current competition year. Not to exceed Level 4. May be combined with Adult Jumpers. Please refer to the current Zone Specifications for further information.

Adult Amateur Jumpers: To be ridden by exhibitors who are no longer eligible to compete as junior exhibitors. All exhibitors must be amateurs in accordance with General Rules, Article 808 and must show U.S Equestrian amateur certification. Fences not to exceed Level 4. Please refer to the current Zone Specifications for further information.

Pony Jumpers: A pony, 14.2 hands and under in height, that is ridden by an individual who has not reached his/her 18 th birthday. Stallions are prohibited in Pony Jumpers. A measurement card is required for this division. Riders competing in any Pony Jumper section cannot compete in any other sections at the same competition in which they are required to jump fences higher than 3'6".

Preliminary Jumper: A horse's preliminary status begins when it first competes in a Jumper class offering prize money and continues for not less than two calendar years from that date regardless of money won. In addition, the horse must win at least $5000 in jumper classes that are not restricted to horses under six years of age before graduation to Intermediate status.

Intermediate Jumper: A horse, upon attaining Intermediate status, shall retain that status for at least two calendar years regardless of money won. In addition, the horse must have won at least $10,000 since attaining Intermediate status before graduating to Open status. If a horse that has lost its eligibility for the Intermediate section wins less than $5,000. in a subsequent year, it amy return to the Intermediate section until it wins a total of $5,000. including the winnings of the previous year.

Five Year Old Jumper: Open to horses with paper indicating a foaling date five years previous to the current calendar year. Courses to be set at Level 4 (Level 5 permitted after June 1 st ).

Six Year Old Jumper: Open to horses with papers indicating a foaling date six years previous to the current calendar year. Horses competing in classes restricted to Six Year Olds may not have ever shown in Open Jumper Classes offering $25,000 or more in prize money. Courses to be set at Level 5 (Level 6 permitted after June 1 st ).

Seven/Eight Year Old Jumper: Open to horses with papers indicating a foaling date seven or eight years previous to the current calendar year. Horses competition in classes restricted to Seven/Eight Year Olds may not have ever shown in Jumper Classes offering $25,000 or more in prize money at the International Level (classes restricted to horses under 8 years of age or under excluded). Courses to be at Level 6 or Level 7.

is Dressage a low risk riding discipline?

Dressage, Rewards & Low Level Risk

This disciplined and methodical approach to riding also gives a great sense of satisfaction to the rider. The pursuit of personal harmony with the horse is what continues to attract people in record numbers to this classical tradition of equestrian sport; not to mention the low risk when compared to the hazards that can occur with Jumping.

What Happens Should I Loose My Reins?

Better Be Safe Than Sorry!

Take a stirrup leather and run the end thru as for stirrups, then using Duct Tape, tape the end securely and slip it over your horse's neck for a quick grab neck strap in case of a riding emergency. This is a great beginner jumping assist as well.

What is the benefit of trotting poles for beginners?

Balance From Trotting Poles

Trotting Poles or grids on the ground, will develop both balance, timing and eye for both horse and rider. This is imperitive if you are ever to progress to even jumping small obstacles.

what makes up dressage?

Dressage, An Introduction

In the world of Equine sports, athletes are called upon to combine the strength of ability and the artistry of ballet, to demonstrate the discipline of dressage.

How do I know I am riding with my horse´s motion?

Riding With The Horse's Motion

Riding with your horse's motion, will create total harmony/unity between horse/rider center of gravity. Visually portrays elegance, harmony and smoothness. You can subtly collect, or extend each stride.

How can I tell if someone is using the horse´s mouth for balance?

Balancing On Your Hands

When your upper body is using your hands for balance, it is evident to everyone that is watching you ride. The rider produces a rigid extension of the upper body as you post, which causes the rider to "bang" the horse in the mouth with the bit.

If our trainer/coach is selecting our horse, how valued is temperment?

Top Show Temperments

Top Show Temperments must include the following:
willingness, cooperative, agreeable, sensible, reliable, consistant, enjoyment of the work being done.

Equal balance between confidence, relaxation & stress is the basic foundation of showing success.

How valuable is the temperment of an Eventing Horse?

Top Show Temperments

Top Show Temperments must include the following:
willingness, cooperative, agreeable, sensible, reliable, consistant, bold, confident, energetic, enjoyment of the work being done.

Equal balance between confidence, relaxation & stress is the basic foundation of showing success.

How can I know if I use the horse´s mouth for balance?

Problems From Balancing On The Horse's Mouth

Horses at the canter or sitting trot will not stay in a frame with a rider that is balancing on their mouth. The horse will elevate his head/neck and hollow the back, eventually becoming stiff and tense. This will dramatically worsen over fences~!

How does Dressage challenge and develop the Rider?

Rider Challenges & Development

Developing these skills of perfection and refinement, is a never-ending challenge that requires self-discipline within the Rider. Dressage is not a "quick fix" approach to training any horse, but it is a solid foundation which will cause the horse to be strong, supple, and a pleasure to ride.

what is the origin of Dressage?

Dressage, The Origins

The basic doctrine of classical horsemanship was first recorded in a book by Greek General Xenophon around 400 B.C.

When do I change lead or diagonal when changing rein?

Changeing Rein

In Dressage, whenever you are changing rein, if it is on the modified circle (teardrop) or through the center of the arena (at "X"), you will make the change in your post (diagonal) or in the change of the lead of the horse always at the moment that is closest to the point of "X".

what is the history of Dressage?

Dressage, The History

This horsemanship was further developed by Royalty of Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries. The Spanish Riding School in Vienna, Austria, with its white Lipizzan stallions, is perhaps the most familiar institution dedicated exclusively to the classical art of riding, or Dressage. While once only an activity pursued by royalty, today Dressage has developed into a discipline and competitive sport accessible to all horses and riders.

B4 asking for collection, what must the horse know first?

Pre Checks Before Teaching Collection

Establish a rhythm in each gait.
Establish a supple bend to either side (can be assisted by lungeing).
Contact must be relaxed through the neck, throat, back while the horse is moving INTO the bit.
Horse must move straight, evenly on both sides. The rear quarters must propell the front in a straight and direct path.
Impulsion must be active in the rear quarters.

In Collection, the rear must be able to drop in order to elevate or to animate the front end.

Is It Different To Ride A Gaited Horse?

How To Comfortably Ride A Gaited Horse

Yes, riding a "Gaited Horse" is completely different from riding a "normal" walk/trot/canter.

With a "Gaited Horse" the motion is lateral. Which means if you use your legs to grip AT ALL, you will move laterally with the horse, which will quite literally toss you from side to side.

You have to relearn to ride by balance, with "what will feel like no grip whatsoever~!!!"

Sit in the saddle (I will assume that you have a Western Saddle) and apply the weight of your body in an equal tripod....the tripod will be each of your feet, and your seat. Now practise just sitting there with NO grip in your legs, letting your legs hang at the sides of the horse RELAXED, LOOSE, W/O TENSION OR GRIP, and simply applying the weight of your body equally between each foot and your seat. "Think of your legs as more the conductors of the equal distribution of your weight, rather than a means in which to wrap around the horse and grip as much as is necessary to stay in position...or with the motion of the horse as is done in hunter/jumpers or western."

As the horse moves in the "gaited" motion, allow the horses' body to move freely between your legs, don't try to move with the motion, or you will start to toss and roll; but let your leg be relaxed, and allow the horse to simply move as is necessary to engage his/her gait. It does feel really, really weird at first. Once you learn to relax, more and more and more, you will simply sit back, balance between your three points, and allow the horse to move you along.

The reason that you toss & roll is that the horse's body is moving from side to side in order to move forward, and when you grip, you move from side to side as well, because the gripping with your legs, will have you follow the motion, rather than sitting back, relaxing, and allowing the horse to move.

That is why the Old Timers in the South LOVED the Plantation Horse, the rider simply sits back and relaxes, while the horse is working. Whereas riding (especially Hunter/Jumpers or western) the rider works in keeping with the horses' motion in order to not be left behind or thrown ahead....just to stay centered in the saddle.

The faster a gaited horse goes, the more you relax in your tripod balance.

how does Dressage improve the Rider´s abilities?

Dressage Improves The Rider

The gradual, logical progression of exercises not only leads to an obedient, balanced horse, but it also improves the Rider's seat, coordination, and feel of their horse. The rider communicates with the horse by a subtle shifting of weight, the right amount of leg pressure, and specific, yet subtle hand signals to the horse's mouth through the reins. To ride in harmony with the horse, the rider must follow the horse's movement with the seat and back, yet maintain elegant upright posture and quiet, independent legs, seat and hands.

How To Correctly Ride Behind The Motion of a Horse In Training

How To Ride Behind The Motion of The Horse

To be behind the motion of the horse, sit deeply in the saddle, square your shoulders, lean backwards, shift your center of gravity so that you can feel you are behind the horses' center of gravity; brace your back to give strength to your hands and add power to your half halts.

What Is Longitudinal Balance?

Longitudinal Balance

Longitudinal Balance is the horse's balance as it relates to the fore and rear quarters. How the horse engages the rear quarters in development and utilization of the rear in order to provide impulsion, that is required for any forward movement, for any and all disciplines.

Longitudinal is referred to how the horse engages his rear quarters and to what degree he extends his forequarters to receive the rear power or impulsion.

B4 I ask my horse 4 collection, what must I make sure he knows how to?

Pre Checks Before Moving Onto Collection

Establish a rhythm in each gait.
Establish a supple bend to either side (can be assisted by lungeing).
Contact must be relaxed through the neck, throat, back while the horse is moving INTO the bit.
Horse must move straight, evenly on both sides. The rear quarters must propell the front in a straight and direct path.
Impulsion must be active in the rear quarters.

In Collection, the rear must be able to drop in order to elevate or to animate the front end.

How Do I Develp/Train My Horse To Improve The Longitudinal Balance?

How To Develop Longitudinal Balance

The beginnings of the development of longitudinal balance is in use of up and down transitions: such as walk--trot--walk--canter--halt--walk--trot--collected walk--extended canter--collected trot--(I think you understand the use!??)

Start with ten (10) strides at each gait, then after a few weeks of practice, shorten to 7 strides, after a few weeks, shorten to 5 strides at each gait, then 3 and eventually down to 2 strides. This should take place over a minimum of six months of time in frame of the reduction of strides.

And, always remember, once the horse is showing frustration, or reluctance, then move on to extended movements, performed at only one gait several revolutions of the entire arena, while staying on track. Don't burn out the mind of your horse with these up and down transitions, or you will burn out your horse from wanting to learn and develop more balance, perhaps only with you~!

What are the English Bridle Sizes?

Sizes of English Bridles

English Bridles come in Pony, Cob, Horse, Draft or Warmblood or XLarge. This is a progression in size from small to the largest. Measure around the muzzle about 1" below the horse's cheek to find the circumference of the noseband. Measure from the center of the poll down the side of the face to the edge of the lip for the length of the cheek piece and for the overall choice of bridle size.

What Is The Difference In Posting Position Between Dressage & Hunters?

Hunt Seat Rider's Posting

Hunter Seat Riders post with a more closed angle to the hip and the knee, 'causing them to be slightly more forward in upper body position as they post. They appear slightly forward of the horse's motion, but in actuality are not!

How Do I Get The Correct Leads, Before/After Each Fence?

Getting The Correct Leads

To have a horse get the correct take off, and the correct lead upon landing you must only look in the direction of the next fence when you are within three strides of the current fence. If you look at anything else from within three strides of the fence in which you are preparing to jump, you will throw off your horse's sense of direction, and his sense of balance.

I guarantee, once your horse knows that he can trust your new sense of direction by your following this rule of thumb, your horse will get the correct lead every time before and after each fence. Once your horse knows that he can trust your eyes to lead him, you can begin to half halt on the leading rein to the fence following the fence that you are about to jump.

Do not begin using the half halt for at least a month after you are sure that your horse is following the directional lead of your eyes.

Posting With The Motion of a Horse is done how?

Posting Ahead of The Horse's Motion

Your upper body is ever so slightly ahead of the vertical at the trot. Close the hip angle only so much as to keep balanced as you post. Let your horse thrust you, up and forward from his rhythm, instead of driving from a push of your seat and contact. Let the horse do the work of the thrust forward and/or up, relaxing into HIS motion, not your creation of motion.

Can Riding Behind The Motion Ever Be Beneficial?

Benefits of Riding Behind The Motion

Sometimes riding behind the motion is to the rider's advantage. Riding behind the motion can be used to keep from being unseated by naughty, fresh or green horses; heavy mouthed horses or horses heavy on the forehand can be rebalanced and brought into some collection by riding behind the motion.

What are some practise exercises to do to develop balance & strength?

Correcting Balancing With Your Hands

To correct riding by balancing the upper body with the hands on the mouth of the horse: practise exercises on a lunge line. Riding with no hands, performing these exercises. Fold hands across the chest; hold arms straight in the air above the head; hold arms straight out to the sides; place arms behind the back (will really help to keep the rider behind the motion~!); place hands on hips; turn body 45 degrees and swing arms in rotation....reverse and turn the opposite angle; put hands on back of head; extend arms straight ahead at shoulder height. Practise these at the walk, then trot, then canter. Each gait will improve the upper body strength as you gradually progress the gait. Once you can do these easily, then add first one, then two, then three, finally four trotting poles; eventually progressing to cavalletti's or small 1' to 2' jumps; still on the lunge line.

What would happen if I post ahead of my horse´s motion?

Perils of Riding Ahead of The Motion

When you ride ahead of the motion it places you in a vulnerable position, you are riding with out balance. You are literally riding ahead of your horse. Should your horse spook or stop suddenly, you will likely be dumped in the dust~!

what does Dressage combine and require?

Dressage, What it does

Requiring the power and precision of gymnastics, and the grace and imperception of the moves of ballet, dressage challenges both rider and horse in mental preparation as well as physical strength, ability and agility.

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Joe Wallace