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Staying Straight on the Centre Line - Week 1!

This month, we are focussing on that all-important straightness on the centre line.

Our school is only 20x40m, so a lot of the time I find myself laying out poles on the centre line, and this led me to realise MiniD was practising straight centre lines without even realising it!

There are at least two centre lines (first movement and last movement) in every dressage test - so it pays to practise them! They are the first and last impression the judge will have of you - and in Demi Dressage tests we almost always break the marks down into at least two parts on your final centre line (the line itself, and the halt/salute) so riding them well can really boost your marks - it is often here that we see 8's and even 9's!

So we start off with a quirky new year layout (ten poles to make the numbers 23) and over the next few weeks we'll move on to show you some of our favourite centre line layouts. For these layouts we do tend to use more poles than in the previous two months (where I have tried to keep the number to a minimum to allow as many people as possible to take part with limited equipment) - if you have 8 to 12 poles you should be okay, and you can always adapt the layouts as needed. For example this week, the important poles were the six on the centre line - the additional four just made the numbers 23 for interest (we did use them for our warm up shapes).

A good centre line can be broken down into essentially three parts - the turn onto it, the line itself, and the turn off it. Sadly as you'll see in the video below, our school is still flooded down at the C end (and our yard owner prefers us not to ride through the puddles) we have had to cut off that end, meaning MiniD's turns were sometimes quite abrupt after the poles. Hopefully this won't be a continuing theme for all of January's exercises!

This is a pretty simple layout, I hope using the extra poles to make the sides of the 2 and the 3 adds a bit of fun. By January, we're often all feeling a little jaded with winter and mud and wind and rain, so we need those extra incentives to ride!

The lengths of the poles makes the distances for the numbers. As you can see in the video this is a pretty forgiving distance for ponies - mostly Maisie gets three steps of trot in each gap (our poles are 10ft) but occasionally she is a little more open in her stride and gets two in. Smaller ponies like Tangle might get four - but it doesn't really matter, as the poles are spaced far enough to allow them time to think, and to make mistakes. Maisie did actually trip in one of the lines (not in the vid) and being pretty quick and clever with her feet, she popped a tiny canter bounce over the next pole to re-organise her legs and return to trot for the last one.

You will see I have left just a single trot pole distance between the bottom of the 2 and the top of the 3. My ponies are all really experienced with polework, so this variation of distance between the poles is just another 'tool' to give them something to think about. In the final clip where we have the poles raised on our Kublox you can see how this works really well for Maisie as (in MiniD's words here!) she 'sort of half-halted herself' over the single step distance. However, if your ponies (and/or riders) are not experienced with polework, please add more space. You'll still get the benefits of the exercise, but you'll keep everybody safe by not over-facing them with unexpected distances.

It's important to remember when riding centre lines that not only do you need to ride straight, you need to halt straight for your final salute too! Maisie often has Opinions about this, and MiniD is only just learning how to channel her into a straight halt using her legs (the wind didn't help ;) ) So those are a bit wobbly - but that's why we're practising.

The other important thing to remember when riding this layout (all our centre line layouts...) is to make sure you work evenly off both reins. In a dressage test, you can choose which rein you enter off, and it makes sense to turn in off your pony's best rein, to set your centre line up for success. However, if you only ever ride your centre line turns off your best rein (MiniD says Maisie's is her left...) then your good rein will get better - but your less good rein won't! Ideally we want our ponies to be as even as possible, so that there is very little difference between turning off the left rein or the right rein.

The layout is fairly self-explanatory, but here it is anyway. We used a total of ten poles (and yes it is sad I didn't have a fifth purple one for the centre of the 3!)

We finished our session by raising some of the poles with our new Kublox TrotBlox, which had been lurking in my car since their Black Friday sale. These little blocks are so handy, and much safer than many alternative pole raisers. I did nearly lose them to the wind when getting them out of the box...! They are very light!! But once under the poles, they are nice and stable, and lift the poles just enough for our needs <3

Don't forget we're kicking off our 2023 season of online dressage tests now, with our Christmas Stocking Dressage closing this Sunday 8th January. Perfect timing to put those centre lines into practise!

And if you can't wait that long for a rosette, remember you can buy special Weekly Winter Workout rosettes from just £4 in our online shop here: This is a limited order, so once they're gone, they're gone!

Finally, remember there is no charge for taking part in these polework exercises - we put them together to share with you all and hopefully give our page something to make the algorithm happy! So please do like, comment, share to help the posts get seen - and add your own photos/videos to our Facebook feed, or use the tag #demidressagepolework Have fun! :D

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