If you saw Tangle’s Tuesday Tip, you’ll remember Tangle saying: “Make use of poles and/or cones to help explain new movements so they are easier to ride correctly!”
And that’s exactly what we’re doing here. The Spring Rabbit tests were introduced last year, and the movement used to create the rabbit ears is an interesting one (it appears in BD Prelim 2, for anyone ready to step up from our levels) that isn’t always the easiest to explain. So, we’ve used poles* to guide the rider on the correct path.
I used six poles to set this exercise up, but if you don’t have as many poles, you can replace the ones at K and F with cones. I like to use poles because if the rider does get it wrong, the pony can just step over a pole on the ground – unlike a cone which they may swerve to avoid knocking! Either poles or cones/blocks will produce much the same result, so just use whatever you have available – if you don’t have any poles at all then you can even replace the four poles around X with two simple cones (either side of X on the centre line, with a gap wide enough for your pony and rider to pass through comfortably)
There are two key points to remember to maximise your marks when riding this movement.
The first – and we cannot stress this enough – start by riding a decent corner! In fact if there was one ‘take home’ piece of advice to span ALL Demi Dressage tests (and indeed, all schooling full stop) it would be to ride those corners!
Riding a good corner maximises the time and space available to you to set up the next part of the movement or exercise that you are working on. Corners – if ridden well - also naturally help put the ponies onto the correct aids – inside leg to outside rein. They can be used to regulate the rhythm, and a well-ridden corner is like a mini-gym exercise for your pony, as they use their inside hind stepping under correctly to balance and take their weight.
Obviously layer all this up depending on the age/stage of your rider – for the lower levels, just focus on getting them to ride an accurate line as deep as they can into the corners of the school. Note that most riders round them off too much!
Secondly, try to think of this ‘rabbit ear’ movement as a turn (first corner), a straight line (off the track on the diagonal to X), a turn (from the diagonal line over X to the centre line) and a final straight line (from X to C). Breaking it down into four separate parts like this will help ensure straightness and accuracy, and boost those marks!
You’ll note in the video that MiniD doesn’t yet use enough outside leg on Maisie when she is turning around the poles at K or F to bring her off the track onto the diagonal line – so Maisie swings quite wide (particularly the first one, off the left rein at F, Maisie’s stiffer rein!) before she straightens to X. You can use a pair of poles at the corner markers to create a channel which will help focus the rider to stay on the right line – but as MiniD is only young, and only just getting used to a bigger pony, this is currently a step too far. She’d lose some accuracy marks for this movement – but she maintains an active trot around the corners which at this stage is more valuable.
*Remember that you cannot have the poles in place for your actual filmed dressage test – they are purely a valuable training aid.