101 Dressage Exercises for Horse & Rider


By Jec Aristotle Ballou

Foreword by Lisa Wilcox

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This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around December 27, 2022. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.

Dressage is the ultimate achievement of oneness between horse and rider. Featuring a full arena diagram and step-by-step instructions for each exercise, this sturdy book is designed to allow the rider to hang it on a hook and refer to it from the saddle. You’ll learn how to improve your riding position; master looseness, balance, and suspension; and perfect flying changes as you work toward dressage success. 


The mission of Storey Publishing is to serve our customers by
publishing practical information that encourages
personal independence in harmony with the environment.

Edited by Sue Ducharme and Lisa Hiley
Art direction and design by Vicky Vaughn
Text production by Kristy MacWilliams
Cover photograph by © Bob Langrish
Interior photographs by © Sharon Fibelkorn xii, 1, 16, 41, 64, 65, 123, 143, 161, 171, 186, 194, 195;
© Shawn Hamilton/CLIX Photography vi, 17, 90, 91, 170, 187; © Bob Langrish 40, 122, 142, 160;
PhelpsPhotos©.com ii
Illustrations by Bethany Caskey
Arena diagrams by Chuck Galey
Indexed by Susan Olason

© 2005 by Jec Aristotle Ballou

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced without written permission from the publisher, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages or reproduce illustrations in a review with appropriate credits; nor may any part of this book be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means — electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or other — without written permission from the publisher.

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Printed in the United States by Versa Press
10 9 8 7 6

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Ballou, Jec Aristotle.

101 dressage exercises for horse and rider / by Jec Aristotle Ballou.

p. cm.

Includes index.

ISBN 978-1-58017-595-1 (pbk. : alk. paper)

1. Dressage. I. Title: One hundred one dressage exercies for horse and

rider. II. Title.

SF309.5B33 2005








1. The Oval

2. Needlepoint

3. Go and Whoa

4. Turns and Forward Movement

5. In-hand Turn on the Forehand

6. In-hand Rein-back

7. In-hand Flexion


8. Little Trot Transitions

9. Bending the Neck

10. Walking Ground Poles

11. Walking Ground Poles with Bending

12. Moving around a Point

13. Turns on the Square A

14. Turns on the Square B

15. Flex, Counter-flex

16. The Ackerman Square

17. Leg-yield to Canter

18. Rein-back Figure Eights


19. Serpentines without Walls

20. Holding the Line

21. Transitions with a Bend

22. Serpentines with a Bend

23. Changing Frames

24. Circle and Canter

25. Moving the Shoulders

26. Shoulder-in on Quarter Line

27. Threading Lateral Work

28. Maneuvering

29. Shoulder-in to Counter-shoulder-in


30. Centering

31. The Pendulum

32. Carrying a Tray

33. Hip Slides

34. Strong Legs

35. Work without Stirrups

36. Leg Flippers A

37. Leg Flippers B

38. Leg Flippers C

39. Bicycle

40. Pulling Your Knees Up

41. Passing Overhead


42. Keeping One Bend

43. Leg-yield to Counter Circles

44. Leg-yield to Counter Circles Variation

45. Leg-yield Staircase

46. Changing Angles

47. Leg-yield to Canter Depart

48. Leg-yield to Canter Depart with Circle

49. Leg-yield to Canter Depart, Inside Track

50. Leg-yield to Canter Depart with Direction Changes

51. Leg-yield Pinwheels

52. Half-pass Staircase

53. Half-pass to Leg-yield on a Straight Line

54. Half-pass to Counter-shoulder-in

55. Half-pass on a Circle

56. Half-pass to Renvers


57. Cowboy Figure Eight

58. Transitions on a Serpentine

59. Transitions on a Square

60. Canter Leg-yields

61. Miles of Counter-canter

62. Leg-yield from Outside Leg

63. Leg-yield to Smaller Circle

64. True Canter to Counter-canter

65. Pirouettes and Counter-canter


66. Trotting Ground Poles

67. Trotting Ground Poles on an Oval

68. Trotting Ground Poles with Transitions

69. Trotting Ground Poles with Reverse

70. Opening the Topline

71. Fore and Aft

72. One-stride Transitions

73. Cantering Ground Poles


74. Diagonal to Haunches-in

75. Using the Voice A

76. Using the Voice B

77. Canter/Counter-canter Transition


78. Walk/Halt Transitions

79. Transitions with a Sidestep

80. Rein-back with Lateral Steps

81. Walk/Halt/Rein-back Transitions

82. Collecting off the Leg

83. Inside and Outside

84. 10-10-10


85. Building Power

86. Counter-shoulder-in to Lengthening

87. Short Canter Lengthening


88. Submission

89. Belly Lifts

90. Neck Loosening

91. Carrot Stretch A

92. Carrot Stretch B

93. Carrot Stretch C

94. Tail Pulls

95. Hind Leg Stretches

96. Trail Riding

97. Free Jumping a Cross Rail

98. Free Jumping Two Cross Rails

99. Sloping Terrain

100. Straight Hills

101. Hill with Transitions




Few sports require skill and fitness from two individuals working as partners to create one harmonious image. Classical dressage brings man and horse together, performing with power and grace in an effortless series of movements, with a nearly invisible means of communication, like seasoned dance partners.

We communicate with the horse through our seat, and we can influence him by being exact in our position and the use of our aids. Our equine partner is developed athletically through a series of time-honored exercises and movements that systematically improve muscular strength and suppleness. It requires strict self-discipline for the rider to learn to control his or her own body, and patience to allow the time necessary for the horse to develop his muscles properly. Shortcuts for either partner can manifest as frustration, particularly for the horse, who may experience fatigue, stiffness, or injury and is often misunderstood as he expresses this.

This book illustrates the exercises that are incorporated into training the dressage horse. Trainers may favor one exercise over another through their own experience, but it is ultimately the rider who is responsible for his or her own education. Having a broader understanding of the classic principles of dressage through these exercises will help the rider develop the skill and feel necessary to develop a harmonious partnership with the horse.

Team Bronze Medal 2004 Olympics, Individual Silver Medal 2003 European Championships, Team Silver Medal 2002 World Equestrian Games


Like any athlete, a horse needs at least a few minutes to reach optimal performance level. Too many riders expect their horses to perform perfectly from the second they hop on. That isn’t fair.

Your horse can give you his best only if you have prepared his muscles and ligaments with a focused warm-up. Younger horses typically warm up and stretch out pretty quickly, while a more seasoned horse may need extra time to become loose and free in his movements. You’ll know your warm-up has done its job when you feel your horse begin to take bigger strides, move forward more willingly, and chew on the bit. Discover which exercises in this chapter work best for your horse, notice how long it takes to achieve the full benefit of each exercise, and then execute the exercise for that amount of time. Use these exercises regularly, or use them as inspiration to come up with your own warm-up plans.

This chapter includes some in-hand exercises. It is helpful to use a ground person or an instructor for these at first, but do try to master them so you can incorporate in-hand work into your regular repertoire. It is invaluable in making a horse more gymnastic without the burden of a rider. Furthermore, ground exercises can help develop the horse-human relationship by building trust and submission and by keeping a horse sharp on the aids.

The Oval

How do I ride this?

1 Ride at an energetic working trot on the long sides of your oval, and then downshift to a slower trot through the top and bottom of your oval.

2 Round off your corners; don’t ride deeply into them on the short ends of the arena.

3 As you come out of the bends at the top and bottom of the oval, put your leg on and ask your horse for more energy all the way down the long side.

Keep in mind

Imagine the arena as a large oval, without corners. Ride around this giant egg in a rising trot.

Maintain a steady rhythm in both trots and make precise transitions at the same designated place on the oval each time. See how extreme you can make the two trots (a big, forward trot on the long side and a tiny, slow trot on the short ends).





This pattern loosens your horse while the repetitive nature of the exercise helps both of you focus and prepare for engaged work.

Key     Needlepoint

How do I ride this?

1 Tracking right at a sitting trot, ride a teardrop (half volte) at B, returning to the track at M.

2 Proceed to a 15-meter circle at C.

3 Ride another teardrop at E, returning to the track at H. Proceed to another 15-meter circle at C.

4 Repeat the above sequence, starting from step 1. Work for 10-15 minutes in both directions.

Keep in mind

Ride deep, square corners in the short ends of the arena. Maintain a steady working trot and make each figure the same size every time. Strive to make your figures perfect and accurate.



Go and Whoa


This warm-up loosens your horse’s body and prepares him to be on your aids throughout your workout.

Key     Go and Whoa

How do I ride this?

1 Begin in an energetic working walk around the edge of the arena. Halt at A, remaining totally immobile for six seconds.

2 Trot around the edge of the arena two full times and halt again at A for six seconds.

3 Canter twice around a 20-meter circle, halting again at A for six seconds.

4 Repeat the above sequence in both directions until your horse feels limber and responsive.

Keep in mind

Maintain energy in each gait, keeping your horse active and attentive. You want to develop free and forward gaits punctuated by submissive and balanced halts.

In the halts, ensure that your horse is 100 percent obedient and standing still. The long halts remind him to balance himself after a stretch of moving forward in each particular gait, ensuring that he does not run on the forehand.

Fixing the Fidgets



Turns and Forward Movement


This exercise limbers your horse while bringing him sharply on to your aids, preparing him to stay tuned to your signals throughout your workout.


On Sale
Dec 27, 2022
Page Count
240 pages

Jec Aristotle Ballou

Jec Aristotle Ballou

About the Author

Jec Ballou is the author of  101 Western Dressage Exercises for Horse & Rider101 Dressage Exercises for Horse & Rider, and Equine Fitness. She is a national advisor to the Western Dressage Association of America and contributed to the current rules for the sport. She teaches clinics across the United States. She lives in Santa Cruz, California.

Learn more about this author