Miniature Horses and small ponies can be just as athletic as their full-sized counterparts. We often see them driven or performing tricks, but believe it or not, they can also be taught all the high school dressage movements. Practicing dressage in hand is not only great fun for both Mini and handler, it also conditions even the smallest horse to be in top shape, while promoting self-carriage and beautiful motion.
For example, a Mini can be trained to perform half, whole, or double pirouettes at the walk or canter. In this movement his forehand circles around the hindquarters, which turn in a much smaller circle.
Why: The pirouette entails a very high degree of collection—so this is a good movement to aim for during training.
Training the Movement: This movement is best schooled on the long reins so you can control the hindquarters.
1. Prepare for a pirouette by asking for frequent walk-canter-walk transitions while in haunches-in on a circle.
2. Then, gradually decrease the circle’s size while in haunches-in until it becomes a pirouette. (This method works well at either walk or canter.)
The Mini should be bent and flexed in the direction of travel and his canter should remain “uphill” and rhythmic. After performing a pirouette, you should be able to move him smoothly onto a straight path. If a loss of rhythm occurs at any point, immediately move your Mini out of the pirouette into a more forward canter.
Mistakes to Watch For: You often see a loss of rhythm; insufficient bend and flexion; a Mini “throwing” himself around in a circle; the inside hind stepping too short under his body; pivoting on the inside hind leg; or the haunches falling out. When this happens, move out of the pirouette, re-establish the correct rhythm, bend, flexion, contact, and impulsion, and then try again.