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Dressage Dissected

Updated: Nov 30, 2022

This week I was excited to be back at Horses Inside Out HQ for the final filming day for Gillian Higgins’ upcoming Live Lecture Demonstration Webinars.


The day’s focus was ‘Dressage Dissected’ and this is part 3 of the new series.


As I arrived at Wavendon Grange (Gillian’s home and base for Horses Inside Out) the painting of the horses was well underway. I was unfortunately running late due to a car malfunction.


Inside Gillian’s amazing new classroom environment were her 17hh ISH Arty and a gorgeous bay gelding I had not met before, which turned out to be Hans, belonging to dressage rider and coach Lili Brooksby-Dalby.


gillian higgins horses inside out painting process on horse

Lili herself was also there helping with the painting. And Lili and Hans were to be the horse and rider combination in today’s demo.


gillian higgins horses inside out volunteers painting process horse

Lili is based in Leicestershire, so quite local to Horses Inside out. Hans Solo is her 9 year old KWPN Gelding, currently working at Prix St George (dressage level).


There were also 3 other volunteers helping with the day, including a fellow Equine Massage Therapist and a Vet Physio student.



Gillian often reaches out for volunteers to help with demos. If you would like to register to be a volunteer at any future demos you can do so here.


gillian higgins horses inside out fine tuning the painting process  of muscles finishing touches

gillian higgins horses inside out painting arty muscle chains


Today we were painting Arty with a combination of parts of the skeleton along with some of the extensor and flexor chain muscles and on the other side again some skeletal parts along with some of the deeper muscles including Iliopsoas (if you want to learn more about Iliopsoas Gillian has a whole book an online course on this here).


This was a new design I had not seen Gillian paint before so was fascinating to see and be a part of.


gillian higgins horses inside out painting process thoracic sling muscles


Hans was painted with skeletal parts and also the Nuchal Ligament and some of the extensor and flexor chain muscles. Of course with Hans we had to leave space for his saddle to sit ready for the ridden demonstration.


This was also a design I had not helped paint before. I am always amazed by Gillian’s artistic flair and the way she can help make the anatomy of the horse come to life.



The webinar itself was to be filmed in 2 parts:


1. Anatomy and Biomechanical relationships relating to dressage


2. Ridden session – Biomechanical principles related to the scales of training


Part one was filmed with myself and Lili in-hand with Arty and Hans.

Gillian asked us to position and move the horses in certain ways so that she could explain the importance of some of their body parts, and the way those body part move in relation to dressage training.


gillian higgins horses inside out filming

In this lecture demonstration you can learn about:


  • How the position of the base of the horse’s neck, back and hindlimb is as important as the poll being at the highest point

  • Where the horse’s head needs to be positioned in order for them to have optimum lateral and longitudinal flexion at the poll, as well as a clear demonstration of the anatomy of the poll and how the bones in this area move

  • Common compensation patterns at the poll and how to avoid them

  • The mid neck and how much range of motion each part of the neck has

  • The importance of the base of the neck and how this relates to having the nose on the vertical and an open gullet

  • The importance of some of the soft tissue in the neck area such as the Nuchal Ligament and Longus Colli

  • How the back moves and which parts are most and least mobile

  • The importance of good back posture for dressage

  • Back position and the relationship to hind limb movement

  • The muscular effort required for collected work

  • The importance of flexion of the hindlimbs and lumbosacral junction


And that’s just part 1 of the demo! There is so much content in this is just amazing.


Every time I spend the day with Gillian I feel like she has outdone herself!

gillian higgins horses inside out lili and hans filming

After a busy morning helping demonstrate with Arty I finally got a chance to relax a little and watch proceedings as Lili and Hans prepared for part 2 of the demo, the ridden section.


In their demo you will see them warming up, riding a range of exercises in walk, trot and canter, including some advanced work and then cooling down.




All while Gillian explains what they are doing, why each exercise is beneficial and how the horse is using his body to perform it.


Lili also wore a skeleton body suit, and it’s so cool to watch the rider’s body and how it moves in relation to the horse.

gillian higgins horses inside out filming lili hans


The scales of training are of course:


· Rhythm

· Suppleness

· Contact

· Impulsion

· Straightness

· Collection


And as Gillian says - this shouldn’t just apply to dressage horses. Good quality training should provide the foundation for all horses. It can help with musculoskeletal health, performance and longevity as a riding horse.


gillian higgins horses inside out lily hans filming skelton painted horse suit

Lili and Hans were so lovely to watch.


As Gillian and Matthew (Roberts – Videographer) filmed the closing scenes, all that was left was to wash the horses off and make my way back to Worcestershire.


Another fabulous day at Horses Inside Out. I cannot wait to see the finished demo. The while series is going to be absolutely fantastic.

If you would like to get tickets for any of Gillian’s upcoming webinar Wednesdays you can do so here.


You will not be disappointed!



Thanks for reading 😊




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