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Getting Started with In Hand Dressage with Josepha Guillaume

Updated: Jun 23, 2021

In preparation for our In Hand Dressage class, Online Dressage International caught up with Belgium based Josepha Guillaume to find out a little bit about In Hand dressage: its principles and benefits to equestrians from all backgrounds.


1. Could you tell us a little bit about your background Josepha?

I come from a classical background since childhood. I have been working with mostly rehab horses the last 20 years all over Europe and also in South Africa. Horses with problems are often best helped with in hand work, that I call dressage in hand. Traumatized horses, rehabbing injured horses, equine body language and in hand dressage have become my speciality. I also set up a trainer school in 2012 and trained trainers internationally to be able to correctly educate horses in a friendly manner and healthy way and be able to work with rehab horses both in hand and under saddle. I have been training with a Bereiter of the Spanish Riding school of Vienna, 3 to 4 two day clinics a year, from 2015 until 2020.


2. What are the origins of in-hand work?

Dressage in hand is as old as classical dressage, the two go literally 'hand in hand'. Thus, it goes back as far as Xenophon, 300 BC. Before that Kikkuli was known for training the best chariot horses and he trained all horses in hand, around 1400 BC.


3. What are the benefits of in-hand work, for both the all rounder ridden horse and the dressage horse?

It does not matter what your goal is, dressage in hand always benefits any horse. It often helps horses develop things better and faster than under saddle. Think about for instance piaffe or shoulder in. A horse that knows dressage in hand can also train a novice (child) rider. You ask for the exercises in hand, with rider on, so the rider knows the correct feeling of the movement from the beginning and he slowly can take over until he knows the aids. You can supple a show jumper, transition an OTTB into a supple and enjoyable mount, help young horses develop balance, flexibility, suppleness and strength even before being backed, it is a great way to keep a pregnant mare fit, train injured horses back to health, win the trust and cooperation of a traumatized horse or keep your horse improving if you are injured yourself or have to wait for a saddle. It is endless really, what you can do or accomplish with dressage in hand and I am always so surprised that too many people do not know about it. 4. How would I get started if I had never tried any in-hand work before?

That really depends on every specific individual horse and owner and where their specific experience and problems lie. But basically, I would suggest starting with walking next to the horse's shoulders, asking him to move the shoulders away from you (shoulder lift), halt, walk and then later on shoulder in. I always work reward based and without punishment.

5. In an In-Hand dressage class, what might the judge be looking for, in terms of both the horse's way of going and the handler's approach?

Actually the same as with any dressage test, correctness of movement, the aids of the rider, the contact, the rhythm, the balance of the horse and the correctness of the exercises.


We thank Josepha for her time and expertise and look forward to welcoming those of you who are just starting out with In Hand work to our class at Online Dressage International. There has never been a better time to try something new with your horse: developing suppleness and cementing your partnership. If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to drop us a message.

From all the team at ODI

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