There are 3 Factors that Preserve & Improve Soundness

1.  Balance

2. Straightness

3. Suppleness

Balance consists of the two aspects of longitudinal balance and lateral balance.

Longitudinal balance  (i.e. an even weight distribution between front legs and hind legs) develops out of a regular tempo that is neither too fast nor too slow.

Lateral balance is the ability to distribute the weight evenly between the left pair of legs and the right pair of legs, or to transfer it more to one lateral pair or the other.

Balance is not rigid or static, as in a statue. It’s DYNAMIC.


This means that the horse is able to shift his weight from one lateral pair of legs to the other, from the front legs to the hind legs, or from one diagonal pair of legs to the other.


This is where balance intersects with straightness.

One of the consequences of crookedness is that the horse habitually supports the majority of his weight with the legs on the so-called stiff/convex side, especially with the front leg of this side. The legs of the so-called hollow/concave side therefore participate much less in the work. The hind leg of the concave side supports the smallest share of the weight.

As the horse becomes straighter in the course of his training, he becomes more BALANCED and learns to control the weight distribution over the support base.

Straightness… Crookedness… Alignment... Hollow side… Stiff side… Weak side… Strong side... Convex... Concave...


Are you confused yet???  You're not alone.

This is a BIG topic. It is also a confusing topic for soooo many.
It is a big topic for HORSES. Everything you do (or try to do) is affected by the horse's alignment (or lack thereof). Crookedness blocks the energy of the horse, and it impedes progress and stability in every aspect of the training of the horse. Crookedness even causes spookiness and behavioral issues! 
It is a big topic for RIDERS. The rider's alignment has a HUGE influence on the horse. After all, the horse can only be as straight as the rider! But did you know that the horse's misalignment (a.k.a. crookedness) also affects the rider? It can even cause health problems for the rider's body if the horse is crooked.

okayyyyy...   but what's with the BANANA?!?!

We found that using it as a simple way to illustrate the TYPICAL presentation of bend and crookedness in the horse helps riders learn to better visualize and conceptualize the issue.

(and it's funny!)  🤣
(and who can't benefit from a little humor? hmm?)


So... what is this whole thing about "Straightness" and why do we need Straightness... anyway?

Good Question! If you followed the German FN Training Pyramid as a rigid roadmap of the process you follow to train your horse in Dressage, you would assume that you do not (or can not, or should not) work on Straightness until you had already achieved Rhythm, Relaxation, Contact, and Impulsion. Look at the training scale...

And... well... It is WRONG.

Well, it is not completely wrong. There is definite validity to the Training Scale (a.k.a. Training Pyramid) but it is NOT A ROADMAP. It is more a general overview of the progression of the RESULTS of the training.
The contribution of the training scale is to draw attention to some of the most important elements of the gymnastic training of the horse, that had not been expressed in this way before. Unfortunately, equally important concepts like balance and permeability to the aids were not explicitly included.
And there is a certain danger that many riders follow the sequence of the training scale concepts to literally.  It would be a mistake to think that you can work off each step in the same sequence with every horse, without being allowed to move on to the next step before having completely mastered the previous one. The reality is that all these elements are mutually independent. An improvement in one area leads to improvements in all areas. Conversely, a deterioration in one area immediately leads to a deterioration in the other areas.
The elements of the training scale also support each other in different ways. 

Everything is interconnected

In reality, Straightness is very important. It is interconnected to... EVERYTHING ELSE.

The elements of the training scale support each other in many different ways. All components are connected with each other like the spokes of a wheel.

And each of the components (Rhythm, Relaxation, Connection, Impulsion, and Collection) are reliant upon Straightness.

RHYTHM: An unsteady or uneven rhythm often stems from the horse stepping unevenly with his hindlegs. This is usually a consequence of crookedness. When you can help the horse to step under evenly with each hindleg (which is what happens when we make the horse straighter), the rhythm improves. The tempo improves, too. The too-quick tempo improves because the horse is no longer unbalanced and the horse with the too-slow tempo becomes sharper to the aids and more responsive because the energy circuit (circle of the aids) is no longer obstructed by his crookedness.

RELAXATION: Relaxation is unachievable without balance; and balance is, in turn, a combination of steady tempo, straightness, and a certain flexion of the haunches, i.e. collection. Tension, spookiness, and anxiety often stem from the horse's crookedness. When the horse is able to become straighter, these behavioral issues and psychological  tensions dissolve away with the physical tensions and the horse becomes more relaxed in his work.

CONNECTION: The connection will never be even and light as long as the horse doesn't step evenly with each hindleg, doesn't travel straight, and is unbalanced laterally and longitudinally. A light, steady, even rein contact requires a considerable degree of straightness and a certain ability to collect. When the horse becomes straighter, the horse's balance improves laterally and longitudinally, and the quality of the contact and connection improves.

IMPULSION: Impulsion can only develop when both hind legs step evenly underneath the center of gravity; in other words, when the horse is straight. The crooked horse's energy leaks out in the many places where the horse is not aligned.  When the horse becomes straighter, he travels with more efficiency, becomes easier and more comfortable to ride, and can develop more powerful, expressive gaits.

Wait... I should tell you a bit about us before we go any further. We are Thomas and Shana Ritter.

We live in Germany. Thomas is an International Dressage Clinician, teaching all over Europe, the United States, and Canada. Shana is an FEI competitor, USDF Silver Medalist,  and developer of the Artistic Dressage Online Course Program.

We have spent our lives researching and diving in deeper. We have studied the biomechanics. We have extensively studied the classical equestrian literature. We have ridden with many of the great classical masters of our time. We have distilled our years and years of learning down into a system which is straight-forward (Pun fully intended!) and gives you actionable, concrete tools to make real change in your riding.
Thomas wrote about his system in his first book, “Dressage Principles Based on Biomechanics” published through Cadmos Press in 2011, and he further expanded upon the practical application of those principles applied to the training at the Long Rein with his second book, “Long Reining: From the Beginning through the Levade” in 2014.


We have developed (and continue to develop) a program of online courses. Each of these courses is structured around the real-world problems and needs of our students. We listen to what you tell us you need help with, and we create live trainings and courses to help YOU learn how to solve your problems so that you are:
- no longer confused
- no longer feeling hopeless or defeated
- no longer handing the destiny of your riding future over to other people who do not understand where you are coming from or what is important to YOU
- empowered with the educational tools you need (theory and practical advice) to train your horse, fix the problems you encounter, and take your Dressage Riding Journey into your own hands.

And that is where "A Course About Straightness" comes in

How it came into creation: In Spring of 2018, we began production on a course... well... about Straightness!!! With the help and suggestions of an outstanding roster of Founding Members, we designed a course that addresses everything our students wanted to know about straightness, crookedness, biomechanics, stiffness, weakness, unevenness, alignment, rider influence, weight distribution, and more. We fleshed it out with the theoretical explanations NO ONE COULD FIND ANYWHERE ELSE.
And then the exercises! The course is lavishly embellished with THE practical exercises for horses which Thomas is so well-known for. Exercises which address the stiffness, the weaknesses, the crookedness, and the unevenness that so many horses and riders struggle with and can not figure out how to move beyond on their own.

On top of this... for the rider, we have a selection of Feldenkrais, Pilates, and Yoga lessons (because the rider is half of the equation!).

So many Success Stories! These are our "Straightness Heroes"!

The Founding Members didn't just give us advice on how they wanted this course to be, they also got to work! They worked with the materials, they rode the exercises, put them to the test, and they IMPLEMENTED what they were learning. Their efforts REALLY paid off!!! Riders like...

Julie Graber and Edmund

Edmund, a Percheron/quarter horse lesson gelding was Julie's partner for the Straightness course because he was "unsafe to ride" due to a double-whammy of spookiness and imbalance. His tripping was always a concern, but this concern matured into a genuine fear when he "spectacularly plowed into the earth"—twice—on a right lead canter. Julie thought she would have to sell him, and the Straightness Course was her last resort. When she began the exercises in the course, Edmund was slow and unresponsive, but "Even after a week of exercises, I noticed a difference: less tripping and more responsive." By the end of the course, he rarely trips anymore, can canter 2'6 courses, and is a safe, reliable lesson horse.

"Straightness was the key in getting his attention as well as unlocking his body so that he could move safely."


Anne-marie Spear and Paint

Paint, a South African Warmblood, was ridden through the course with Anne-marie. The pair had been stuck at 1st Level Novice for three years. "I had never in my life ridden above Novice on any horse," stated Anne-marie. Beginning to develop the mentality that she was "just an average rider with no talent," Anne-marie was drawn to the Straightness Course due to the warmth of the community and how the exercises "brought about horse and rider self-awareness, and that OUR [as a horse and rider team] straightness was key to my ability to move up the dressage grades." She feels that Straightness "impacts every level of the training scale" and states that "The Ritter system has improved my confidence as a rider and has given me tools to solve problems when I'm in the arena on my own."

Dawn Gray and Copper

The first years of Dawn and Copper's partnership "were rough." The American Saddlebred x Thoroughbred x Boerperd gelding was "spooky, unpredictable, and his antics terrified" Dawn, who had sustained injuries when being thrown. Every trainer she rode him with pressured her to ride "Forward! Forward! Forward!" which only resulted in turning Copper into "a sewing machine… little legs going so fast they actually blurred." She knew she needed the Straightness Course when she connected that his speed was related to his lack of balance and that his "bad behavior was him feeling out of balance and insecure in his own body." She states, "Becoming stronger through his body and learning how to use all four corners of it has made him a happier horse" and that "the little horse that had me at my wits end is now a happy, positive partner, always ready for the next adventurous exercise."

Carole Cox and Sniper

When Carole began with Sniper, he was not yet owned by her. He was aa very sweet horse but had a history of unexplained lameness, his muscling was very poor (as you can see in the photos she shared), and his owner had exhausted her resources taking him to multiple vets with no clear diagnostic results and no improvement through the multiple therapies they tried. This was "the end" for him. She was considering sending him to a horse trader. Carole took him on as a project for the course and got to work with the exercises. The improvement was gradual but consistent. His sweat marks evened out, and the muscling improved, too. By September, he was so much improved (and sound!) that Carole bought him! Carole reports that he is now "supple, much, much straighter and balanced."

What is in the Straightness Course?

This is a 12-week highly-interactive course which addresses BOTH THE HORSE AND THE RIDER.

This course develops your understanding through:

-  theory lessons which demystify and clarify the core central issues

- gymnastic exercises you can ride with your horse

- exercises for the rider to address the rider's crookedness

- and amazing ongoing support and community.

You will learn...

🔸The Definition of Straightness and Crookednes
🔸The Biomechanics of crookedness
🔸How to understand the difference between your horse’s stiff side and hollow side and how this impacts the rest of your training
🔸The key symptoms of crookedness which you should be aware of and on watch for at all times in your training
🔸What happens when the horse becomes straight
🔸How your own crookedness plays a role in your riding
🔸Typical asymmetries in the rider
🔸 How to analyse and assess your own level crookedness
🔸Exercises to develop your awareness of crookedness
🔸Exercises you can ride to help you define and diagnose your horse’s crookedness
🔸Strategies to cultivate while addressing your and your horse’s crookedness
🔸What to work towards and how
🔸Exercises you can use to improve your horse’s straightness
🔸Exercises specifically effective on the horse’s hollow side
🔸Exercises specifically effective on the horse’s stiff side
🔸Exercises which are effective at making BOTH sides more even
🔸Rider Exercises you can use to improve your own straightness

Each Module is broken down into instruction and exercises

Each week you get new exercises you can implement into your riding program. Some are designed to help sharpen your awareness and some are designed to give you the tools you need to improve your and your horse's straightness. You get a combo of PDFs and videos to learn each exercise. Pick the ones you want to ride now; save the others for later.

This is a course about learning through implementation... not just learning the theory.

- Biomechanics-based Video Instruction (Theory and practical application)
- PDFs with Graphic illustration of the exercises with elaborate instructions. Often with checklists so you know what to watch for when riding the exercises.
- Drawing from Feldenkrais, Yoga, and Pilates, Exercises for the Rider which address the rider's awareness, asymmetry, coordination, suppleness, and core strength.
- Exclusive Access to an a Private Facebook Group with a safe, supportive atmosphere.
- 5 Assistant teachers in addition to Thomas and Shana Ritter: Marcella Becker, Kristen Guest, Caroline Duff-Riddell, Noor Tanger and Feldenkrais Practitioner, Catherine McCrum
- You also have the opportunity to post your video of yourself riding the exercises for feedback and tips

Take the Straightness Heroe's Journey. What will this course include?

The Course Content

12 Modules of course materials

Theory Lessons

Horse-focused Exercises

Rider-focused Exercises

Tips and Strategies

Videos, Audio files

Instructional PDFs

All downloadable

Lifetime access


The Live Q&As

7 Scheduled Q&A Coaching Calls

Ask your questions on the spot or in advance

Get individualized "coaching" tips

All of the Q&As are recorded

Download the video & audio to watch/listen later at your leisure

Q&A Coaching Call Schedule:

Q&A  1 - 11. March - 9:00pm CET

Q&A 2 - 25. March - 10:00am CET

Q&A 3 - 8. April - 9:00pm CEST*
*note that Daylight Savings Time begins in Europe on March 31, 2019
Course Vacation - April 13-April 18, 2019

Q&A 4 - 29. April - 10:00am CEST 

Q&A 5 - 13. May - 9:00pm CEST

Q&A 6 - 27 May - 10:00am CEST 
Q&A 7 (Final) - 7. June - 9:00pm CEST

Private FB Group

Premium Members-only Community

4 Assistant Teachers in addition to Thomas & Shana

Safe, supportive atmosphere

Post your videos

Ask your Q's

Get feedback and help

In "A Course About Straightness"...

Course Duration: March 4-June 7, 2019 (includes 2 week vacation Apr 13-28)

The Enrollment Options

One Payment


one-time payment

Entire Program: Theory Lessons, Horse Exercises, Rider Exercises, Rider Demo videos, and Bonus Materials

Lifetime Access

7 Q&A Coaching Calls

Private Facebook Group

One Payment in Full


4-Monthly Payments


per month, 4 months

Entire Program: Theory Lessons, Horse Exercises, Rider Exercises, Rider Demo videos, and Bonus Materials

Lifetime Access

7 Q&A Coaching Calls

Private Facebook Group

4 monthly payments of 100€ each


One-year plan


per month, 12 months

Entire Program: Theory Lessons, Horse Exercises, Rider Exercises, Rider Demo videos, and Bonus Materials

Lifetime Access

7 Q&A Coaching Calls

Private Facebook Group

12 monthly payments of 42€ each


Other Currencies


all payment plans

United States Dollar (USD)

Canadian Dollar (CAD)

Australian Dollar (AUD)

Pound Sterling (GBP)



The course begins on Monday, March 4th. When we start a new course, we want to give 100% of our focus to the new course members, so therefore it is very important that we we must close enrollment at midnight March 3rd. If you have any problems enrolling, email [email protected]









Our Guarantee

We hope you will love this course as much as we do. We want you to LOVE this course. You will have a full 30 days to see if this course is right for you. If it doesn’t resonate with you, just let us know and we will refund your money. No hassles. No hard feelings.

"A spontaneous decision that has permanently changed my approach"

"I made a huge leap of faith when I invested in this course, having no experience of how one can learn dressage online. I have been astonished - in a good way - at the depth of information, at Thomas' ability to explain a physical sport through understandable science, and at the improvements in me. It was a spontaneous decision that has permanently changed for the good my approach to dressage, and my horses' benefit from it. Thanks to this course, now I know what I am doing in one aspect of my training!"

- Jacky Davies (Alberta, Canada)

"I can see a huge difference in how my horse moves."

"An unbelievable course. Totally outstanding. I have learnt a phenomenal amount and can see a huge difference in how my horse moves. I was nervous at the start of the course that I would be the numpty of the students, but you can learn/study at your own pace and Shana and Thomas were always happy to answer any of my questions."

- Fran Griffith (Ceredigion, UK)

"I no longer go round in circles with no purpose."

"I started in the dark, not sure how to improve on basics taught years ago but knowing there was 'more to it'. I can't believe how much I have learned from Thomas and Shana. I now have the building blocks to work with any horse, not just mine. The improvement in my own horse is measurable. I am so motivated to ride and explore every single day. Massive thank you. I no longer go round in circles with no purpose."

- Ann Savage (Lincolnshire, UK)

Course Begins on March 4, 2019

This is a course about learning through implementation... not just learning the theory.

Each Module is broken down into theoretical and practical instruction and horse and rider exercises

Biomechanics-based Video Instruction

Theory and practical application

Horse Exercise Videos and PDFs

Videos where we explain how to strategically ride the exercises. PDFs with Graphic illustration of the exercises with elaborate instructions. Usually they also include checklists so you know what to watch for when riding the exercises.

Rider Demo Videos

Videos where you can see the exercises being ridden by a variety of horses and riders. We record commentary to explain what is going on, what mistakes are happening in the video, and what you can do to correct those if they happen when you ride the exercises.

Rider Exercises

Drawing from Feldenkrais, Yoga, and Pilates, Exercises for the Rider which address the rider's awareness, asymmetry, coordination, suppleness, and core strength. Including Feldenkrais exercises with Accredited Feldenkrais Practitioner, Catherine McCrum.

Frequently Asked Questions

How does an online course work?  Do I need to be sitting at the computer at a set time on certain days?

Distance learning is really set up so that you can make it work for your schedule. We have many people in many timezones, and all of them are busy horse people like you. Each week you will get a new module of information for that week. You will receive an email announcement when it has been released. In that module you will find a selection of videos and PDF files. You can watch these on your own timeline, or even download them for offline viewing. The PDFs contain the instructions for the riding exercises. There are instructional videos where we explain in greater detail how to ride the exercise, what you are looking to attain in the exercise, and how to deal with any problems that may arise while riding the exercise. You will also find that there is a demo video of each exercise being ridden by a variety of our course member demo riders, with voiceover commentary by Thomas explaining what is happening, and pointing out mistakes as they occur so that you can recognize then if/when they happen to you.

There are LIVE Q&As at certain times, and we alternate between two different times to accommodate the course participants in different parts of the world. You do NOT need to attend these live, but we highly encourage you to do so, if you can because you can ask your questions live and interact with us. These are all recorded and can be watched later or downloaded for later viewing/listening.

What type of horse and rider is this course appropriate for?

We try to be all-welcoming . That means if you want to learn, we will do our very best to teach you... regardless of what kind of horse you have, what kind of tack you ride in, and what kind of background you have. We have course members with Icelandics, Welsh Cobs, Saddlebreds, Ponies, etc. as well as the more common dressage breeds. We welcome riders from all backgrounds, NOT just dressage riders - jumpers, eventers, western riders, natural horsemanship, working equitation, trail riders, etc.
What level is this course appropriate for?
You should be able to ride, or at least willing to learn to use lateral movements. If you have  no experience with them but an open mind and curiosity to learn, you'll do fine.
What type of tack / equipment do I need?
A horse to ride, relatively level space to ride in (arena with adequate footing is recommended but our course members have had success even without a standard "arena" to ride in). Not required but recommended: cones or other arena markers, a video camera to record your rides. You should also have an internet connection and a computer or other device with which to access the course materials and Facebook group.

 You do not even need a dressage saddle. We have participants who do the course in their western tack. We even have participants who do most the exercises on the ground in-hand or at the long-rein. The beauty of it all is that you can adapt it to your situation and your needs with your horse. We will support you wherever that may be.

What if I can't watch the Q&A's live?
No problem. They are all recorded. You can watch the recording afterwards in the course platform. If you have a question you want answered but cannot attend live, you can post it beforehand, or alternatively post your question in the Facebook Group and we can answer it there.
When are the modules released?
One module per week, every Monday beginning March 4, 2019. (except for 2 weeks of vacation April 13-April 28, 2019)

When are the Q&A's?
Q&A  1 - Monday, March 11 - 9:00pm CET (8:00pm GMT)

Q&A 2 - Monday, March 25 - 10:00am CET (9:00am GMT)

Q&A 3 - Monday, April 8, 2019 - 9:00pm CEST* (8:00pm GMT)

*note that Daylight Savings Time begins in Europe on March 31, 2019

Course Vacation - April 13-April 28, 2019

Q&A 4 - Monday, April 29, 2019 - 10:00am CEST 

Q&A 5 - Monday, May 13 2019 - 9:00pm CEST 

Q&A 6 - Monday May 27, 2019 - 10:00am CEST
Q&A 7 (Final) - Friday, June 7, 2019 - 9:00pm CEST
What if I can't keep up?
You can do this course at ANY pace. You do not need to keep up with the pace that the course contents are delivered. You have lifetime access to the materials and the Facebook group, so you can work through the materials at your own pace.  You CAN and SHOULD follow what is right for you and your horse.
Then, when we run the next round of the course, you can take it again! You can use your course materials which you already have access to, or for a SUPER crazy nomimal fee, upgrade to the next version of the course. Regardless of whether you upgrade or not, you can attend the future Q&As, ask your questions, and get ongoing support for as long as you want.

What if I am not riding right now? What if my riding is interrupted by illness or injury part way through the course?
We have instructors who no longer ride take the courses and they use the exercises with their students. We have had people recovering from injuries, etc. take the courses. We have had people stop partway through and pick it back up again later. It is not a problem. These are your materials to do with as you wish - work through them at a pace that works for you. Learn the theory first and apply the riding exercises later, etc.
How do I join?
Easy. :-) Click this button for the payment options.
Have questions or payment problems?
Email us at [email protected]  .


What the course participants have to say about the course:


Sandra: How to Learn to Ride from an Online Course

Sandra Schindlbacher shares her story about how she and the Lipizzan gelding she rides were mostly not working well together. In her words: “There were a lot of conflicts and fights.” Things were not working out well and she knew she needed to change something, but she thought that there was nothing that could make it better. She shares what she first thought when she heard about our What, Why, How online course… “How should I learn riding from an online course?!” She really didn’t think it was possible. But she was desperate so she decided to give it a try. Well!!!! She goes on to show you the exercise that she found helped her the most. She shares how the canter, in particular, is much better than it was before the course and she says her trot now is in no comparison to the trot she had before the course… it is smoother, lighter, softer in the hand… “There is no comparison in the feeling!”

Watch the video! She shares even more about what the biggest improvement was for her, the horse, and their relationship to the work and each other.


A sneak peak at the Course...

“This is a story of balance…”

This is how Dawn Gray begins to tell her story about her journey with her horse, Copper, who was adept at massive spooks, bucks, and fly-leaps. As she explains, these antics made her nervous and hang on the reins, which only served to exacerbate the problem. Despite the bad advice from trainers and exploring an assortment of theories and options of how to proceed, she stuck it out and joined our “What, Why, How course” during which she and Copper made some huge leaps (the good kind!). She realized through her study in the course that his spooking and misbehaviour came from a lack of balance.

Armed with this information, she used the exercises and targeted advice we were able to give her to  improve his balance and straightness. Not only did she turn her dressage scores of 4’s to 6’s and 7’s but the once-very spooky horse became a minimally spooky horse. I will let her tell the rest of her story about how she made this transformation in her horse.

To secure your spot...

Enroll now. There is no better time than NOW.


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