I have a feeling I might have touched on this subject before, because it is super important to me. So you have to suffer through my soap box again. However, I think this is a really great subject and for some, may be a life changer, if you can hold on to the concept.
Why do we start riding horses? I cannot answer the question for you, but for me it was about partnership, connection and team work. I competed in all horse sports; jumping, eventing, competitive trail riding even arabian park horses, riding was all I ever wanted to do. I got stuck on dressage in high school and that is all I have ever known since then.
I believed it could be a partnership, yet it did not feel like this when I was taking my lessons. It was super clear that I was not good at saying what I wanted and the horses could not hear me. There were all sorts of reasons the instructors gave me, at the time I could not hear the right words and my body did not respond the right way.
I was almost 30 years old when I met Conrad Schumacher and he said the words "the horse can positively anticipate what needs to be done and work with you toward that outcome" I wanted to hug him! This is the knowledge I had been looking for, this makes sense, this is what my heart wants to participate in.
So many times I had heard that the German Principles were so strict, don't go there. to Germany, it is too hard, they are not nice. Why did this German guy say what I had been looking for? Because he understood the Principles!! And what fun is that.
So my lesson for today is positive aids and I learned it from Conrad Schumacher, Ellen Bontje and Tristan Tucker.
Believe that your horse actually wants to please you. This is number one. If you start out your ride with this in mind everything you do from that moment forward will be different. EVERYTHING.
Believe that if you train your horse to go forward from a normal aid, and then actually go forward with him forward is what you will get.
Believe that if you ask your horse to wait with an aid that he understands, wait is what you will get.
HOWEVER!! if you tell your horse to wait and push the crap out of him and he does not understand how to let the rein through and bend his hindlegs and hips then you get a million pounds in your hands and have to squeeze with your thighs to keep your tight butt in the saddle it is not going to work over the long term. NOT!
And from here it all goes south.
Half pass turns into aids that actually tell the horse what not to do instead of what to do. Pirouettes are a terrible confusion of manipulation and strength.
We have amazing, talented horses.
Why would you put your butt in the saddle if you were just there to manhandle a horse around the arena?
Start by believing your horse wants to participate, and train from there. Positive aids; turn, go stop, it all starts and finishes there.
Dressage (a French term meaning "training") is a path and destination of competitive horse training, with competitions held at all levels from amateur to the Olympics. Its fundamental purpose is to develop, through standardized progressive training methods, a horse's natural athletic ability and willingness to perform, thereby maximizing its potential as a riding horse. At the peak of a dressage horse's gymnastic development, it can smoothly respond to a skilled rider's minimal aids by performing the requested movement while remaining relaxed and appearing effortless. Dressage is occasionally referred to as "Horse Ballet." Although the discipline has its roots in classical Greek horsemanship, mainly through the influence of Xenophon, dressage was first recognized as an important equestrian pursuit during the Renaissance in Western Europe. The great European riding masters of that period developed a sequential training system that has changed little since then and classical dressage is still considered the basis of trained modern dressage.
Early European aristocrats displayed their horses' training in equestrian pageants, but in modern dressage competition, successful training at the various levels is demonstrated through the performance of "tests," or prescribed series of movements within a standard arena. Judges evaluate each movement on the basis of an objective standard appropriate to the level of the test and assign each movement a score from zero to ten - zero being "not executed" and ten being "excellent." A score of nine (or "very good") is considered a particularly high mark, while a competitor achieving all sixes (or 60% overall) should be considering moving on to the next level.