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.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Trainers Conference 2013

  I cannot get away without saying something about this years USDF Trainers Conference.
          Steffen was fantastic. And thank you USDF for choosing an awesome, articulate, well educated American citizen to help us learn our sport. Steffen knows where the American dressage trainers are coming from. He works with us everyday. His delivery of the information was concise and never confusing. Scotts comments were uplifting and genuine.
           Overall my favorite part of the entire weekend was the regard for the horses. Again these experts explained the importance of simplifying rather then pushing harder. Working with the horses instead of against them. Of course sometimes this is easier said then done. However, that is what Steffen is so good at. Okay so he does not what? Always an answer, always clear, uncomplicated and fair. I loved it!
            Thank you to everyone who put together this great learning opportunity for us. This includes not only Steffen, Scott, The McPhail's, and USDF but also the great riders who put themselves out there for us to learn from.
                   THANK YOU!

" Engage the brain first, even before the hindleg, teach the horse to offer"   Steffen Peters

Do I want to Learn Dressage?

   Recently I read a blog post written by Lauren Sprieser about playing the guitar vs learning to play the guitar. It immediately hit home with me. I would LOVE to play the guitar like Eddie Van Halen! But take time and struggle learning to play the guitar, I do not have the patience! So I do not know how to play the guitar, but I have a super respect for those who play well.
     This applies to our sport as well. So many people want to ride dressage. They watch their friends, trainers and hero's ride and want to do it like that, but that is easier said then done. I think in America we are not good at taking lessons. I know I was not good at taking lessons. This is not something they taught us in school. How to take a lesson. I could not take a piano lesson. I hated making mistakes so much I never bothered even trying to listen to my instructor. She was a teacher. Should I not at least try to listen to what she has to say about where to start and how to proceed. No, I thought that every mistake I made was my fault. It obsessed my brain until my fingers were stiff and frozen and no pretty piano music came out of that instrument. I just thought one could sit down at the piano and somehow it should already be in us how to play the piano.
         So then I want to ride horses. But my skill level at taking lessons has not improved. So my poor horse! The same frustration with making mistakes over took me! Luckily dressage was not my first equine sport. So it was easier on my horses, jumping, cross country and trail riding are much less detail oriented then my present passion. Honestly I think I was well in my 30's before I could take a lesson. Some of my trainers may even say later then that!
      As an instructor I have tried to take time to learn not only my sport, but I have taken time to learn about teaching. Some of the psychology behind giving information in understandable content and exercises. I have taken alot of time and spent alot of money learning to train horses. To learn to explain things to them in simple ways and get them to work for me willingly. Thanks so much to Mr Schumacher for confirming and nurturing my belief that horses can be willing partners. But, in order for them to be willing partners we need to ride with feel and understanding. We need to try to stop ourselves from over reacting on every little mistake and we need to take lessons! Listen to what our instructors have to say. Let it help us! There are steps that need to be taken to become a good rider. We cannot just jump in and ride like Ingrid Klimke and Isabel Worth. As much as I wish this was not the truth. These gifted and EDUCATED riders have spent their whole lives learning their sport. Taking lessons!
        So you want to learn dressage............take it step by step. Enjoy the little things. When you are able to relax and feel your horse participated with you, even at the lower levels this is so much more fun than forcing an unwilling partner to do the upper levels. And once you have mastered the skills it takes to be balanced on your horse and understood by your partner the upper levels will make sense and feel almost (ALMOST!) easy. Riding a horse that is balanced and willing is so gratifying! Learn dressage and make that your priority! Everyday will be fulfilling, and before you know it flying changes and pirouettes will be made out of simple changes and ten meter circles. :)