This winter in Florida has been fantastic! and a wonderful experience as I watch the growth of my students and their horses.
One interesting subject I am left to ponder though, is how can we move forward together and avoid some of the push me pull you of what are the priorities and who's come first? We go to our instructors with a goal, they have an educated idea of how to achieve that goal, yet, we find ourselves battling against the elements trying to get the correct priorities instilled into the lesson.
I am not in a position to judge, I have been this person also, unwilling to change, not on purpose but, because I thought I was doing the right thing. I was not understanding that letting go of old misconceptions and habits would open the door to rapid progress. Although I can look back and remember the lessons, I cannot remember why I could not hear the real essence of what was being said and what needed to be done.
I will forever remember Mr. Schumacher teaching me a life changing lesson one freezing morning in Germany. He was leaving early for the airport and I was to fly with my horses back to the States before he returned. I had been there riding with him and with Ellen Bontje for months. But, it had all come down to this last lesson and he did not want me to go home without it. I was so cold, my fingers freezing off, all I wanted to do was trot, and poor Alexis, rein back after rein back after walk pirouette after half pass after halt after.........on and on until could I please ***** get the feeling. His persistence to get me to give up my misconception about what I was feeling and let myself feel something else, something new, and something even better! changed my riding forever. But, why did it take me so long, and why did he have to lock me in the indoor at 6 am on the freezing morning?
We start developing feel from the first time we sit in the saddle. We are told what we are feeling. We are told what is right, what is wrong and this is how right feels. I find in most lessons we are also told it is our fault when a horse makes a mistake. So this concept, in my opinion, causes the riders to get the wrong feeling. How many times from that first ride are you told....don't let him do that? Keep him straight, keep him forward, don' let him put his head up, don't let him slow down..... How do we do this? As a beginner rider we hold on, squeeze more, tighten up, pull his head in and tighten ourselves up, by accident, but really this is what happens. When it looks correct from the side the instructor says that is good and no matter what it feels like that is what you associate good with. That is how we develop feel. This is why I think lunging beginner riders is so very important, this takes the responsibility away from the rider and allows them to concentrate on their seat and develop feel for the horses motion. One can let themselves notice the swing in the steps, the rhythm of the gait, and get the feeling that the horse moves you. From here everything else come, without this everything else is corrupt.
After you learn how to move with the horse then you can learn aids. There is a circle of energy and a circle of aids. Seat, leg, rein. However, when we loose our balance because we do not have an independent seat and an aid becomes a way of holding on then things become confused, horses make mistakes, we are told it is our fault and then we hold on more. Later we start to see the error of our ways, but feel, feel will not let us fix this entirely. Feel is busy telling us that this is right!
So an instructor comes into the arena and watches you ride for 10 minutes, assess the situation and your goals and comes up with priorities and a lesson plan. What can you do as a rider to let this priority in? What can we do as instructors to help you trust yourself to let go of some of those old habits and try something new?
We have heard it all before "she doesn't know how much better we are", "you don't know how far we've come" , "he used to be much worse". This instructor sees one thing above all holding you back. How can he get through the history and help you move forward?
I have had so much fun this winter helping people let loose of their baggage and introducing them to forward progress. However, I think we could all spend less time holding on to old habits and believe in ourselves more.
So I put that question out there. Did you have a special lesson that helped you, a light bulb moment? Something someone said that made you realize that what you are doing really is not getting the success that you want so you let yourself open up to something new? What brought you to that place? And how can we as instructors help you get to that place sooner?
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.