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.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

There is no balance if you do not know the direction

      It is funny how the life lessons my dressage life has taught me continue to bubble up. Yesterday I was teaching, " it is impossible for you to notice if your horse is in balance if you do not know the path of travel". I stopped to think for a minute, how true is this for life? If you are making a diagonal and your horse falls in, you are not looking where you are going, you go with the flow and end up in a completely different place than you started out toward. If you look up and draw a path of travel with your eyes, ride it from your center, the horse falls in a little inside leg, he falls out a little outside leg, the corrections are small and seamless. This is balance. Balance is maintained step by step. The path of travel is defined and then we ride the horse from his center of gravity along this path. Of course we are constantly and consistently teaching our horses the aids so he knows how to react properly to our aids. Where would we be without a direction? A path of travel?
     In life it is easy to get pushed around by other peoples opinions, by doubts, fears and overwhelm. Take a minute today to think about your path of travel. Where do you want to be in your riding in one month? A year? Five years? Today is as good a day as any to start to draw this path. Visualize the next steps to build your success. Who do you need to build your team? What shows, clinics or equipment do you need to start to plan for? I find that there are two awesome tools for this. Number one, write backwards from your goal, add some tactics and targets as you think about your long term goal, so that you don't get too far off the path, and loose balance. Keep a journal. It is easy to get overwhelmed, loose track and not realize how far you have come. Sometimes looking back and reading the pages will confirm your progress. Things that used to seem so difficult are now feeling easy, we get greedy and want too much too fast. Keep a journal, stay grateful and clear about where you started and were you want to go. Be sure to include some of your fears and then a bit about why they are unfounded and how you will be overcome them with the right team.
        I think back to my little Glorious and how as I taught him his changes, one direction was so easy, and the other was a bit more difficult for him. It  took time. Glorious has been a long term project, his health has been a struggle at times. It is worth every minute. As I am able to work on his one tempis, his piaffe and passage I think back about this little four year old that did not like to hold the bit in his mouth. Every horse has their own timing. Don't rush, take your time, but never loose sight of the path. Even when Glorious was too ill to work hard I still went everyday and taught him something. One summer we spent many days together just walking in the hills because it was all he could do. He was on the back burner, but he never knew it. My relationship with him is very strong because of this patience and we are working on the grand prix work because I kept the destination in mind. Spend a little time today and think about your dreams :)

                              Be youthful in your approach
                              Connection is the key
                              Remember, Anything is possible