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.

Friday, August 9, 2019

Be youthful in your approach

         Perhaps you have noticed that I now sign things:
 Be youthful in your approach,
          Remember anything is possible
                     Connection is the key.
                     Be Youthful in Your Approach

                              What does this mean to me? And why do I like to share it?
                                            The reason I have adopted this as an affirmation is because sometimes we need to be reminded that its okay not to be perfect, and we must just try again, or continue to try.
                                             I am  reminded of Tony Robbins (who I am sure is not the first person to say this) who asks "how many times will you allow your child to try to walk before you say that's it? Never mind, you cant walk lets just give it up." These young children just try, fall down, get up, fall down over and over again until they get it done. They do not think about doing it wrong, they do not worry about what someone thinks, they just keep trying a little bit everyday until it is accomplished.
                                          This is what I mean by be youthful in your approach. Stay on course, know the objective, do not get frustrated and think about all of the reasons you cannot do it, just calmly stay the course and believe in yourself.
                       How do we apply this to riding?
                           Do you run before you walk? No you walk first. So is it okay that we learn how to sit properly before we learn how to make a leg yield and counter canter? Yes! Is there something wrong with us because we need to actually learn how to sit? No! We are not born knowing how to sit. We may be born with certain feel, some more than others, but this feel can easily be distorted and taken away by horses that are not properly trained, instructors that push us too fast or feed us incorrect information, or simply by not nurturing the feel. You also can develop feel with time and proper training. Learning how to properly sit on a horse is not easy, takes time and will always be rewarded. Seat work should be part of everyone's training and I can guarantee you that all the top riders are spending time on their seat. So why do we think we are bad riders because we need to do this? Perspective. We are looking through the window not open to the world. One might think they do not have time for this, they are bored with it or even have accomplished the best seat they can get and that is it. No! We can always get better, what we focus on gets better, but on the flip side, if we don't focus on it slowly we will loose it. Don't look around at the other people getting away with not sitting properly, look at the people that can sit and how their horses benefit over the long term, how normal horses move up the levels, tense horses become relaxed and less talented movers become graceful and extravagant. The people taking the short cut may be at the top of the leader board for a minute, but the people not afraid of learning will always achieve more in the long run.
                          Do you do half pass with a stiff horse? No! You can create more suppleness with lateral work for sure, but there are prerequisites for half pass and if your horse is stiff perhaps we would do better to start with flexion and bending exercises, leg yield and shoulder fore. Be youthful in your approach, put first things first, lay the foundation for a supple, through and happy horse. The same way we would nurture our children to learn the alphabet before putting a book in front of them to read.
                         When you are youthful in your approach you avoid overwhelm.   Why do we feel like we are not in control when we are riding? Because we did not lay a proper foundation and the horse is misunderstanding the aids. How can I avoid this? Approach everyday like a new day. Start with a proper warm up, notice how your horse presents itself. Is he stiff or supple? Energetic or sluggish? Nervous or relaxed? If you try to ride the horse you had yesterday you may not have success. Be present, aware and open to how your horse is feeling and you will have a much better ride. Install the correct aids daily. Part of my warm up is reminding my horse what my aids mean. If I take it for granted that everything works I will find myself overwhelmed when I am preparing for a pirouette and I cannot engage the haunches. I need to create a horse that is sensitive to my aids before I start with my difficult movements. How to ride a pirouette becomes extremely overwhelming when I have been riding the horse by holding up the basic canter. Riding a leg yield is not easy when my horse runs through my rein instead of waiting on the half halt. Start where you are.
                         Last but not least relax and enjoy the process. When we are young we do not have the concept of deadlines. We try and try again without thinking there is a time limit. Give yourself this freedom, in your ride, everyday. If it takes 30 minutes to warm up today, take 30 minutes. Tomorrow will only be worse if you force your horse to work in an uncomfortable stressed state. A little bit of progress day to day beats the up and down 5 steps forward 10 steps back scenario. Take time, don't waste time, but take time. When you are riding be riding. Deal with other life issues when you get off. Make space for your riding. Make space for your learning. Realize that the horse show that is coming up will only be more of  a success if you make the connection and process a priority. Not just getting it done, but how you do it. If your horse is more willing, more alive and supple at the end of the ride then you now you are on the right track.

                     Be Youthful in Your Approach
                      Remember Anything is Possible
                        Connection is the Key


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