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, August 26, 2019

Remember Anything is Possible

    There are so many examples of amazing triumphs over adversity. For me never forgetting that any thing is possible is an important part of my strategy. In life and in riding.
     Synergy is when the combination of the parts equal more than the actual sum of two parts. This is something that has always struck me in my training. People say you are only as good as your horse, and in so many ways, yes, this can be true. However, I have gotten 8's on lines of changes where the horse only has a 6 or 6.5 for a canter, I have gotten 10's on halts and halts and rein backs when the horse only had a 6 for gaits. I have gotten great scores on tests where the horses overall capabilities might have been doubted but when presented with confidence and not stressing over the short comings I was able to present an overall good impression. I have received many horses through the years that people had given up on, or labelled unsound or uncooperative. I had some of my biggest successes on these horses. Why? Because I believed in them and I believed in my creativity to make it happen. I love riding. I love training. I love the connection I build with my horses. Because of this I create an anything is possible attitude in my riding. I can go out everyday and work with a horse without pressure, purely for the joy of the moment, and create a partnership where the horse wants to do the job. When you have a willing partner success is inevitable. Sometimes it might take a while to create the willing partner, but athleticism without willingness will not create long term success.
      I was not always believing this way. I definitely had times in my life with impatience, failures and lack of belief. However, it is the toughest horses that taught me the most. I am curious and stubborn to a fault. When the owners have given me the time the resulting outcome has always been good. I have not always had the luxury of time, and in these cases the outcome was not always as successful as it could be. In the event I had the time I was able to achieve good results, and in these times I really started to notice that anything is possible. When I really looked back on my training and the progress of the horses I realized that my times of doubt were unwarranted. I realize it does take time to explain things thoroughly. Things you thought the horse understood yesterday may need to be reinforced today. I also realize that I had the answers, there were just times that I did not trust myself to honor it. I always found out if there was something bothering the horse, even when the vets doubted my concerns. I always found the answers I was searching for when I really stopped and asked the right questions.
       What are the main ingredients? Patience, the ability to listen and curiosity.
      When you do not relax into the training session and put yourself in the right space, training cannot happen. The second nervousness creeps in, all learning shuts down. We all know this in theory, but it can be difficult to maintain in times of pressure. Putting yourself in a space for teaching is very important, with each horse, before every session. Most especially before shows and when teaching new movements. If you cannot find it, go for a hack and enjoy the time you have with your horse, pushing forward when you are impatient sets you back, it does not move you forward.  Remember, anything is possible, so tomorrow is another day.
       The ability to listen. Not to what you think the horse is saying, but to what it is actually saying. This is a game changer. My horse does not like to do changes, could actually be my horse is nervous because she does not understand my aids for flying changes, she over reacts and then I do not react correctly to her mistakes. We can work with this, we can break things down and teach the horses to understand the prerequisites for making a flying change. In this way they might even start to like being praised for their positive effort and then begin to like flying changes! There is a lot more to this, we can go into in another post. Listen to your horses, do not put your voice in their head, really ask your horse what are you trying to tell me?
       Curiosity. I am naturally curious and question everything, some people might think to a fault. In training horses this curiosity helps me to be a better trainer. How can I do this better? Why does my horse react that way? How do other people deal with this problem? I invite you to ask big questions everyday and if you do not know the answer ask someone, (that has experience) how to do it.
        Anything is possible is a way of life. It is about taking what you have and doing more with it. It is not only about riding. It is about believing that all you need is inside you. Allowing yourself to dream big dreams and then not let anyone convince you that it cannot be done. It might be hard work, it might take longer than you wanted and there might certainly be bumps in the road, but if you can dream it, you can do it.
         Start today and ask yourself, if I had time, which you do whether you think so or not, what could my Anything be?

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



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