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, August 7, 2019

What does watching do for you?

    Some years ago I went to Germany with Oded Shimoni and his horses. Beside supporting Oded and taking care of his horses I was there to learn. The first year I did take one horse, but none of it was about me. I rode on lunch breaks and tried hard to stay out of everyone's way. I watched as much as I could. From the lessons Mr Schumacher taught the people training toward the WEG to the inexperienced riders, the lessons taught by his students and many lessons taught by Ellen Bontje to her upcoming Bereiters. I sat in the corner and watched. In the beginning I had a bit of an American attitude about it I am sure. However, I sitting there and watching and watching and watching, slowly things started to sink in.
      So many people go to clinics or even to train with a master and go do their lesson and go home. This is a wasted opportunity.
       Anytime you are availed the time to watch I strongly urge you to do so. This was a major contribution to my knowledge base and all I wish is that I had had even more opportunity to do so.
      Recently I was able to audit a clinic with a super trainer, competitor and judge. I had hoped to ride, but things did not work out as planned, so I went to watch anyway. Super day and very thankful to all involved in putting this together. I know how hard it is to manage educational events and I so appreciate anyone who is putting forth the effort to do so.
     The first thing that struck me is how few people were auditing. We have a major lack of educational opportunities right now in New England.   There are so many trainers and students that would have benefited from this clinic. Second, it was labelled as a symposium, so directed toward the auditors. As a rider you have an obligation to the auditors to create a good learning environment. And yet, most of the riders did not watch any of the lessons.
      Lesson number one about clinicians: they have priorities, exercises and a way of delivering instructions that if you know about them ahead of time your lesson will go much smoother, communication will be easier and YOU will get more out of your lesson. In addition to the fact that the auditors will get a lot more out of the experience. I felt at the end of the day that everyone in the audience could teach someone how to warm up and do warm up leg yields because it was repeated again and again in every lesson.
          What did I love about this clinic? The absolute attention to relaxation, warm up and correct throughness. There was no short cut and if it took the whole lesson well that was that. So nice to see. Everyone is in a hurry these days and many times we are trying to ride the horse we ended with yesterday and forgetting the warm up and exercises that got us there. It was refreshing to see the time taken to get the horses in the correct frame and carriage for the movements and each time going back to work finding that again before moving on. So important and good for the horses. And as much as I believe in this it is easy to get off track! So yes, I also needed a reminder.
             So why is it good for us to watch?
                   We are not the only ones having a problem, chances are someone else is struggling with the same thing you do. It is relaxing to know you are not the only one, and maybe you will find a new perspective how to fix it.
                    When we watch we imagine what it would feel like to be riding that trot, giving that aid, riding that transition. When you get on your body has a better idea of what to do, how to swing and how to find the flow and then apply the aids.
                    Watching will provide you with new tools. Perhaps a new exercise you have not thought of or something you have not done in a while. Also, a new perspective of how to read your horses reactions and reaction time.
                     There is an obligation for us to learn. We must not think this is all about us. We are the example to the younger generation coming up.  Horses are evolving, training is evolving, riding is evolving. However, the direction must be correct. It is easy to get off track and forget about priorities. When we allow our own ego to get in the way of the training things can go wrong. We can get in a hurry, blame the horses, circumstances and many other things. When we watch, we open ourselves to the possibility that we can improve, we can get better and when we get better the partnership strengthens and when this happens we get back on the path to correct positive training. This takes time, we must always remember this. Staying in your own bubble can stunt your growth.
                  All this being said we need to pick what we put into our minds carefully. Try to find long term successful trainers that are putting the horse first. Make it important to look for trainers that are patient, interested in long term goals and not afraid to take their time to actually teach you.
               I hope this helps you on your path!

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


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