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, 2024

Being a good student

                 Through the years it has been a goal of mine to be an extraordinary teacher. I have studied teachers, learned from very good instructors as well as learned from some super educated people who were less skilled at passing the knowledge along. One way that I became a better teacher was by being a better student.

                  Ones job as a good student is to be honest with yourself so that you can be honest with your trainer. It is important to feel the flow and purpose of the lesson and be cognizant of when to ask questions and when to shut up and ride. Most of all to be a good student one needs to value learning. Many times, when I am teaching a new client, or a clinic, it can happen the rider is not able to accept help. I needed to value learning over knowing, in order to maximize my time in lessons. 

                  I believe it is helpful to watch a clinician or instructor prior to taking a lesson. Knowing that you value the same things will help when being asked to do something that is difficult or seems different. Our bodies and minds always want to stay with familiar. If we are asked to step out into discomfort, we may resist the change. Knowing that you like what the instructor is doing with his/her own horses as well as other clients will help you to stay true to your student persona. 

                  Balance is so important to riding. It is important to practice your balance on and off the horse. Knowing your strengths and weaknesses and if you have any one sidedness's will help you to understand and influence your horse correctly when being asked to ride in a certain way. If you are not aware of your body, your instructor may have difficulty communicating what and how things need to change. I believe there are many great practices off the horse that will help bring self-awareness and balance. When you find a helpful practice, such as yoga or tai chi, you will find yourself resetting your balance and relaxation automatically during the day. This practice will help you understand the balanced physical and mental state needed to optimize your riding. When taking a lesson we are processing a lot of information. We need to think about what the instructor is telling us, and all the while continue to connect and receive important information from our horses. Knowing a natural state of relaxation and balance will help manage the horse better and notice pressure before it becomes unmanageable. A horse that is responsive and relaxed will stay in balance much better than a horse that is being held and being "prevented" from making mistakes. Self-awareness is key to being a good student.

                     Another thing that helped me be a good student is to value the lesson in the moment, commit 100% and try not to overthink things. This was not easy for my brain! I love to understand everything! However, immersing myself in the moment allowed me to get the full perspective from the instructor. Later I can decide what parts really worked for me and if there was something that did not feel right. Often with practice things will make more sense and feel better. If one is judging too much or holding back in the moment it will be impossible for the concept to sink in and be ridden with 100% commitment.

                    Do communicate. Find the right time! It is easy to think that some instructors don't want you to ask questions or know how something feels. However, this can often just be bad timing. Ask questions during a break. Talk to your instructor about how your horse has been going and any problems you would like to address ahead of time. When you ask questions be open to the answer!

                    I love to hear from you! Email with any questions and also let me know if this benefitted you!