Pressing Onward

gustafson_-_jack_and_the_beanstalk-726768A couple of years ago I started assembling some thoughts for a blog, but, oops, it became DRESSAGE Unscrambled. Other than The Godfather, Part II, I can’t name very many sequels that measured up to the original.

So, now it’s back to Plan A. I ended D.U. for the same reason that you stop eating potato chips—at the time I was full and, presumably, so were you. But like an old dictator haranguing the crowd, I’ve got my second wind now. You probably join me in observing that many, many riders get in their own way—by over-analysis, by under-analysis, or sometimes because they just ought to be in analysis.

Dressage is full of Truths. You are bombarded by them in books and articles, during lessons and lectures and even over a glass of chardonnay at your dressage club meeting. Unfortunately, those truths are not all equally applicable across the board in all circumstances. Some obfuscate; others downright confuse.

Navigating the whole shell shocking world of dressage is as fraught with pitfalls and booby traps as the task of Buying Your First Horse is to an unwary and unaccompanied novice. I certainly don’t claim to have a monopoly on dressage wisdom, but the same rules that apply to the human condition are equally valid as applied to our sport—exercise some common sense and avoid the mistakes that everyone before you has made.

And, for heaven’s sake, don’t take it all so seriously. It won’t make you ride any better. As before, the tales which follow are not arranged chronologically but in studied disorder. Some are meant to illuminate. Others to distract. Some just can’t stand to hide in the dark any longer. Light and Truth R Us.

And, oh, by the way, feedback is GOOD! I’m afraid that within me there’s an element of Alexander Haig after the Reagan shooting or Riff in Rocky Horror–“I’VE GOT TO KEEP CONTROL!” Consequently, this isn’t an open contribution blog. Tell me what you think. If it fits in, I’ll post it. If not, at least I’ll have learned something. CLICK to comment on anything below.

                              Fie on Neighsayers!

(posted 2-17-20)

I’m thinking I live a very sheltered life. On social media I’m constantly hearing cranky voices complaining about almost everything related to our sport. The judging is corrupt and unfair. Money buys success. Everything is too complicated and unreasonable. Bronc riders, tennis players, and cyclists win money. All we get is a stupid ribbon.

Am I wrong, but it seems that other than a vocal minority (the squeaky wheels), most of the riders I see in lessons or at shows seem to love their horses and enjoy our sport. I suppose it’s easy to be grumpy. It’s the prevailing attitude in the news and the critical media no matter which side you’re on. But I like to think of our time with horses as a respite from all that, and I hope a lot of you do too.

I don’t deny that things can be made better, and if there are issues that need to be addressed, it behooves us to do so and not ignore them. But competing provides structure and goals—many riders appreciate the way it helps motivate and focus them.

It helps to be realistic about your available time, abilities, and finances. Pick the size sandbox you belong in, and don’t pout if it isn’t the biggest, most glittery one. If someone you know happens to own a fancier horse than yours and is able to compete on a bigger stage than you can, wish her well, and get over it. The operant term is “relative deprivation.” Don’t fall prey to it.

                       A High Yield Investment

(posted 2-7-20)

Aside from a cadre of hyper classical troglodytes, almost everyone accepts leg yielding these days. Riders dutifully practice the First Level test patterns— yielding from centerline out to the track and from the track inward. I also see lots of spiral leg yielding outward from a 10 to a 20 meter circle. What I commend to you is to become proficient at leg yielding in another pattern: yielding along the track tail to the wall, essentially making a shoulder in without the bend.

Ask yourself what goes wrong in shoulder in most often. The usual suspects are the neck overbent to the inside, the horse restricted in front and losing energy, and the horse falling over his outside shoulder and leaning on the outside hand. These all result from the rider’s inability to control the horse’s lateral balance.

As a remedy try practicing leg yielding along the rail with an absolutely straight neck as it comes out of your horse’s shoulders. Only position him to the inside at the poll.

Furthermore, don’t make the angle by taking your inside leg behind the girth. Keep your legs in the same position they would be in for a shoulder in. By managing your outside aids you can regulate or limit the bend as you choose. Create a straight horse (on an angle) who is willing to hold himself up as he moves along the track.

When you can produce such a balance, superimpose bending through the length of the horse’s body onto it. A good way is by leg yielding as described down the long side, executing a 10 meter circle, and carrying that bend (and balance) as you proceed on three tracks to the next corner.

You will also find that later on when you want to produce a renvers, it will be much easier to change the bend without pulling your horse’s head to the side and to put him into the new outside rein.                                                

The texts of past blogs which used to appear here have their own page. Access them with a simple click below