My good friend started riding with a new trainer in town. He has very different ideas and he seems really tough on the horses. My friend’s horse, normally a very nice, quiet guy but a bit limited in the talent department, now is very tense and unhappy looking. Should I say something to her or keep my opinion to myself? I would hate for this to come between our friendship.
BILL—Let’s go to the USDF Glossary of Judging Terms for starters. As is the case with much of our dressage vocabulary, many terms don’t exist in isolation but usually in relation to other ones. CADENCE is defined as “the marked accentuation of the rhythm and emphasized beat that is a result of a steady and suitable tempo harmonizing with a springy impulsion.” [Bold face addition mine] You could imagine it not only visually but aurally—the marked sound of a rhythmical, repetitive drumbeat.
BILL— Okay, after a number of fits and starts I am ready to take a swing at this one.
BILL– OK, I am staying totally away from the “size matters “jokes. But when it comes to choosing a horse, particularly if you’re paying money for it, as you take into account all the suitability factors, size should be one of them.
QOTM: I try to ride my mare on a loose rein so she’ll relax. When my trainer gets there she tells me to shorten my reins a lot because my horse is too quick, borderline running away at the trot and no where near being round or on the aids. She wants my horse to basically ‘earn’ a longer rein by going slower and giving in. Will that really help relax her?
Bill— The most obvious answer is that it’s a matter of intent. Being on the outside lead by accident gets you no credit. However, that heightened level of obedience to your aids which allows you to choose your lead—true or counter— ensures that your horse is not taking his lead by rote or on autopilot.
BiLL— “Clouded judgment is bad judgment.” I think Al Roker said that. Regardless, it is certainly true that if you are grumpy, depressed, irritated about some other facet of your life, or just plain off your game, it’s not going to help your riding or your horse!
I recently went to a schooling show that offered hunter/ jumper and dressage classes. I am thinking of trying some dressage so I went to watch. There was a very fancy horse doing 4th level. I talked with the rider after and noticed the horse’s whiskers weren’t clipped. I asked if she didn’t clip because it was a schooling show and she told me she had stopped clipping years ago and really didn’t know anyone who clipped whiskers or ears anymore. Is this ok in dressage??
BILL— It is more than totally OK in dressage, even at the biggest recognized shows. At the moment there is no specific FEI rule, but in some European countries where dressage obviously is very popular, it is literally against the law to trim whiskers or inside your horse’s ears. This is a horse welfare issue, not an aesthetic one. A horse’s whiskers are part of his tactile sensory apparatus, and to deprive him of them seems unfair and unkind. Many top trainers in the US have a European background, so it seems perfectly normal for them to allow the whiskers to be natural. In the dressage world you won’t get a sideways look.
(This is posted out of order. It was published in November of 2019)
BILL— to a degree, most everything, but my secret pet peeve is when novice riders describe their horses’ random bad behaviors in classical terms. I’m sorry, your nervous, neurotic horse was not piaffing on the trail. He was just anxiously prancing about, most likely in no coherent rhythm.
Nor did he perform a levade, a balanced “crouching,” very collected movement with extreme bending of his hocks. He was just standing on his hind legs. That’s very different!
These are not just semantic disparities. To endow them with classical names doesn’t give credit to the time it takes and the degree of difficulty involved in training those actual movements.
BILL— Among beginnerish riders it’s probably because it’s the instinctive way that they think they should turn their horse. Fairly early on riders get past that stage, yet the problem persists. This is usually because they underuse their supporting outside aids. We have all heard many, many times “inside leg to outside hand,” but this mantra neglects the importance of the outside leg which keeps the horse from bulging out.