Dressage Horse Training: Preparing for Prix St. George

Hello Everyone,

I wanted to share how our first PSG went in Autumn Hill.  Donzer had not been shown for almost three years while we were learning changes.  LikeI’m learning about most horses, there is always one move that is particularly challenging.  For Donzer and I it has been the flying changes.  Donzer understands the canter pirouette and we are building strength and negotiating the extra effort required for an FEI level frame and self-carriage. 

We entered the show with the 3s and 4s being a guessing game.  Donzer has done many clean lines and he also has done every variation therein.  So, rather thank continue to postpone our showing leg of our learning process, we pressed on.  I rode 4-3 as a warm-up and was glad to do this because Donzer has always done better with a pre-test ride.  Donzer did try to pull some old tricks and take over like he used to do.  Now that I’m a better rider, I had to demonstrate that I’m driving now (although he’s always checking on that fact).  The first PSG (see Tara Nolan’s Horses on Youtube) was a 59.737, just under the required 60% for our silver medal counting score.  I think the ride was successful because we were able to navigate the pattern and we had both of our’s first PSG under our belts. 

After the first ride, Kris, my husband and I, sat down to review the warm-up and performance and decide what we may be able to improve on for the next day.  We decided that we needed a better warm-up with Donzer more honestly through his back.  We also agreed that even though each element of the test is doable, riding an entire test with all the pieces together is harder. 

We went down to the warm-up arena and watch some of the local trainers warming up their client’s horses.  We got to see an amazing example of one of the top trainers take her horse from a walk on the buckle to elevating the shoulders and poll for an FEI frame.  For me, watching the way the trainer applied her half-halts and dealt with the different answers her horse tried out was very helpful.

For our second day warm-up I allowed myself 45 actual minutes.  I did our training level warm-up and then walked over to the fence to chat for a few minutes.  Then I did a few canter three loop serpentines without a change of rein.  For some reason this movement helps Donzer to let go of his back and any bracing tendencies that hinder our changes.  Next, I established a 20 meter circle and focused on elevating the poll from a 2-3 level frame to the PSG frame and asked for the self-carriage.  This is where the half-halts from the day before came into play.  I took another chat break.  This seems to relax Donzer and I’m sure it’s because I relax as I think about something else besides the test.  

After reading my copy of my test, I also realized that I was allowed to collect and do my flying change from the extended canter on the diagonal instead of at the letter.  The show test versions have more explanation than the copy I printed on-line. 

Although our second test did not feel as powerful and glamourous as I would have liked-it felt very solid and steady.  Donzer was late responding to one of my 4s and so we did 5 strides.  On the threes he blew me off and I just added in a few more after X so he didn’t get the idea changes were done.  Donzer stayed calm and did as I asked so it was a good training moment. The ride ended up being a 61.9 so I was pleased we were able to make some effective changes for the second day. 

Since we have to do another PSG to get our second 60% I’ve been focusing on the quality of the canter.  The better job Donzer does working on his hind end, the better the changes get.  Today, I did many changes-none were late behind but we are definitely renegotiating the change.  Donzer is pretty sure that after a change I should lean forward a little, give him some extra rein and let him gallop off just a little bit.  I have decided to sit up, and make the changes a nonevent in terms of the canter–and this is not being well-received but it is happening.  The PSG is such a combo effort of horse and rider and we each have to put effort into the process. 

Good Riding,

Tara , Author Out of the Saddle: 9 Steps to Improve Your Horseback Riding.


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