Dressage Horse Training: Creating Step-wise Processes to find your Training Holes

Hello Everyone,

As I am here in Venice, Florida at Fox Lea Farm in my first dressage immersion experience I am making writing a core part of the learning experience for myself.  I was planning to get a lot of work done on my upcoming book, “Learning Dressage at the Walk” but have underestimated the amount of brain cells I am using to watch lessons; absorb and process my own lessons.  These short blogs are my notes for my book.  I have a key theme emerging from what I’ve written and experienced thus far.

Horses are horses and training is training

I am an autodidact and spend a lot of time on my education.  Reading. Watching videos. clinicing and auditing.  I spend so much time on my own education that the label Amateur versus Professional as I’ve heard it applied was offensive.  Comments such as the qualifier, “Well, that’s pretty good for an amateur.”  Anyway, natural horsemanship is aptly named because it is what I did as a kid with a horse as my teacher.  Here’s a specific example.  I had a quarter horse mare I got to ride if I could get the saddle on her. This mare would not cross a creek.  Living and trail riding in West Virginia this was a big problem because there were creeks all over the place so I either couldn’t ride with everyone else or sometimes we’d get stuck unable to come home and have to go back around the long way.  Being a kid during the summer I had nothing but time so I started to figure out what the problem was with the creeks.  I put the halter and a long rope on the mare and found the smallest creek and figured out that a small quite creek was scarier than a very shallow creek with rocks and texture.  It became apparent that the visual was a big part of the problem.  I took my time and got the mare to relax enough to reach forward with her nose to inspect the creek.  I didn’t rush the mare and allowed her time to snort, pull back, re-inspect, paw with her hoof and then make a huge jump over the creek.  We repeated this process over many different creeks and when the comfort level was high I got on the mare’s back and we did the same thing.  If needed, I would get off and go through the creek inspection process from the ground.  And so on…

Because I never had formal lessons or did pony club, the English world of riding was very foreign to me.  It seemed like a place of secret handshakes and fancy horses and it had an other-worldliness quality compared to my personal experience with horses.  What I’m realizing now is horses are horses and training is training.  The challenge with dressage is figuring out where your training holes are and how to plug the holes.  I was having a conversation with a trainer and he said that most of the German books on horseback riding assume you know how to “ride” your horse.  There is a lot of skill, technique and feel wrapped up in the one word “ride” your horse.  I’ve been able to figure out how to teach my horses to yield to pressure, move sideways, forwards and back.  This “ride” has been a booger.  This involves learning how to balance a quadruped and teach this quadruped to move in self-carriage.  Self-carriage, the the aids developed by a good rider that are invisible to the untrained eye.  This is the level of training that is assumed to be understood when you go to a dressage clinic.  This is the level of training I want to capture in my book, “Learning to Ride Dressage at the Walk.”

My work with riding as of Jan 2015 is to take each hole identified by any movement I’m having trouble with and do some research to see what are the preceding steps I’m missing.  What’s missing in dressage is the precursor book about how to get your horse on the bit and develop self-carriage.  This is the work that must happen before you get to ride the “stuff.”  This is the work that makes the “stuff” appear effortless and beautiful.  Some kinaesthetic riders are able to feel this out for themselves and I want to write the book for the rest of us that are studious and dedicated and need a checklist.

Good Riding,

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

Out of the Saddle

Out of the Saddle

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