Dressage Horse Training: Truth with a Capital “T”

Hello Everyone,

As I’m capturing my “aha” moments during my Florida 2015 immersion, I am remembering my Philosophy 101 from my USAFA (college) days.  Aristotle talked about goodness and then there was Good.  Aristotle also discussed the difference in happiness versus Happiness.  What I took away from the lecture is there are actions that are good, lead to happiness or may be true.  But then, there are ideas that are True with a capital “T” whether you know or not, whether you believe or not.  Years ago I attended a USDF educational event featuring Ulla Saltzgaber and Ulla was very clear during her lessons when she was giving a piece of advice very specific to the rider and the moment.  For example, Ulla said do not go home and counter flex your horse in the canter forever.  This is a correction for this rider in this moment.

One of the great opportunities I have is to watch Uwe Steiner giving lessons.  In a recent discussion, Uwe reminded me of Ulla’s lesson from years before; watch closely, learn and remember that advice given in a moment of a lesson is specific for that horse and rider.    For a curious mind like mine that generates even more questions and is why I am attracted to the art of dressage in the first place.

Here is my personal example of truth versus Truth with Ava and Donzer.  The big topic I am tackling right now with Judy Farnsworth is learning how to ride.  I’m smiling here because that word “ride” encapsulates so much.  More specifically, I am learning how to use my lateral aids to affect getting the horses through and on the bit.  The Truths of this process are there are tools:  shoulder-in, haunches in, leg yields, counter flexion, etc.  I use each of these tools with both Donzer and Ava. The riding truth happens when I start selecting the order or combination of these tools to affect thoroughness.  I’ll use Donzer as my example.

From my previous post my work with Donzer begins with half-halt, yield, bend (shoulder-in) on the 20 meter circle.  This is fairly straight forward going to the right.  However, going to the left Donzer really pops out his right shoulder and when I ask for shoulder-in he’s all about popping out that right shoulder.  I am advanced enough with my feel to know this is not the Truth I’m seeking.  Judy explained that this indicates Donzer is really not wanting to engage his inside left hind leg so the correction must address the hind leg and shoulder together.  So, when going to the left, instead of half-halt, yield bend I have a modified process.  Half-halt, counter flex and yield together until I feel Donzer’s shoulders move back in front of his hind legs and then shoulder-in (more of an ask for left flexion).  What happens the first few times is as soon as I ask for the shoulder-in, Donzer pops his left shoulder out like water flowing downhill following the path of least resistance.  This is where I have the repeated opportunity to learn to ride.  I play with how much left bend I can ask for before the shoulder pops out.  I play with how much my right knee can guard the shoulder and keep Donzer straight.  I play with how much diagonal left sits bone and right rein (at the same time) I can use to keep Donzer in this more correct carriage.  So, this is all correct for Donzer in this moment with this issue.  On Ava, I do the half-halt, yield, bend and that is a True exercise.  The order I add in the additional supporting yields and connecting half-halts are specific to Ava with her longer frame.  Spending enough time in the saddle, trying different combinations and letting the horse tell you ultimately what is correct is learning to ride.  It is very helpful in the process of learning to ride to know what the tools are i.e. leg yields, haunches in, etc and to have your horse respond to these aids.

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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