Written by Jan Hoadley
Editors note: In the weeks ahead, we will be releasing a series of dressage tips. This is #1 in the series. Soon to follow are:
-Reconditioning the Riding Horse
-Dealing with Resistance
-Extension and Collection
Too often people think of dressage and discount it as a style of training rather than a method. While we might call it different things and it may be different in points, dressage is useful in many situations.
Dressage is, after all, training. Training enables you to move your horse’s front end or hindquarters. It allows easing over to pass a slower horse in a western pleasure class without ‘falling apart’. It allows the flexibility to navigate a trail class and the ability to truly extend and collect in hunter under saddle classes.
One of the first points of dressage can be adjusting our opinions of what it is. Dressage doesn’t mean you have to do the perfect circle and aim for the Olympics although many seek that dream. Dressage offers the ability to place your horse where you need him when you need him there.
This flexibility can be started with a willingness to give to the bit. Asking softly for the horse to give with his head and curl his neck around to touch nose to your toe can help soften the front end by adding flexibility and encouraging a give and take response. This is much different from tying the horse’s head to force into position. Instead begin by gently tipping the nose.
The first time as soon as the horse gives, even a little, give back. You can ask again for a little more, and work on both sides. Eventually work up to the horse willingly touching your toe on a loose rein.
This is not as exciting as flying lead changes or the classic ‘high school’ dressage. It is a small thing that is a basis for bigger things. It can be just as useful for a trail horse as a competition dressage horse or show horse or even a performance horse such as polo. All can call on situations you need to place your horse exact. Flexibility in the front end begins with these small steps.
About the author: For more information about Jan Hoadley, visit her website atwww.writenowbiz.com.