Training the Mind of the Horse and Rider

Training the Mind of the Horse and Rider
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Thursday, January 22, 2009

" The Beginning Dresssage Book"

I have heard that Dressage principles can be used in any discipline that you ride. I totally agree. A French term, dressage is an equitation term and means training. I have started reading the book, “The Beginning Dressage Book” by Kathryn Denby-Wrightson and Joan Fry. Dressage is a style of training. A kind method. A training method that considers the well-being of the horse foremost. A method of give and take. A method that teaches correct posture. A method that teaches the correct balance between horse and rider. Definitely the kindest of methods.

Dressage teaches the horse to be balanced. With impulsion and forward movement, the horse learns to carry himself correctly. The horse learns to engage his hind legs, bringing them further and further up underneath his body, adding cadence and a springiness to his gaits. The book teaches the art of lunging and the beginning of collection through correct lunging. Lunging develops the horse’s muscles, allowing him to become stronger in his back and leg muscles.

Proper seat position is necessary to maintain the balance between horse and rider. The rider needs to sit on the seat bones, not in front of them and not behind them. The thigh muscle needs to be against the saddle so as to maintain contact with the seat bones.

There are many exercises while lunging to help the horses build confidence and strength while engaging his body. While lunging with side reins, not so much to set the head as to set the poll to aid in muscling and for the horse to begin to learn impulsion. As he slows his speed, the horse learns to extend. This is the fundamental beginning of collection.

There are many exercises that help to maintain contact with the horse while keeping correct posture with the seat bones. Tying off the reins and stretching the arms and legs helps to teach balance in the seat. If you are uncomfortable doing these exercises with no rein contact, have someone attach a lunge line to the horse. You need to be relaxed and comfortable, not tense and unsure. All of the exercises emphasis the correct position of the seat bones. You learn to use very little pressure on the reins to bend the horse, whether into a circle or to change directions.

Maybe I have taken some movements for granted, well… maybe not actually for granted, but I have done them long enough that I do them by feel now. The reading I have done so far has made me analyze each movement. As I read the chapters, I see in my mind what the author is explaining and what the horse or rider should be doing or how they should be reacting. I know and understand what I have read. As you read this book, re-read anything you don’t understand until it makes sense to you. Picture in your brain what the concept is. Sit on the floor or on a chair and try the exercises.

Dressage Prospect? Definately a good riding prostpect as we have ridden some of her brothers and sisters!

I’m sure as I get further into the book, I will read some of what I am already incorporating into my training program. I like how the author has thoroughly discussed the reasons behind her style. I have done some of the same maneuvers as she has outlined in her book, and I have learned more from her about the effects these have on the rider and on the horse. I understand how a movement, either the horse or the rider, changes the balance of the horses. It is interesting to read about what you thought you knew, and now to realize that you understand the concepts better. I’m anxious to read the riding parts now, and to fully understand the movements that we do with our horses. What parts of the horse’s body changes as we ask the horse to do specific exercises. How does the rider change position when you want the horse to move a certain way.

My goal is to apply these principles to increase the muscle and strength of my horses’ back and leg muscles. I will work on his collection. My goal is to apply subtle rein direction, while maintaining contact, to have my horse perform better obstacles.

Keep reading. I will continue this book’s discussion in my next blog. Just give me a few days. I may not get to it before the weekend!

Oh…I’m starting my ride for the year! Even if it is just in my head! Come along for the ride and be prepared when warmer weather finally gets here to stay!

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