How to tell 'good' dressage from 'bad' dressage?
 
 

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How to tell 'good' dressage from 'bad' dressage?

This is a discussion on How to tell 'good' dressage from 'bad' dressage? within the Dressage forums, part of the English Riding category
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    02-27-2011, 11:56 AM
  #1
Foal
Arrow How to tell 'good' dressage from 'bad' dressage?

How? I know 'bad' dressage is unengaged hindquarters, on the forehand, forced head position, falling into the corners, etc etc, but how in the world can you tell? Especially from pictures, but even in videos it's kinda hard for me to identify.
So here are some more specific questions:
How can you identify a forced head position?
How can you see if a horse is round/collected?
What should engaged hindquarters look like?
How do you tell if the poll is the highest point? (Sometimes a horse has a big crest so it looks like it's not the highest)

Explanations are loved; videos, pictures, and diagrams are muchly appreciated. :)

(Oh, also, how do western-type horses get collected with their necks so far down? I've never understood the 'U' example.)
     
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    02-27-2011, 12:11 PM
  #2
Green Broke
The easiest way is for you to pick a picture and tell us what you see in it. That will give me an idea of just what the level of your understanding is, from there I can tell you what I can see, how I can tell and what signs you are supposed to be looking for.

This is me riding Pride (quite a few years ago mind). Tell me what you see, then I'll tell you what I can see and what I felt. Do'nt worry about saying not nice things I know exactly what is wrong in this picture and I have fixed it
     
    02-27-2011, 04:02 PM
  #3
slc
Weanling
How? I know 'bad' dressage is unengaged hindquarters, on the forehand, forced head position, falling into the corners, etc etc, but how in the world can you tell? Especially from pictures, but even in videos it's kinda hard for me to identify.

It is actually difficult to see a lot in photos, especially as far as making firm statements about how enegetic the gaits are, how fluid, how supple, how rhythmic, all of which need to be seen in motion. At certain parts of the stride, for example, the canter always looks awkward. And you can't be 100% sure when you see a picture, if it was taken at a bad moment or if the horse/rider always look pretty much like that.

Some things you can see. Really glaring errors in rider position, very basic things such as cantering on the wrong lead - a good number of other things.

Too, if the rider is a beginner(and a person can even be a 'beginner' at Grand Prix, or at Grand Prix internationally or what have you, or they may be able to ride one horse well and not another), you might see certain things wrong, but they are things a beginner could never be expected to do so well.

The tests really help to guide what to look for at a given level. For example at training level, the directives say 'thrusting power' is important. So if a training level horse is shuffling along slowly without energy, that would be a directive for that level, and that's not being fulfilled. But again, there's something you can't always see from a photo.

In general, I'd really caution you to not spend toooooo much time on photos. Videos are better, and watching live is better, and watching live with an experienced person teaching you what's going on, is the best.

So here are some more specific questions:
How can you identify a forced head position?

If I saw a lot of photos of that horse/rider, and in all of them, the reins were hanging down and the horse's head was tucked in with slack in the rein, I'd be concerned the horse was 'set' in that position. Again, easier to see 'live', you can see the muscles in the neck rippling and moving and the head position changing slightly when it's not forced. There, it's easier to see if that slack in the rein is a momentary thing or a continuous problem with the contact.

Too, a beginner, due to having a weak seat and not being sure what to do, could have the horse in a 'forced looking' position, but he's just too inexperienced to fix everything at once. If he can steer and stay safe and follow the class, what can you say? Things take time. Hopefully he is on an appropriate horse that just 'keeps on truckin''.

And to some degree, everyone is a beginner at something in dressage. Even a top rider is always learning and improving.

How can you see if a horse is round/collected?
The collected horse has a different shape of stride - higher and shorter stride, his hind legs reach less far forward (but he's had so much training before this, in 'thrusting power', that when he's collected, his hind feet often will STILL land further forward than other horses without his training).

If you do not see a difference in the 'shape' of the stride, the horse is not collected. You should also see the joints of the leg bending and flexing more, and though the rider shouldn't pull the horse's head up with the reins, if the horse is collected, he will have his head and neck up higher than he does when not collected.

The horse should look light and agile in front, and he should look as if he's in a nice 'package', maintaining a contact with the reins, and despite being collected, the gaits should look natural, flowing, energetic, active and there should be no pauses, hovering or jerking motion.

The amount of collection is the least at 2nd level, and the most at Grand Prix. It might be hard to see the collection at 2nd level.

What should engaged hindquarters look like?
Engaged means that all the joints of the hind quarters and hind legs, have smaller angles, just as if you squashed a spring down. There are two kinds of 'engaged'. One, where the hind legs swing far forward and the hind feet land well forward. The other, is in collection, where the stride goes just a little more 'up' than 'reaching forward'.

How do you tell if the poll is the highest point? (Sometimes a horse has a big crest so it looks like it's not the highest)
Instead of looking at the top line of the neck, or the line of the mane or braids, look at the biggest muscle of the upper side of the neck which makes a definite line below the line of the mane, and see if its line continues UP in a continuous upward curve. Some horses have a 'long poll' and are deceptive, even when looking at the muscle.

(Oh, also, how do western-type horses get collected with their necks so far down? I've never understood the 'U' example.)
It's a different riding sport, and their type of collection is different from dressage collection.

In a way, dressage makes use of the idea that getting the back stretching and working is a good thing, not by putting the head and neck low all the time, but by occasionally stretching down the neck, and also by always 'sending the horse to the bridle', so that in a very small way, he's constantly stretching his muscles, even when he's relatively 'up' in his neck. Later, when the horse is collected, the stretching and working has made the back strong, so it doesn't hollow out or invert or 'drop' down like a sway back.

If you want, you could post pictures here and give your evaluation of the picture, and others then could comment. Maybe even pick pictures that most puzzle you.

Keeping in mind of course that no one is ever perfect and that there can even be bad moments in a ride that is good or even great overall.

Even a score of '10' means, 'hey that was pretty darn good' rather than 'perfect'.

But overall, I would really caution you to not get too into critiquing pictures. There is a lot that you can guess or suggest about a picture, and a few things that you can see for sure, but much information, much of the most important information about a ride, you can't see in a still picture.
     
    02-27-2011, 04:26 PM
  #4
Super Moderator
I think there is a difference between BAD dressage and uneducated dressage. Beginners will make mistakes, and like slc said, lack the muscle and seat to get movements correct. In such cases usually the horse just moves along in the easiest manner it can and it will look pretty detached from its' rider, going little different from the way it would go if it was trotting across the pasture to the feed rack. NO damage is being done to the horse, but neither is he being strengthened nor improved of balance under saddle (the stated goal of dressage)
But bad dressage is that which actually forces the horse into a frame or way of moving that has a negative impact on muscle development, on his mouth, his breathing, and his mind. You will see this at all levels from time to time, and this is the saddest. I THINK I know it when I see it, but this area is one of constant argument amongst dressage folk so I will leave the explanation to those more involved in it on a daily basis.
     
    02-27-2011, 04:27 PM
  #5
Showing
Faye, I going to put what I think is wrong and feel free to correct me (as I'm lacking experience). I just think it would be a good training.

To me the horse actually looks like being on forehand and not stepping in own footprints (sorry I'm not positive whats a correct term for this one). Also you don't seem to be align and leaning forward BUT from what I was told slight lean forward is what jumpers are supposed to do (because to me looks like you have either CC or A/P saddle, not the dressage one).
     
    02-27-2011, 04:33 PM
  #6
Green Broke
Quote:
Originally Posted by kitten_Val    
To me the horse actually looks like being on forehand and not stepping in own footprints (sorry I'm not positive whats a correct term for this one).
Correct term is tracking up

Quote:
Also you don't seem to be align and leaning forward BUT from what I was told slight lean forward is what jumpers are supposed to do (because to me looks like you have either CC or A/P saddle, not the dressage one).
It is non of those saddles, it is a show saddle like this one.



no knee rolls, low profile so that it doesnt distract from the horse, straight cut to show off the shoulder.

I'll go into what is wrong with the picture in a bit!
     
    02-27-2011, 04:42 PM
  #7
slc
Weanling
Tinyliny, that was a really nice post.

However, you could also say that while it's obvious when a rider has the reins so short the horse's neck is cramped up that is not pleasant for the horse, that the opposite, a very long rein, can cause problems too - poor balance and put a real strain on the horse when trying to do dressage work. A horse will work very hard, even to the point of straining a tendon, in a long, unbalanced posture as well.
     
    02-27-2011, 04:53 PM
  #8
slc
Weanling
It does look like the little bay has tipped on the forehand as far as for dressage, but this looks like a British hack class, not a dressage class, based on the saddlery, bridle, rider position.
     
    02-27-2011, 05:53 PM
  #9
Super Moderator
Quote:
Originally Posted by slc    
tinyliny, that was a really nice post.

However, you could also say that while it's obvious when a rider has the reins so short the horse's neck is cramped up that is not pleasant for the horse, that the opposite, a very long rein, can cause problems too - poor balance and put a real strain on the horse when trying to do dressage work. A horse will work very hard, even to the point of straining a tendon, in a long, unbalanced posture as well.

True, a horse ridden strung out on the forehand is ultimately more likely to go unsound. That is the whole purpose of dressage; to change the horses balance such that he carries the rider in a way that is less stressful on the joints, for longterm soundness. To do this, however, requires more work from the horse, more muscular work, so they usually will try to move in the way they are accustomed to while unmounted. Dressage movement isn't natural in the sense that it is not the way they will trot or walk when just ambling along on their own.

Heres what I see from the photo. I ,too , think it a bit unfair to judge this photo because she is NOT riding dressage. Anyway . . The rider is sitting a bit chair seated, her weight is not going down into her ankle, her shoulders are a bit hunched, but her hand/arm look reasonable.

The horse's neck is actually nicely positioned and the bend at the poll not bad. IF the horse were engaged behind, the front end would be lifted a bit and the nose, which is behind the vertical in the picture , would then actually be ON the vertical. So, more engagement of the hind end would create a pretty nice picture. You can literally see the hind legs drifting out behind. I can't tell very well from that photo if there is any flexion in the jaw (lateral) or not. The horse looks a little unhappy, maybe from the way the rider's weigth is going straigt down into a her seat, withou much if any of the weight being spread over the upper thighs as a more "three point" classical seat would have.
     
    02-27-2011, 06:09 PM
  #10
Green Broke
It's a show pony class but same principles as a hack class. The horses should go same as they would for an elementary level dressage test.

Basicly in that class pride was not in anyway shape or form playing game. He was leaning heavily on my hands, I was carrying his head. He is tense through his jaw and poll, breaking at the 3rd vertibrae and not using his back end properly (infact I would say his back end is in the next county). It stems primarily because the rider (me) is far to fat and can't get her leg on properly, I'm also winching his head in and setting my wrists and hands (problems which I have solved since).oh and it didnt help that the saddle was new and it was like sitting on a knife, I had bruises in places a girl should never every have bruises!
     

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