Good Exercises for a Supple Dressage Horse
I don't know if this is a new forum or not, but in any case.. i'd love to know what some of you guys do to get your horses good and supple (giving to leg pressure, light cues, easy to bend, etc). Something I had practiced a LONG time ago, and i hope I can find again, is something like "the 13 Dressage Exercises" or something like that. It included:
Leg Yielding - turn your corner early, and use leg pressure to get your horse to go back onto the rail without having him bend his neck.
"Butterfly" Leg Yielding - Start on the rail, use your outside leg to leg yield to "X" then use your inside leg to leg yield back to the rail.
Circles Decreasing in size - Self explanitory. I did these at the walk. Start with a 20 meter circle, then slowly shrink the circle until it is only 10 meters, then finally until it is 5 meters. Great for keeping a horse in a good bend.
Circles Increasing in size - Same as above, only you start with the 5 meter and work up to the 10, then the 20. Great combination of bending and leg yielding.
Shoulder in - Tip your horse's shoulder to the inside of the arena but keep his hind end straight.
Shoulder out - Tip your horse's shoulder to the outside of the arena, keeping his hind end straight.
I think Dressage is fascinating. It is one of the best disciplines that reflects basic good horsemanship, in my opinion. I am not even talking about the Grand Prix levels.. i'm talking the lower levels, the basics. There is some awesome rider-horse communication going on, and for that reason i will always be Dressage at heart.
When I had been riding in lessons for 2 solid years i had done a little sampling of everything in the english world. My riding instructor asked me if I wanted to go the Jumping route, or if i'd like Dressage. It wasn't even a second thought. I knew I wanted to do Dressage. I was the only one out of 20 students or so. BUT.. i have to say.. out of the 19 students that went the jumping route... only 3 of them still ride horses to this day. The others all moved on to boys and whatnot ;) I stick by my decision!
Im by no means ragging on Jumpers/Hunters/Eventers at all. A lot of people (my husband included) just completely discount Dressage because it doesn't look exciting, and it is really hard work. Or some people only want to do dressage because of the Grand Prix stuff. Or some people who don't know any better see the high level stuff and think its just "show" and that there is nothing really going on behind it. Seriously, some people think its just tricks.. like Bowing and Rearing. Me? I just love having the open level of communication with the horses as i am astride =)
Anyways, i'm done blathering.. please share your warm ups and training methods as to how you get your Dressage horse good and supple! I think i listed the gist of what I do, but im tired and not thinking straight, lol!
I look forward to seeing what you guys say! =)
Before you put exercises to a horse just how many can actually describe what suppleness is and at what point should you be looking at this in the horse as far as it training scale/level.
Great post, Skippy!! Those are indeed some great suppling exercises :)
I'm not exactly sure what you're asking, Spyder... in my opinion the moment you start working with a horse you should be working on suppleness, elasticity, and the like...
I understand what you're asking when you say to describe suppleness, but i'm having a hard time figuring out the other question you're asking...
My definition of "Supple" is: A horse that is relaxed, flexible, in tempo, responsive, and yields very easily to pressure by leg, body or bit. Its more one of those things I can feel in the saddle and go "see the difference?" rather than give a text book definition for =)
Another way I supple my horses when i warm them up is by bending their neck/tipping their head about 7 or 10 inches one way and holding it at a walk, then straightening them out and repeat the process only with the head tipped in the other direction. This is a really good way to warm up your horse as you take your first few walking laps in the ring before schooling =)
As for the other question, do you mean- What level should the horse be at before you ask for real suppleness/collection?
If thats the question, then I say: Immediately. I begin asking a horse to be supple as soon as I feel they are mentally prepared to learn it.. but i put it on a horse as soon as possible. There is nothing wrong (that i know of) of teaching a horse of any safe riding age to be supple to the rider =) Heck, my horses are responsive/supple to my body when i am leading them.. so truthfully, it can start on the ground ;) Depending on if the question was pertaining to dressage/riding, or just horses in general.
If thats not the question you were asking, then please disregard ^^
Supplness evolves from a horse that has accepted the driving aids and moves freely forward without any crutch. Balance has been found and the horse is ready to accept the riders directions and increased demands.
Too many times I see trainers start throwing all sorts of moves on a horse that is supposedly supple but in reality is very stiff. In most cases these trainers do not understand the real basics and rush to produce a "finished" horse.
Suppleness in a horse cannot be expected until the horse willingly moves forward unconstrained.
Spyder, that is another fine way of looking at it, and yet another reason I like dressage. The willing impulsion from the horse is there, and the horse is very intune to the rider, and the working relationship begins.
When you say you've seen trainers putting "moves" on horses that were still far too stiff to attempt them, are you talking about Upper Level moves? If so, shame on the trainer for blowing through the lower levels and not having a supple horse... I don't even get how the horse could pass the tests to get to the upper levels if the suppleness isnt there.
I have seen a few Dressage Instructors push too much heavy communication on a horse far too soon.. for example: One weeks lesson to her pupil was to teach her horse to leg yield. The next weekend they attempted a half pass (im not kidding.). In my opinion: WAY too much, WAY too soon. Forcing all this heavy communication onto a green Dressage Horse will make the horse go completely batty.
Also, when you say "crutch" do you mean spurs and whips? Those can be considered tools, or a crutch, depending on who you're talking to in the big wide Horse World ^^ Personally, I don't use them... but I stick to lower levels of dressage anymore =)
And by the way, I just want to mention that I don't mind the thread getting off topic so long as it is a productive discussion (It currently is, even though we arent talking about the exercises at the moment) Suggestions for excersizes are great, but im always up for a chit chat about Basic Dressage Horsemanship, so to speak.
Thanks for the reply Spyder =)
I incorporate free-moving, swingy, elastic gaits into my definition of "suppleness." Without swingy, free-moving gaits, and elasticity, you can't have a truely supple horse. Doesn't matter if it can bite its own a$$, if it's stiff, it's not supple.
"I'm building the foundation for your horse. If you rush the foundation your house -will- collapse. Regardless of the expense you put into the supplies or the time you put into building.. a house CANNOT stand on a poor foundation."
I've lengthened mine out a bit more since then for clients who didn't understand my first analogy.
I say something along the lines of: "Right now, pretend I am building your house. I know you are REALLY excited about the house being built, and moving in to your new digs, but you need to understand that I must first start with building the foundation. This can happen relatively quickly if the house site has already been cleared and leveled.. but it could take a while if you expect me to clear your lot and level your ground. Once the foundation is down and set we can go ahead and get you another step closer to moving in."
Then i'd give the translation: "I know you're really excited about having your horse ready for the show ring, and I can help you make that happen, but first I have to Green Break them and get them used to the saddle. This process can go quickly if the horse is of sound mind, you have worked extensively with the horse to gain respect, set rules, etc.. or this will take a while if your horse has never been haltered before. Once the Green Breaking is through, we can go ahead and work on starting your horse's career."
Or something along those lines.
Goodness i'm wordy!
Spyder, howcome i've never seen pictures of you riding? :p *grabby hands*
I've seen people fight with their horses to obtain suppleness.. and i just laugh because they have no clue what suppleness is if they think fighting with their horse can achieve it.
Elastic is also a very good descriptive word for Suppleness.. it puts a good image in my head when i think about an elastic horse =)
((please excuse me for a few minutes, I think Charity is cast o.o;; i'll complete my thoughts later))
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