basic dressage exercises for a hunter
With all of this talk on the forum about how important dressage work is for EVERYONE, I figure it's time for me to start working on some basic exercises me and my horse will benefit from.
Just some backround: Some things we are working on are my postition over the jump, LEAD CHANGES, correct striding to the jump, my horses collection, and most of all...STAYING STRAIGHT!
I'm basically looking for exercises I will be able to try in my free time. In lessons, we get some dressage work, but usually they are exercises I need to work on under istruction, or else I'm not sure about what I'm doing. So just some basic exercises I can work on while hacking, anythhing you guys have personally found beneficial or that would help with the above problems. As stated above, our number one problem is staying straight, where that might sound simple, it's an important problem. I'm positive that once our straightness problem is corrected, a lot of our other problems will follow through, after all, straightness is one of THE most important things to riding.
Thanks in advance, I'm hoping dressage will strengthen me and my horse's ability! =]
Firstly, good for you for recognizing the great importance of dressage is for both you and your horse. So be proud of yourself for that big step!
Now, it isn't just doing dressage, you can walk trot and canter just fine - that is basic dressage, but it is the understanding of how to do it correctly, to make it effective.
For example - at my barn, I watch people get in the area, mount and start walking. Horses back is dropped, horse is tense, head is carried high, not tracking up - then within not even a few minutes, they are trotting already. Same thing - backs dropped, head high, blah blah - now they canter, same thing.
Ok, so they walked, trotted and cantered - but was it really efficiant? Was it effective? Did it do its' job?
Not at all.
Then the sad thing is, they start to jump. Wow - no wonder horses break down before they should.
Back to topic - First, you have to correct your position in your tack, to ensure that you are being an effective rider, so that your horse can be efficiant and effective = moving correctly, working correct muscles.
Stop riding on your crotch, get onto all 3 points of your seat. You cannot be an effective rider if you are on your crotch. You must use your core - that means you cannot have a arched lower back. You must sit up tall, you cannot lean forward and put your bodies weight onto your horses forehand. You must carry your hands with elbows at side - this aids your horse to come up into you.
Seat first, legs second, hands last.
Use your body correctly, so that your horse can use his/her body correctly.
When you achieve proper form in the saddle - then work on impulsion, engagement, tracking up, rounding your horses back, softening, suppleness.
Training Scale :)
You can do this through doing 20 meter circles, serpentines. Work on transitions - ensuring that you are rocking your horse back onto their haunches and pushing off on their haunches.
Work on alot of long and low - having your horse stretch down while you lift their back, have them track up and move forward.
There is a great book called 101 Dressage Exercises For Both Horse And Rider - I highly recommend picking it up :)
Remember - you are the key.
Great advice MIE! I will definitely look into that book, I think they sell it at our local book store =]
MIEventer, as usual, has some great advice for you! And again, kudos for being dedicated to the correct training of your horse. I, too, see a lot of people only really school over fences, and "hack" on the other days - but they don't actually school!
The key to flexion, straightness, suppleness - all of it - is engagement. You want your horse pushing from his hind end, responding to your leg, and tracking up into a soft but steady contact. Engagement is tricky to get right without eyes on the ground; half the time, the horse feels in front of the leg but he's not! It takes a while to know the feeling well enough to duplicate it on your own.
Leg-to-hand connection and being able to respond to independent aids are really the two 'foundations' of dressage that will help so much in your jumping. You want to be able to bend and meld your horse from inside leg to a steady half-halting outside rein, and reverse it on a whim to school counter-bend (a largely forgotten about schooling exercise that I really like). If your horse is confident and balanced in his canter work, school short periods of counter canter - like counter canter loops.
The book MI recommended is a good one! It's great to keep in your tack locker to look things up on a whim. If you have a DQ friend, bum her old Dressage Todays from her. They often have some really good, illustrative training articles.
Most of all, though, have fun! :) Dressage is super rewarding, and you WILL notice the effect it has on your jumping. Good luck!
Great post! ^^
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