Ok, so I've been doing dressage-only with Beau, my QH gelding, since last fall. Prior to that we were eventing and riding in the jumpers... only doing dressage a home and at horsetrials, no dressage shows.
This year, we've been to 6 shows already. Scoring well - mid 60's - mid 70's at Training 1, 2 & 4.
He's on the aids, supple, bending, obedient... that's not the problem. The thing that's hurting us the most is his movement.
We've been getting 5's and 6's on our free walks and comments such as "cover more ground" & "short steps". I'm pushing him out as much as I can without making him trot. He stretches into the bridle, he's just not going enough.
The rest of the tests, we'll bring in 7's & 8's and the occasional 9. But our medium walks often need "more march". Our trots have "short steps" sometimes. And our canters need "more reach & shoulder freedom" & is sometimes "a bit short and stiff". I've been working on riding him a bit more forward to try to get something out of him - he feels like he's moving out to me - but apparently not.
That's pretty much all the comments we get. My question is how to fix it.
He's 10 years old and he does get a bit creaky, especially if he's stalled overnight. I'm going to talk to the veterinarian about joint injections, I'm thinking they'll help. Especially since this is a relatively new problem, we never trouble up til this point - I'm thinking arthritis could be the culprit:-(.
Plus, that fact that he's a QH so his movement isn't huge anyway.
But are there any exercises that could possibly help? Care to share any info about joint injections?
Woo, sorry that was long.
Well, let me share a story that might beable to give you some encouragement.
My old coach went Prelim with her Arabian Gelding named Maxwell Smart. They always did "well" in dressage, but not good enough for their level. She would try very hard to make Max conform to her and to conform to what the dressage ring expected him to be......or better yet, what she thought the dressage ring expected him to be.
Due to him not being conformed in compareson to those big TB's and big SportHorses and Warmbloods that they were up against, she tried to make him go, how he wasn't designed to go.
So, they always had to make up for their "lack of score" after their dressage phase, in CC and Stadium.
One comp was approaching, and she got strept throat...or was it mono? anyways, she couldn't ride - so a friend rode for her. Another Eventer in the area, more advanced than she.
So she rode their dressage test, and came out top of their category. They won, and left with fabulous scores in their dressage.
My previous coach, wanted to know how they did so well in dressage - and the answer was. She rode him the way he was meant to be rode due to his conformation and allowed him to move how he wanted to move.
So, my previous coach tried to make Max conform to her, which blocked him and impeded his progress - instead of her conforming to him, and allowing him to move how he was designed to move.
Was Max built to compete the same as the other horses he was faced against that day? No. But what won the judges over, was that his rider allowed him to move, how he was designed to move.
So I say, if you are working on your dressage consistantly and doing all you can with what you tools you have and you aren't getting much of a change, I say - just let sleeping dogs lay.
Find his way. Allow him to move how he is designed to move and allow your boy to go how he is happy to go.
NOW, if this is a joint issue, I would look into IM's before joint injections *those are expensive and don't always work*
How well does he free walk when he's just out trail riding or walking on a loose rein? My horse overtracks beautifully when we're just out walking along, but put him in a dressage test and his back legs get stuck. I'm thinking I'm unintentionally sending him signals to not fully let go because I'm anticipating putting him back together already. Just a thought.
Thanks MIEventer, I'll see what the vet says. If it's not anything joint related we'll just keep chugging along in our QH-ness :)
MyBoyPuck, he doesn't really overtrack all that much outside of the ring either. I can get him to step into/maybe a little over his front print with his hind, but I really have to push with my seat. And even when we do that in shows we still get "cover more ground"-type comments.
Don't get me wrong, he does well - we've brought home 1 third and the rest are firsts and seconds. So, we're making due, but all the comments make me wonder if he's sore/starting with arthritis...
I would wait and see what your Vet says. Is your fellow on any form of suppliment right now to aid his joints?
Do you get him Chiro work at all? He could be out, it happens.
I've thought about the Chiro, too. He's never been adjusted. I'd be interested on having one come out and take a look at him... I'll start looking/asking around for a good one in our area.
Do you still have Nelson on IM joint injections? I think it was Glucosamine? Maybe?...
I had him on Glucosamine IM's yes. That is the cheapest and the basic ingredient for Joint care/suppliments.
It wasn't doing enough in my opinion - it was working well at first, don't get me wrong, but I wanted to up him due to what we are doing physically.
So I am bumping him up to Adequan.
I did this exercise at a clinic with Elizabeth Lewis, and I came into the clinic with much the same issue as you. I had a lovely appendix QH who was a good do-be and produced a good test, but lacked brilliance and expression.
After warming up, Elizabeth put us on a 30 meter circle with two cones positioned on the perimeter in working trot. Once he was firmly on the outside rein, I rode a big half halt at each cone then rode forward. In about 4 -5 circles I had a bigger, warmbloody trot.
Simple, right? Circles and half-halts, who knew? I think it was the discipline of staying on the circle and *having* to ride the half halts at certain places on the circle. I kicked myself for about a week for having to spend a lot of money on a clinic with a famous rider to use this technique, but hey, it worked and I hadn't come up with it on my own.
I also found that once I got the big, expressive trot in my warm up, the extra bit of stretching and throughness helped the walk as well.
HA! When I read your post Maura, that made me remember that dang article in PH with George Morris's students taking a clinic with an Olympic Dressage Competator.....
Here's part of that article pertaining to what you just said:
"The riders continued to work on forwardness and straightness as they rode transitions into and within the walk, trot and canter.
""Our job is to figure out how much balance and harmony we can create to make our horses perfectly adjustabe to our aids"" Robert said. ""If you have perfect adjustability, you have everything""
To ask for a working sitting trot from the walk, Robert instructed Chelsea: ""Take a breath. Push your chest forward. Lean back half and inch. Now go forward. Push the cantle to the pommel. Close your leg.""
And to lengthen that trot: ""Victoria, is that the bigest trot you can do? Is it there? Not quite. Half-halt to add more energy. Sit back, take in a breath, push that swing. Close your legs and bend with the inside hand. You should feel him surge forward. When that happens, close the outside first to capture that energy. Then relax and let him go.""
But just using aids to ask for a transition was not enough for success: ""Chelsea, are you seeing the vision of lengthening or just hearing the word?"" Robert asked. And to Victoria: "Drive your horse withyour seat into the most beautiful trot in your mind's eye.""
Create the vision
Before having a great riding position or the most effective half-halt, you have to see yourself doing those things, Robert Dover told the 8 young riders at the GM Horsemansterhip Training Session throughout the day. "No artist can create what they desire without having a vision of it first.
"I talk to Olympic-level riders all the time, and I say, 'You saw nothing coming around that corner. You saw nothing in your mind's eye, and because of that, you saw a word instead of seeing the granest version of yourself and your horse coming to that next place. Because of that, you created something average.'
"At the Olympics, I would go to the arena the day before, andI would see myself and my horse going around doing my test. I would stand there, and I would just see myself being fantastic."
He encouraged ridres to think about how they presented themselves, too. "Think of an opera singer, gymnast or any great athlete, or even a businessman. They come up, and they're proud, and they have this look of ownership. They're empowered. So when you ride later, you're gonna look empowered."
Rider Taylor Land said Robert's emphases on the mental aspect of riding make a lasting impression. "He really stressed that the way you look at riding and think about competing is actually more important than actually doing it. He was really about 'Think greatness, only greatness.' I'm going to remember that quite forever."
"You are only one half-halt away from perfection" is what he was yelling at me.
Anyways - yes, ride what you have. I have the same problem - always wanting Grand Prix. Well I don't have a Grand Prix horse so hhow the hell am I going to get that??
Transitions, re balancing circles and connecting half halts are your best friends. The only things that you can do to improve a walk and canter are balance them. The gaits are how the gaits are. You can make a trot, but that's it.
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