Dressage, on the bit and other things
I plan to go Grand Prix dressage one day and I need some advice on my horse and training before I decide to either sell her and buy a Grand Prix prospect or keep at it with my current horse and see how far we get.
Angel is a 9 y/o Thoroughbred mare, bay, 17.1hh. She won't come down onto the bit despite efforts from fantastic riders and trainers and my own efforts. She also doesn't bend around my leg when she turns, if anything her head is turned to the opposite direction to which she's turning. However, she can extend and collect all paces, flying change, shoulder-in and counter canter. This is just us mucking around. I can video her performing if you like. She has the LONGEST legs and does a spectacular Moorlands Totilas-style extended trot. Angel also doesn't halt square every time and gets over excited easily. I need to know more on bringing her onto the bit and I will NOT resolve to Rollkur. Angel rides in a simple snaffle as I am not confident to put a double bridles on her without more instruction and experience. Thoughts?
As for training, when it comes to turning I have tried placing my inside leg on the girth and outside leg behind the girth, whilst tightening my inside rein and loosening my outside rein slightly to let her neck bend.
When it comes to being on the bit, Angel will come onto the bit when standing still, but is behind the vertical and comes off it when I ask ehr to move forward, whether it be with my legs, hands or voice.
Interesting to hear you think you're ready for a grand prix prospect when you can't put your current mare on the bit? My belief is that you have to pay your dues with horses before you get a really special one. You can pay all the money in the world for a horse with amazing potential, but that doesn't mean you will be able to ride it. Stick an average-jo rider on Totilas, yeah he's currently the top horse in the world but I would put money on it that they're not going to be able to get him going anywhere near what a highly experienced rider would.
My opinion - stick at it with your current horse, don't waste a good horse when you can't put this horse on the bit. Sorry, harsh but true.
How are you trying to 'put her on the bit'... you say she'll 'go on the bit' at halt - that sends alarm bells off to me that you're either jiggling/sea sawing or pulling back to get her to drop her head. Also at halt their not on the bit as it's not a forward motion and they can't in effect, reach into the bridle.
I am also highly curious to see your 'collection/extension, changes and counter counter' as I am a little dubious that a horse that cannot/will not bend around the inside leg and give through the back, neck, poll and jaw is able to perform these movements to a satisfactory standard.
My feeling is that you are far over estimating the extent of training involved in reaching grand prix. By all means, may Grand Prix be your goal. But do not lose sight of correct and basic training. A horse may well be able to 'fake' most of the movements up to grand prix.. but its likely that the horse will break down early, mentally or physically, without the basic training established first.
You need to investigate and follow the German training scale, or pyramid of training - Google Image Result for http://www.dressage-academy.com/images/dressage-training-pyramid.jpg
As you can see, collection is at the peak of the triangle, it can only truly be achieved when all proceeding training has been firmly installed, with a horse that is happily swinging through the back, engaged through the hind quarters, stretching from the wither, relaxed in the neck, poll and jaw, and willing to move straight, forward and in rhythm.
Higher level movements are achieved once collection has been established. Yes, basic, first steps of those higher movements may be trained to assist in the gaining of collection, but they will not be performed with any type of quality until the horse is in true collection.
I don't know what kind of 'fantastic riders and trainers' have been riding your mare, but I'd suggest going to someone who has the qualifications/results/etc. to ride your horse or teach you. If you and these 'fantastic riders and trainers' cannot get her 'on the bit', yet can teach her changes, extentions etc. I would be thoroughly worried that they are teaching entirely the wrong thing.
My best guess is that these "trainers" are all talk and nothing more. A GOOD trainers would not have trouble at all.
The very fact that your mare goes counter bent when you attempt a simple thing like a leg yield tells me to go get a decent trainer...one that actually knows something.
Just to add to the already correct posts above, but possibly less harsh :)
When you think about a horse on the bit, NEVER think about them 'coming down' onto it. Being on the bit is a LOT more than just head position. In fact, it would be more correct to think about the horse coming 'up' onto the bit, as their whole front end will lift, and the power will come from their back end up to the bit and from there into your hands. Trying to force the horse into a false outline is never going to help.
Instead, you want to keep your hands as still as possible. Use your legs and seat to bring the horse forward, and encourage her into the bit. When she is working from behind with impulsion, she will adopt the head carriage without your help. Look at those 'natural dressage' horses - even they have correct head carriage.
Another tip for corners. It sounds like you know what you are doing with your legs, so make sure you keep that consitant. With your hands, imagine that the reins are more like the handle bars of a bike. You should only give with the outside as much as you take with the inside. It is more a movement of your shoulders to be honest, especially at this level where your corners should not be too deep. Bring your inside shoulder back, which will shorten that inside rein. Remember - your hips parrallel with your horse's hips, your shoulders with her shoulders.
Sounds to me like you need to give some room with your hands (do you 'walk' you hands at the walk?) and use your driving seat to keep her moving 'forwards' and employ plenty of upwards transitions.
As for her being above the bit, Kayty's post was excellent, that training pyramid really holds the key for you. It all might sound simple but achieving true correctness in the three basic gaits can be very difficult, especially with an excitable horse such as yours I gather?
It is amazing that you are able to do more advanced movements with your horse but you might greatly benefit from working on the basics so that when it comes time to perform such movements, your horse has the balance to execute them correctly. Good luck with her training, post some piccies so we can see her!! :-)
Ditto Spyder, as usual :P
Thanks all for the posts
My current trainers are Gillian Rolten and Wendy Schaeffer, both whom have competed at the Olympics. Wendy cannot understand why Angel refuses to drop her head and round herself, Gillian thinks its a matter of Angel being stubborn as she can be lazy in dressage as she is used to the action of jumping. I realise that 'on the bit' is more than head position but I have tried all hints and tips I've gotten from internet and people who I hope know what they are talking about. As far as my knowledge extends, Angel is doing collections, and to my understanding, a collection is where the horse is taking shorter strides but maintaing the speed and impulsion of a working trot/canter/walk. Today I will take out my camera and video us riding.
As for me riding Grand Prix, by "Grand Prix prospect" I mean a horse with the beautiful movement and atheleticism seen is horses like Don Schufro and Exquis Nadine. I do not want a Totilas Junior, just something that could get to the level I want to get to. I can get my other horses onto the bit; even the jumpers with minimal dressage. It seems to be just Angel. When she goes onto the bit in halt, she just drops her head for no reason. Then it is just head position - also if on the bit is a forward-moving thing, why are horses on the bit when they halt for the salute? Why not come off it then go back on when they move forward again?
Also, yes she is highly strung, but when I am saying that in reference to her unpredictable halts. She is fine when she is moving and doing her tests, but when she is asked to halt, she fidgets because she wants to get going.
I got her doing advanced movements by mimicking (as best I could), the leg aids seen in the high level dressage DVDs I have. Spyder, you said "The very fact that your mare goes counter bent when you attempt a simple thing like a leg yield tells me to go get a decent trainer...one that actually knows something." I didn't say anything about leg yields? Angel does leg yield, but isn't leg yield moving across the arena, but more forwards than sideways (as in a half pass)? If so, she doesn't bend in a leg yield. Also, I'd think that two trainers who have competed Olympic level themselves would know what they're doing.
I will get my camera out tonight and post the video/s on YouTube and then post the link here. It will simply be called "Angel Dressage Part (whatever)". I will post videos of her, what, extending and collecting? Bringing her head down when she stands still? Let me know what you want to see and I will oblige.
Oh, also, she doesn't counter-bend. She turns her head but nothing else. Also, I have booked a lesson for tonight with a specifically Dressage trainer
Ok that explains it. You're a South Aussie too I see. Hmmmm Gill and Wendy, not a fan. They're eventers, yes been to the Olympics, I'm not going to bash them on a public, worlwide forum, but I have seen quite a bit of their training and far from approve of. Who are you having a lesson with tonight? I can PM you a list of good, reputable dressage instructors in the area if you are interested.
Expecting to find yourself a 'Don Schufro' look alike in SA is going to be impossible, and even Australia wide, you'll be looking at MEGA bucks.
You are sounding very much as though you do not have much dressage theory behind you. Don't go around thinking the sun shines out of wendy and gill's backsides, you need to get out to a 'real' dressage trainer and you may soon discover that you have missed out on a lot of knowledge.
Half pass is not leg yielding going more forwards. It has completely the opposite bend to leg yield (which in fact has no bend, just flexion away from direction of travel), half pass involves inside bend and flexion in the direction of travel.
ETA: Just back on the Grand Prix subject, just because a horse has beautiful movement and athleticism, does not make it a grand prix horse. In face very few horses ever do reach grand prix, and many professional riders/trainers won't even make it to grand prix, because of the difficulty in finding an appropriate horse.
Maybe try and find yourself something with 3 good paces, an ability to collect and aim for FEI to start with. I don't know how old you are or how long you have been riding, and as I said before, it's GREAT to have dreams, hell I'd love to ride Grand Prix, but keep it realistic and don't go out and spend a fortune on something flashy when you don't have the experience to train it to the higher levels.
I quote your post....
BTW..your aids are not correct.
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