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Discussion Starter #1
Hey everyone, I got some great replies to my critique in another section, and I just wanted to express an opinion I had about cross training. I feel like cross training is amazing and helps sooo much when trying to fix problems, but I feel like cross training should always be done with a horse's goal in mind. I don't want to be told I'm an idiot, I'd really like to hear people's opinions in constructive, not degrading ways. This is my opinion and I am not an inexperienced rider, but I love to hear what other horse people have to say because I still have so much to learn, like all horse people!

The reason Ocala is not a dressage horse has nothing to do with him being incompetent. I ride both dressage and hunters, and have even dabbled in western and I find that some horses are built to be strong in certain disciplines and not others. Regardless of their purpose, every horse should have a very strong program with an appropriate flatwork foundation. That does not necessarily mean schooling tempi's on a hunter, but it does mean encouraging each horse to prepare itself healthily for the job it is being asked to perform.

I don't do dressage on Ocala because being asked to bring himself into a tight frame feels unnatural for him and upsets him. Today's dressage culture does not embrace a horse's long and low natural frame at training level like it used to, and instead works to put all horses into a warmblood-like frame. I don't dispute that, but it just isn't right for my horse considering he really needs to work on his natural frame and being functional without relying so much on my hand. He does need to work on bending and transitions, which we are currently doing. I prefer to ride him with an old-school dressage training pyramid type mentality that embraces rhythm, relaxation, and balance first. Ocala is a fairly young horse and therefore really needs work on all of those things.

So I don't disregard dressage, I just feel like a more flexible program is required to school a natural and gifted hunter. How would you use dressage principles to accent your riding as hunters?
 

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For my own physical fitness and for my horses I want to increase our overall athletic ability. I want my horse to be adjustable. I want to be able to ride in a hunter frame, dresage frame, on the buckle etc. I want my horse to be able to be able to keep a natural, even forward pace, extent, collect, and everything in between. I love cross training. Cougar and I were mainly into doing jumpers but we did lots of dressage, would drabble in hunters, do cross country, gallop him out on the track, go out cattle penning, do lots of endurance riding, lazy trail days etc. We always switched it up to keep us both fresh.

I've done that with all my horses. I don't like to get stuck in one frame or one riding style. Function and adjustability above all else.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
I agree that a horse ought to be adjustable, but I really am beginning to work for a higher level of showing than we had previously been doing. Of course, I need to work from the ground up because it has been a while. I like the idea of versatility, but when you have a goal of higher level competing, do you think you should focus on one goal?
 

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Oh certainly. Focus on your one goal as you want your horse to excel in that area. But I still say if they get too stuck in one thing it will not help them, only hinder. You said a "tight frame" upsets your horse. Coming from my experience a dressage type frame isn't supposed to feel tight. I'd be going back and addressing that before I moved up. But that's me thinking about my gelding and if I was trying to move up a level. I'd go back and think why is that an issue and is it one that I can improve on?

This is just me spitting out ideas though. I don't know you or your horse, so it's a bit of a moot point on my part.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
No, no I really enjoy hearing from your perspective! I see what you mean, I just feel like asking Ocala to move strictly upward in a frame like I would a more uphill warmblood just makes him upset because it really doesn't feel natural. I do school dressage principles, but I don't feel like the frame translates well. I give all the half-halts and leg that I feel is right, but he just doesn't like to be in that collection frame.

Do you think I should keep trying anyway? I have thought that I should just move on and not make him angry because he really doesn't get upset with much...
 

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it sounds like yours trying to get him 'ok, all of a suddenly be collected'
but collection comes with relaxation and baby steps. :)
i promise you, if you do dressage ad much as you do hunters, you will be able to go higher an your horse will last longer. all the high level hunters/jumpers do dressage.
i jump with my dressage horse all the time, and just forget about dressage, i find its good for me and my horse. i have seen so many crazy horses that cant be riddden out of the arena, i am a full believer of the importants of doing different things with your horse. i am trying to teach my horse to rein right now for fun, haha :) just my two cents
 

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No, no I really enjoy hearing from your perspective! I see what you mean, I just feel like asking Ocala to move strictly upward in a frame like I would a more uphill warmblood just makes him upset because it really doesn't feel natural. I do school dressage principles, but I don't feel like the frame translates well. I give all the half-halts and leg that I feel is right, but he just doesn't like to be in that collection frame.

Do you think I should keep trying anyway? I have thought that I should just move on and not make him angry because he really doesn't get upset with much...
I'd keep at it personally. True collection shouldn't feel tight and restrictive. Lots of horses are not comfortable really carrying themselves and engaging their hind end. The head set will follow if everything else is proper. When I think of a tense frame I think of a horse that isn't as supple, soft and correct as it could be. Doesn't mean he needs to be riding around in that frame your entire ride but I find dressage can really help your jumping. It increases everything you want. Forward, uphill movement and a supple, light, responsive horse.

Not all horses are suited to climb up the levels of Dressage be it physically or mentally just not their thing. But they all benefit from the basic principles worked into their riding routine.
 

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If you are most concerned about the horse's frame and the way they're carrying themselves I don't think you have a complete grasp of what dressage is all about. 90% of the horses I ride are hunters and believe me, I do dressage (or what I call "good flatwork") EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.

Instead of thinking dressage as a certain frame that does lateral movements, think of it as training your horse to be the most effective with this body and easy for you to ride through the dressage training scale: Rhythm (hunters are ALL ABOUT rhythm!), Relaxation (pretty darn important for a hunter, yes?), Connection (how to you truly communicate with your horse through jumps without proper connection?), Impulsion (can a horse jump without impulsion? sure, but not well), straightness (oohhhhhh so important for hunters!), and lastly collection (think: self carriage, being light on his forehand and engaging his hind end). THAT'S dressage. Your hunter needs it.

I've ridden with quite a few successful grand prix trainers. I've cliniced with some big name riders. I've spent time with some of the top olympians in the world. And believe me, they all use dressage. EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.

IMO, you cannot but a truly effective hunter WITHOUT dressage.
 

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I'm just curious....

What happens when your horse is too slow/fast coming to a jump?
What do you do if your horse falls in in the corners?
What do you do if your horse bulges out in the corners?
What do you do if you can't make the corner at all?
What do you do if your horse misses his changes? (or doesn't have one?)
What do you do if your horse is crooked?
What do you do if your horse jumps flat?
What do you do if your horse changes tempo?
How do help a horse move better in the under saddle?
What in the world would you do in a handy hunter class if they ask you for a trot fence, hand gallop fence, a halt, etc etc?

Every problem a hunter faces in every course. Every single ones of these questions is answered with.... DRESSAGE. :)
 

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Thank you, Ocala and upnover, for bringing up an issue I've wanted to post on for months.

When I rode and trained hunters, my goals for a well-schooled hunter were two clear speeds at the walk, 3 clear speeds at the trot, and at least 3 clear speeds of the canter, 5 being better. I also did simple lateral work, including leg-yield and shoulder in, turns on the front end and a modified turn on the haunches. I expected the horse to hold a correct bend primarily off my inside leg. I didn't call this dressage, I called it flatwork. I did this work in what Litteaur called "connected" rather than "collected", worrying about the horse working back to front and using their backs and not at all about whether their heads were vertical, and I rode with a huntery passive following contact, rather than the more active, stronger dressage contact.

Making a distinction between dressage and flatwork may seem like nitpicking; but the distinction to me is clear - the goal of dressage is developing collection and the collected gaits, the goal of flatwork is simply a supple, responsive horse. There is no need for a hunter to ever be ridden in true collection.

It's an unfortunate fad right now for hunters to show in something like a training level frame. (Previously, any kind of frame was penalized. In the 80s, I wrote 'overflexed' and 'false frame' on a lot of cards, as did a lot of other judges.) The intent of encouraging a frame in the hunters was to encourage more educated riding; and to distinguish the truly well-schooled horses from the ones on autopilot. What it created instead was a lot of horses with their heads cranked onto the vertical.

So, Ocala, if you don't want to do "dressage," or ask your horse to work in a frame, that's absolutely fine. You can have a well-schooled, responsive horse and solve all the problems posed by upnover, above, by what I call flatwork instead.

Sadly, however, in a hunter flat class, a horse that does travel in a frame, false or otherwise, may pin above you depending on the judge.
 

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Making a distinction between dressage and flatwork may seem like nitpicking; but the distinction to me is clear - the goal of dressage is developing collection and the collected gaits, the goal of flatwork is simply a supple, responsive horse. There is no need for a hunter to ever be ridden in true collection.
EXCELLENT points as always Maura! You're right, there is no need for a hunter to be ridden in true collection, but all those things you trained your hunters to do (different speeds, lateral work, etc).... aren't they essentially... dressage? Do you call it flatwork simply b/c the tip if your pyramid isn't true collection? I mean, is a shoulder-in a dressage exercise or a flatwork exercise? (or just, an exercise?) IMO it's a fine line indeed! Although I suppose since I generally call it "good flatwork" we're on the same page! :)
 

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upnover,

Yes, I'm pretty sure we're on the same page.

And I looked at another thread of Ocala's, with photos of her horse working in a nice, active, forward training level frame. So I'm pretty sure when she says she doesn't want to do dressage, she's talking about something more intensive than the hunter schooling I just described.

But I think it's an important distinction, partially because of my Littauer background and partially because I do think the *goal* of the training is an important consideration. Even though a signifigant majority of dressage riders never compete above first level; the top of their training pyramid is still collection. Therefore, their training is different than the hunter rider's; whose goal is different, though the may use some of the same exercises to achieve those goals.

I can't tell you how many times I've read threads on this board about hunters, jumpers or event horses where someone expresses the opinion that dressage is critical to their training, and I say to my computer monitor "NO, *flatwork* is critical; you don't want a hunter, jumper or event horse working in collection!"

Thanks for the opportunity to express myself on this pet peeve.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Thank you all very much for your replies. I completely agree with maura that a distinction has to be made between hunters and dressage, but not between quality flatwork in two different saddles and frames.

To answer your question upnover, I use by seat, legs, hands(lightly) and voice to fix those problems, just like a dressage rider does minus voice. I just do it in a different mindset and with a slightly different goal in mind. No, dressage is not the ultimate answer, only one way to school flatwork. I have also ridden with some very prestigious people, and they generally make a firm distinction between hunters and dressage. You are confusing good horsemanship and training on the flat for one discipline.

The collection issues I am having are not, per se, true collection issues as my horse and I are not at the point where we are schooling true collection. Our problem lies especially in the canter when he wants to ride in a very natural step and I feel like the added frame frustrates him and distracts him from focusing on the rhythm and flow of his step. He feels very frustrated when he is not allowed to do "his thing". Of course, he does need discipline, but I feel that it is fair for him to want to ride naturally and comfortably if it means he likes his job.

Cougar, I see your point for sure. Having a forward, uphill movement is very important, and I am trying to find the balance between natural step and asking my poor little downhill horse to pick himself up a little ;) In that aspect, borrowing some dressage exercises may help me out.
 

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Well thank you Maura for making me think a little on this one! To be quite honest my pet peeve is the phrase "jumping is just dressage with speed bumps". (i'm going to upset a lot of people on here for saying that i'm sure!) Particularly b/c when I think of a speed bump I think of something that changes your pace and 'smoothness', but also something about the picture in my mind of someone going like a dressage rider (collected) inbetween the fences is not necessarily what you're wanting. And yes, I supposed to "goal" of the training is an important factor. And I suppose I don't call myself a dressage rider for more reasons then the color of my tack. Okay, okay, I agree, there is a difference! :)
 

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Discussion Starter #15
Wow, great insight!! I posted my reply a little late ;)

I agree! I like the phrase "A jump is just another canter step", though...seems to make more sense when rhythm is concerned.
 

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Wait until the next time somebody posts something negative about hunter rider's form and perching; that's the next pet peeve that needs feeding, watering and exercise. :)

Ocala, if you horse shortens and lengthens in the canter willingly, has a clear, rhythmic, three beat canter and you have three clear speeds, then I wouldn't worry about him not being willing to carry more frame. He's doing what he needs to do in order to negotiate a course and meet his fences correctly.

I wish I could see your horse in person. Since he's clearly willing to work in a frame happily in a trot, per your photos, I wonder if his resistance when you ask for more in the canter is his saying "This is all I've got; I can't do any more?"
 

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oooh i love this thread !! i never knew anyone else thought like this !

upnover you make a great point about 'dressage with speed bumps' i have never liked that phrase either !
 

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I can't tell you how many times I've read threads on this board about hunters, jumpers or event horses where someone expresses the opinion that dressage is critical to their training, and I say to my computer monitor "NO, *flatwork* is critical; you don't want a hunter, jumper or event horse working in collection!"
Flat Work is just another name for Dressage. When we say "Jumping Is Dressage With Speed Bumps" we are not saying that you should be going around the Jumper Course or Hunter Course like one would while riding a 3rd level dressage test.

When I clinic with riders who are far above me in levels, I hear them stress how important basic dressage is for the horse and rider. I hear 3 star eventers, 4 star eventers, riders like George Morris and Jim Wofford and David O'Connor and many other big named riders saying the same thing - how important dressage is for the jumper.

Heck, there have been many articles in the Practicle Horseman about how important Dressage is for the Jumper and the Hunter.

No, you don't go around in a collected frame like one would in a Dressage Ring - that's rediculous. Your horse has to be in Jumper or Hunter frame, but they cannot be flat, they cannot be heavy, they cannot be moving around in different rhythms, they cannot come in unbalanced nor can they not come in unresponsive to the riders aids - seat, legs, upper body.

You don't go around in a dressage seat, but the aids, and riding seat into legs into hands is still just as important in the Hunter and Jumper ring, as it is in the Dressage Ring.

So yes, Jumping Is Dressage With Speed Bumps - because you have to have a horse that is rhythmical, you have to have a horse that can transition between going long and coming back down under you. You have to have a horse that is responsive to aids and that is round *meaning back up into your seat* and your horse has to be on their hind end and not plowing around on their front ends.

You achieve that through dressage. Afterall - Flat Work is Dressage.

We are not talking about how a horse would go around in a 2nd or 3rd level dressage test - we are talking about the dressage fundamentals needed to accomplish that hunter round and jumper round well - via dressage.

If Grand Prix Jumpers spend the majority of their time emphasising their training on Dressage, there's a reason.

Of course, an Eventer such as myself will view Dressage differently than a Hunter, because we have to face Dressage in our daily training due to how important that score is for us in competition.

I invite you to read George Morris's column in the Practicle Horseman Magazine dated April 2009 titled "Dressage For Jumpers" where it discusses about riders of George Morris's clinic spending a full day doing only Dressage with Olympian Robert Dover where he works with them on a Balanced Seat, Forward And Strait, Balancing horse through rider from, and Basic Principles Of Riding - to take that emphasis of dressage to improve their riding in the Hunter/Jumper ring.

Yes, Jumping is dressage with speed bumps. When working on your flat work or dressage - you want balance, you want impulsion, you want lengthenging and shortening of strides, you want a horse light on their forehand and working off of their back, you want the horse to be respsonsive to your seat, legs, and all aids - and then to beable to transfer that into the Hunter/Jumper Show Ring.

Yes, Dressage makes your sport that much more tuned and refined.
 

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^ GREAT post MIEventer!

I 100% agree. I don't see a difference between basic flatwork and basic dressage. you are teaching the horse to do the exact same thing. Be relaxed, supple, and listen to your aids
 

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Discussion Starter #20
Dressage helps jumpers achieve a goal of uphill, engaged frames. It prohibits hunters from achieving the natural frame because of different goals. Maura had a couple great posts about that, and I'm sure George Morris would agree, based on his criticisms, that hunters need to be relaxed and natural. Also, you are citing eventer sources, who of course must incorporate dressage into their program because it is the cornerstone for their sport.

Dressage fundamentals prepare a horse for dressage competition. Some of the exercises they use can also prepare a horse for competition. The bottom of the training pyramid is the basis for ALL horse training, whether that be western pleasure or eventing. The way that riders achieve the goals of dressage is different based on the goal at hand. Read some of Maura's posts above, she really explains this much better than I can from the perspective of a hunter judge. Also check out USEF Horse of the Year Curtain Call and Courtney Calcagnini

Maura- I don't quite know what you mean. I would love to send you some photos or something of my horse and see what you think.
 
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