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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Dear fellow riders


I am a beginning rider and lots of folks tell me that dressage is the basis of everything and that I should be able to do this. But... I don't understand why and I do not see the use. I know that you should be able to do some basic dressage for eventing (I want to eventually go into cross country/military and I am more interested in long distance running, running (jockey style) and maybe some jumping.)To be honest... I am totally not motivated to ride circles, squares and 8 figures... This is not meant to be offensive, but I am the kind of person that is only motivated when I see the use of something... :D Probabmy my horse also feels that I do not like it (I noticed this). :D Can some more experienced riders explain to me why I should be able to do dressage and how much of it should I be able to do when I want to go into military riding? :) Why is it necessary that my horse and I can do this? (reasons?) Is it for the muscles of the horse? Because If the only reason people do this is because it is required at contest riding, I still think it is useless (like why did someone ever decide you have to wear white?) Or do people only do this for their own fun/to watch horses doing nice things? :|
 

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To me having some knowledge of "dressage" means that I have the ability to work with my horses movement, controlling various parts of their anatomy, to communicate with my mount so riding, regardless of actual discipline is in harmony.
Dressage when you watch is a poetry in motion of the horses body bending, collecting, extending in various gaits and locations in any riding environment...
To me that equates with jumping, cross-country, trail-riding, western games and working western endeavors where you need to work together to accomplish a task.

You mention jumping and not understanding the need for "dressage"...
Do you rate the speed of your approach to a fence, do you ride bending lines so you must collect or extend the gait you ride at, do you need to direct the horses haunches or shoulders, do you ask for just a go-for-broke headlong gallop over obstacles or do you want the horse to listen to your cues and respond accordingly so you go over not through or crash a fence?
That is "dressage"... A communication between horse and rider on the flat that all "teams" need to be able to do in some form, some degree of efficiency so you complete your activity in the best condition, shape and with least problems...
Don't not think you use dressage every-time you ride and get astride...someone just put a name to what you have been already learning and doing to become a better equestrian and team partner.
Just as in H/J, there are many distinctions and levels to achieve in riding knowledge and expertise...you don't need to be a Grand-Prix dressage rider, but you do need to know how to ride the more basic levels of the sport for animals benefit and ultimately, yours.
Enjoy the journey..
:runninghorse2:...
 

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It helps to be able to move your horse's body and have him understand what you what and it doesn't matter if you ever ride a dressage pattern if that's not for you, just have some body control with your horse.
I had a young friend who rode with me and I tried to get her to do some schooling and work with teaching her horse to respond to cue, aides, she felt it was not for her as she didn't think she would ever show.
We went out for a long trail ride once through a lot of heavy brush where you had to maneuver through and around trees. When we got back her knees were scraped up, bruised and banged. She wanted to know how my knees where, they were fine as I could manage to work through using body control. she then started to learn how to school and it helped and she actually did some showing (not dressage) and it helped her a lot there as well.
 

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Also, you don't have to do dressage just in an arena on the flat. You can teach suppleness and circles during mounted games - leg yields and shoulder ins on the trail - extended and shortened strides with poles - it doesn't (and shouldn't!) be circles for 60 minutes. There are tonnes of fun ways to do dressage!
 

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The word dressage just translates as "training" or "schooling". Those figures performed in an arena are calisthenics -- mental and physical, for both you and your horse.

Dressage has come to mean a competition in which a purpose-bred horse is put through paces demonstrating the rider's control of every single footfall. It is very extreme. That is not what dressage means for you though.

I take dressage lessons as often as I can, although I am a trail rider whose only aspiration is to ride farther. My goal is to learn how to communicate better with my horse, to have a more complete and exact understanding between us. Because that is the joy of riding.

Things I have learned (more or less starting from scratch as I had not ridden for 40 years when I got my little mare four years ago) --

How to have an independent seat, how to sit with good posture, how to sit deeply and balanced at all gaits and changes of gait and direction
How to carry my reins correctly so I signal subtly and cleanly to my horse
How to use weight shifts to signal to my horse rather than my heels or my reins
How to help my horse prepare to change gait before I ask for the change
How to feel what my horse is doing under me -- which foot is doing what when

Fundamentally, how to be more in harmony with my horse. And I know I am barely at the beginning of what is possible even for me.

I too am terrifically bored by arena practice. I will never understand people who only ride in an arena -- to me it's like staying in a windowless box by choice when you can just go out and be in the world. But I still look forward intensely to my lessons, because I learn something every time. Something useful to me as a rider, something that will help me help my horse.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
hello you guys, my trainer did not tell me this. She lets me ride figures and I hate it. :p I now understand the need to control your horses body! (like shoulder movements and so.) I don't know how to do this though, I think I might have to find a trainer that can teach me that in private lessons. I take western lessons, but maybe I should also go for specific lessons in dressage/control body movement horse?
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
I only ride in an arena now because I am too unexperienced and I don't feel safe riding out in the open yet. :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
To me having some knowledge of "dressage" means that I have the ability to work with my horses movement, controlling various parts of their anatomy, to communicate with my mount so riding, regardless of actual discipline is in harmony.
Dressage when you watch is a poetry in motion of the horses body bending, collecting, extending in various gaits and locations in any riding environment...
To me that equates with jumping, cross-country, trail-riding, western games and working western endeavors where you need to work together to accomplish a task.

You mention jumping and not understanding the need for "dressage"...
Do you rate the speed of your approach to a fence, do you ride bending lines so you must collect or extend the gait you ride at, do you need to direct the horses haunches or shoulders, do you ask for just a go-for-broke headlong gallop over obstacles or do you want the horse to listen to your cues and respond accordingly so you go over not through or crash a fence?
That is "dressage"... A communication between horse and rider on the flat that all "teams" need to be able to do in some form, some degree of efficiency so you complete your activity in the best condition, shape and with least problems...
Don't not think you use dressage every-time you ride and get astride...someone just put a name to what you have been already learning and doing to become a better equestrian and team partner.
Just as in H/J, there are many distinctions and levels to achieve in riding knowledge and expertise...you don't need to be a Grand-Prix dressage rider, but you do need to know how to ride the more basic levels of the sport for animals benefit and ultimately, yours.
Enjoy the journey..
:runninghorse2:...
Oops, I thought a horse was perfectly capable of estimating the distance for a jump? Do you give a horse a cue about when to jump? :) I did not know that. (Sorry if I seem stupid :p), I thought you trained horses to jump by learning them step by step and showing them as much obstacles as possible (because they think in images and if they would see a jumping thingie that looks different from previous experienced things, they might get confused. I also think in images and when a house is painted in a different colour it might very well be I am not able to find it although I have been there several times. Lol) I then assumed the rider must learn to balance properly without hindering the horse during jumping and then you needed only to steer your hirse towards an obstacle for them to know: jump this thing. :D haha.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
my answers also really demonstrate why I only ride in an arena for now. ;) I am totally oblivious so it seems. :p
 

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You are a beginner rider...
The things you describe now unable to do, not even presented to you yet are not because the trainer not know them to teach...they are because you are probably not capable of doing them as of yet.
You need to learn to have decent control at all directions and gait before you start to add finesse movements of shoulder in, haunches out, rate your speed and be able to do this at more than going around the rail next to a fence for steering...
Takes time...takes effort and takes dedication to learn, improve and work the line of communication.
Just as a baby does not gt up and run but roll-over, crawl, hold onto things before ever taking a independent step, to learning to run and do it in all directions....
Takes time to build on fundamentals which is what you are now doing.
Don't despair, and yes all forms of riding have dressage associated with them.
It is just a fancy name for body control.. aka communication.
:runninghorse2:....
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
What type of military riding are you wanting to do? If you're looking at doing drills, then it's pretty well ALL dressage, just dressed up differently.
I think I used the wrong term here (English is not my mother tongue). After I learn enough to control the horse and become a better rider I would love to go out with the horse and do some competetion (for fun, not for honours) where I can do a combination of running (running fast/jockey appeals to me, but I am too heavy.) and some obstacles. :p I thought this was called military. :D I just wanna do more then ride in an arena, eventually I would like to achieve something together. the journey is the purpose. I love learning and discovering new things. Essentially wat interests me is: running fast, going out in nature and maybe some obstacles/jumping. I would like to be able to jump with a horse. Caus I like a good challenge. For me I mean (to learn)
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
You are a beginner rider...
The things you describe now unable to do, not even presented to you yet are not because the trainer not know them to teach...they are because you are probably not capable of doing them as of yet.
You need to learn to have decent control at all directions and gait before you start to add finesse movements of shoulder in, haunches out, rate your speed and be able to do this at more than going around the rail next to a fence for steering...
Takes time...takes effort and takes dedication to learn, improve and work the line of communication.
Just as a baby does not gt up and run but roll-over, crawl, hold onto things before ever taking a independent step, to learning to run and do it in all directions....
Takes time to build on fundamentals which is what you are now doing.
Don't despair, and yes all forms of riding have dressage associated with them.
It is just a fancy name for body control.. aka communication.
:runninghorse2:....
Yeah, I estimated a year of twoweekly lessons to be a bit of a decent rider (this is the time I am giving myself). :) After that the journey continues. :)
 

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duskexx, you and I will have to disagree on that. While you can learn through other means and in other locations you lose a valuable tool by disregarding the arena and flat. The arena provides focus as it removes the distractions encountered elsewhere and it also provides a safe place to learn. Can it be over used or better - does it need to always be used? No.
 

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For me, learning some of the elements of formal dressage got me to focus on how I ride impacts how my horse will move.

I may have an odd take on this, but: My horse already knows how to move well. Put me on top in a saddle and I can either interfere with his ability to move well or I can not "get in his way.'

I ride in mostly rugged country and I still find it useful to occasionally get in an arena or corral and assess my riding according to dressage principles.
 

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It is certainly possible to enjoy horseback riding without ever considering dressage. That said, one should not confuse dressage exercises with competitive dressage. It is possible to use classic dressage exercises to build the strength and flexibility of a horse without ever considering competitive dressage which often leads riders to do things that are antithetic to classical dressage principles.

One example of the benefits of practicing dressage principles is illustrated in the book “My Horses, My Teachers” by Alois Podhajsky. While in the cavalry, Podhajsky began competing in international jumping competitions. A superior officer “suggested” he take up dressage as well. Once Podhajsky began practicing dressage with his horse, he began winning more jumping competitions against supposedly superior horses. Why? Among other reasons, his horse could collect better and make tighter turns. Podhajsky even mentions that one critic praised the same horse that only a year before he had called “a poor little sausage”.

Dressage exercises began as a means of developing a horse’s strength and flexibility so the horse was better equipped to do other tasks. Francois Robichon de la Gueriniere presented a good explanation of this in his book “Ecole de Cavalerie” written in the early 1700s.

A good riding instructor will employ classical dressage principles – with or without calling them that – to help a student better learn to feel his horse and develop a more supple communication to guide that horse in whatever movements are required.

Be aware that others may use dressage terms without really understanding their meaning and usage.
 

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duskexx, you and I will have to disagree on that. While you can learn through other means and in other locations you lose a valuable tool by disregarding the arena and flat. The arena provides focus as it removes the distractions encountered elsewhere and it also provides a safe place to learn. Can it be over used or better - does it need to always be used? No.
Two of the exercises I mentioned were in the arena...I was just trying to point out that dressage doesn't have to be circles for ages.
 

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Dressage is A way of riding. It is not just training because if you went to a dressage trainer who focused on getting around 3 barrels as fast as possible, most people would get upset. The dressage scale is meant to get a horse to do certain things - such as riding in formation with other horses, or to canter comfortably in a small area.

It is NOT learning to ride in balance, or with subtle communication, or how to have a secure seat. You can ride in balance, with subtle communication and a secure seat while using slack reins and "on your pockets". You can do those while off the saddle in a "Forward Seat". There are many ways to ride a horse well. Dressage is a SYSTEM of training - a well thought out system of integrated parts - for advancing toward a goal. It is not universal.

Is it needed for modern show jumping? Apparently. The people at the top of the sport, as it has evolved, say it is. They should know.

Is it needed for more modest jumping goals, going across rough terrain? No. Caprilli wrote what the US Cavalry taught (and Littauer as well):

The military horse must be essentially accustomed to the field, since it is here that the cavalry must perform in war uneven and varying terrain should be as familiar to the rider as it is to the horse...

I call a field horse a horse that is of good disposition, calm and confident in the rider, fast and strong, accustomed to galloping for long periods over any kind of terrain, calm and alert in difficulty...

Long years of practice and of continual observation have convinced me that the horse acquires these qualities without effort provided that the rider subjects him to rational and uninterrupted training, throughout which he tries to make his own actions the least disturbing that he can to the horse, and tries not to impede him in the natural development of his aptitudes and energies. ... By this I do not mean to say that one should let the horse do as he pleases; one should, instead, if necessary persuade him with firmness and energy to do the rider's will, while leaving him full liberty to avail himself of and to use as best it suits him his balance and his strength. From this fundamental and unchanging principle stem all the practical rules of equitation with which I shall deal...

...the first rule of good riding is that of reducing, simplifying and sometimes, if possible, even eliminating the action of the rider. If the hands are used to turn and check a horse, and the legs to make him move forward and to give him resolution and decisiveness this is enough...

If natural work is required of a horse [field work] and not artificial [manege work] he will be better able to make use of his impulses, instincts and his natural balance ...the horse who has rational exercise, during which he is allowed to balance himself as he pleases, not being punished with needless suffering, develops in the most efficient fashion, with great advantage to his way of carrying himself, and becomes docile and submissive to the wishes of the rider.

... in order to accustom horses to the field without ruining them and making them bad-tempered, one must always profit by the natural instincts of the animal substantiating his movements and way of going, and one must give him the least possible discomfort in the mouth, loins and ribs. One must abolish the forced position of balance, and any action of the horse's legs beyond that which is essential to move him forward.

In consequence, we shall have no more riders who ruin horses by trying to undertake work that they are not fit to ask of a horse, and that, even if well done and properly asked, not only is of no advantage but is actually harmful to the true work the horse should perform...

...Things cannot go on in this manner. In fact manege riding presents such difficulties and so many demands, such fine tact in practice that it is impossible that a soldier, considering the brevity of his enlistment and the variety of his other instruction, should succeed in learning its principles and applying them properly.

... a horse 'in hand' in the manege is not a horse 'in hand' in the field; instead he will often be out of hand precisely in those places where the soldier must be complete master of his horse.
The second aim of Forward Schooling is to achieve those results by the simplest possible means, so that almost anyone who has some experience in the saddle, time and desire, can at least improve the performance of his horse....The simpler the riding, the better is the chance that at least most of the time the horse will not need more than merely an indication of what to do next. If one has to use his aids constantly and artistically to obtain, let us say, a Pirouette at a collected gallop, there is no reason whatsoever to think the same uninterrupted control, even of a simpler brand, is necessary when just cantering on gently rolling fields...The fact is that neither collection, great precision nor brilliance are called for in cross-country riding which is based on ordinary gaits..." - Schooling Your Horse, by VS Littauer, Chapter One
I recommend The Development of Modern Riding by Vladimir S. Littauer for a history of how dressage became dressage, how forward riding developed, and his contempt for modern jumping (written in 1971).

Now...will learning dressage help you in your goals? Since you are in Europe, and IF "military riding" includes riding in formations, yes. If nothing else, it will provide you with a common language of riding - a language everyone expects you to know in Europe.

Taught and ridden well, dressage is beautiful. Taught to a beginning rider? Since you asked...I think a rider needs a few years of experience riding based on the principle of "Do No Harm" before even thinking of trying dressage. You don't start a student with calculus. And good dressage riding is more like calculus than it is doing adding & subtracting. That is why most cavalries abandoned it. The typical soldier, even riding daily, couldn't do it right. But how you learn to ride is often dictated by WHERE you learn to ride. In most of the Intermountain West of the USA, you couldn't FIND dressage lessons. In Europe, it may be tough to find anything else.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
@
bsms


It's hard to find a western riding school where I live... Most of the schools do really boring group lessons where all the horses walk behind eachother and I find I don't learn quick enough... (That's why I pay for private lessons.) They also do dressage and English riding most of the time. (Haven't found a western riding stable nearby yet...) I was also confused by the finesse that would be asked of my riding to make my horse do certain things. Now I understand I schould indeed first focus on just becoming a decent equestrian. :) I am gonna tell my instructor that I am not ready to do certain things she asks from me and my horse. I need to manage my basic skills first and I am just gonna admit that to her. :)



I think I am indeed going to focus on becoming a good rider first. Then I will see what I will have to do to reach my goals. I will also ask my trainer what plan she has in mind (what we are going to learn in a year) so I will be more motivated to do the 'boring' parts. :)
 
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