Straddling that fine line in dressage

[Photos included. Please read disclaimer at the end.]

This evening I rode my RRP Thoroughbred Makeover partner, Mikes Dixie Dancer. Normally when I ride him I ask for relaxation and good cadence in all gaits. Lately I’ve been thinking more on how we are progressing and though I’m extremely happy with our location in training; I can’t help but feel that there’s something missing. He can be pretty hot and is severely ADHD. Most of the time his brain ventures outside of the arena and I have to call him back in to focus on what we are doing. This usually means going over a single ground pole or multiple ground poles like cavaletti.

Well, tonight was one of those times that I had to constantly keep his brain with me on the ride. He started off tense. I think this was him worrying about talking to the other horses and getting into trouble. Eventually he relaxed a bit but it took cavaletti for a couple rounds to do the trick. I’ve noticed that if I give him a calming supplement such as typtophan he is much happier and eager to work. This leads me to believe that he is slightly deficient in amino acids such as that and serotonin. 
In the time I’ve been working and riding Mike there has been one thing I never do. I never push him for more. Whether it’s more extension, more lift in his back, more drive from behind, more relaxation or even more elevation in front. Tonight I asked for all of that and pushed hard for it all. I’m extremely proud to say that he dug deep and tried to give it to me. I was patient but didn’t let him give up that quick. It felt so amazing. All the work I’ve been putting in over the last year. I am now able to see that it worked. Sure there are a few things to work harder on and a few tiny holes but overall, it was a great ride.


Tonight’s ride got me to thinking. I’ve spent the last year working from the ground mostly and then in January up top. I’ve tried really hard to be patient in teaching Mike to stretch down with his head and neck which results in him lifting his back and stretching forward with his hindquarters. He’s always had a hard time with this but with patience I’ve gotten him to do it. Usually not more than a few strides and resulting in him slowing down. While riding tonight, I thought about how he seems to always feel downhill. Even with me riding him more uphill, he’s built slightly downhill. He does; however, have a giant rear engine. This rear engine doesn’t really get used much. I’ve never really pushed him to use his hind because I figured that eventually it would happen. Tonight I found out that he is lazy and even with a big rear engine, he isn’t going to use it unless he is forced. I guess that’s the equivalent of having a 1,500 horsepower drag racer and only going 45 mph in town because you don’t want to blow the engine on the track and crack up the paint.
So, I pushed and I found out that putting the pedal to the floor didn’t result in any running away or really fast speed. It actually resulted in more extension and elevation in front. That drive from behind is pretty powerful.

So, now we straddle that fine line between Classical dressage and the Modern dressage.
For those a bit lost…….. Classical dressage is how I’ve spent the last year training Mike but never really asking for a lot.
Modern dressage means driving him up into the bridle while I’m pulling on his mouth. This will never happen between myself and Mike. I’m against doing this.
Modern dressage means elevating the front legs pretty high. I don’t want him to elevate that high but I am having to push really hard for him to try just so I can get him more in an uphill motion.
So, I’m battling that fine line. Classical. Flat. Extension. Forward. Rear drive. Lifting the back and reaching with the hind legs. Staying supple and relaxed. Being slightly lazy.
ORModern. Severely uphill. Animated extension. Forward. Four legged drive. Lifting the back while basically sitting on the rear. Stiffness and tenseness. Being slightly jazzed up and frustrated.
If I think about these differences it’s pretty easy to figure out which one I want. Classical.
The fine line between means………. Slightly uphill. Extension. Forward. Four legged drive but mostly rear drive. Lifting the back and reaching with the hind legs along with some squatting. Staying supple and relaxed. Being slightly jazzed up but still remaining relaxed in the brain.
dressage-horse-weltmeyer<— This is what I think Mike may eventually look like. Well, in my mind it’s what we will strive for.







This is what USEF rules state about the TROT in dressage.

2.The trot should show free, active and regular steps.
3. The quality of the trot is judged by general impression, i.e. the regularity and elasticity of the steps, the cadence and impulsion in both collection and extension. This quality originates from a supple back and well-engaged hindquarters, and by the ability to maintain the same rhythm and natural balance with all variations of the trot.
4. The following trots are recognized: Working trot, Lengthening of Steps, Collected trot, Medium trot and Extended trot.
a. Working trot. This is a pace between the collected and the medium trot, in which a horse’s training is not yet developed enough and ready for collected movements. The horse shows proper balance and, remaining “on the bit”, goes forward with even, elastic steps and good hock action. The expression “good hock action” underlines the importance of an impulsion originating from the activity of the hindquarters.
b. Lengthening of stride. In some tests, “lengthening of stride” is required. This is a variation between the working and medium trot in which a horse’s training is not developed enough for medium trot.
c. Collected trot. The horse, remaining “on the bit”, moves forward with the neck raised and arched. The hocks, being well-engaged and flexed, must maintain an energetic impulsion, enabling the shoulders to move with greater mobility, thus demonstrating complete self-carriage. Although the horse’s steps are shorter than in the other trots, elasticity and cadence are not lessened.
d. Medium trot. This is a pace of moderate lengthening compared to the extended trot, but “rounder” than the latter. Without hurrying, the horse goes forward with clearly lengthened steps and with impulsion from the hindquarters. The rider allows the horse to carry the head a little more in front of the vertical than at the collected and the working trot, and to lower the head and neck slightly. The steps should be even, and the whole movement balanced and unconstrained.
Extended trot. The horse covers as much ground as possible. Without hurrying, the steps are lengthened to the utmost as a result of great impulsion from the hindquarters. The rider allows the horse to lengthen the frame and to gain ground whilst controlling the poll, The fore feet should touch the ground on the spot towards which they are pointing. The movement of the fore and hind legs should reach equally forward in the moment of extension. The whole movement should be well-balanced and the transition to collected trot should be smoothly executed by taking more weight on the hindquarters.

This is what I originally wanted us to be doing this year.  Hunters. Guess we will wait til next year and maybe look this good. 🙂



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