of Excellence in Horsemanship by Melodye Linn
Like many of you, my
initial interest in dressage was intended to be casual and fun. However,
as many of you also know, our discipline is one that compels some of us
so totally that eventually we choose to dedicate our existences to our
horses and our education as horse people
In my case, my "horsey
addiction" finally delivered me to several years of apprenticeship
in an FEI training barn. This type of educational arrangement is as old
as the hills and the basic equation goes something like this.: your
blood, sweat, and tears = a real opportunity to learn.
Nothing is given to
you. You earn every ounce of knowledge you are clever enough to absorb.
This exchange process is what separates the women from the girls. As
challenging as this arrangement is, in my opinion, it's the ultimate
way to challenge yourself to determine if you "have what it takes." I
learned so much about the horses and myself that I feel obligated to
"be fit to ride, don't ride to be fit" is not just a good
idea. The reality is that you cannot expect to be a top-notch rider
unless you possess strength, stamina, and coordination.
There are so many wonderful books that anyone who considers
themselves "a rider" should read.
riders. Video tapes are a great learning resource.
Set goals and
work towards them, Enlist your instructor to help you in this area.
regularly and keep a riding journal. Day to day progress sometimes is
invisible, and good training doesn't happen overnight, but if you
can document your work consistently, you can compare and contrast
your progress from month to month.
Get good riding
instruction. It's far easier to learn to ride correctly from the
beginning than to have to re-learn. There are no shortcuts to
becoming an effective rider and no substitutions for hours in the
saddle. Development of good position and riding basics are integral
to positive results in your horse, since only when we are in true
harmony with our horse can we begin to positively influence (or
train) the horse.
If you are a novice,
and necessity dictates that you will only be able to have professional
help once a week or less, do not buy a young or green horse. Learning
good basics on a horse that knows its job is challenging enough. You
cannot expect to teach the horse something you don't know.
Position: chin up, focus up, shoulders pinched, chest open,
pulled up from the waist, arms falling softly shoulder to elbow with
elbow at waist, straight line from elbow to bit, tall back sitting
at vertical, hip open, adductor against the saddle, soft and loose
lower leg draping the horse's side.
school the gaits - active, engaged, over the back, energy into the
bit. Never compromise on connection. When all of this is right, you
can ride movements easily. Without correct basics, the movements are
nothing more than tricks.
training style and incorporate it into your daily work: rhythm,
suppleness, contact, impulsion, straightness and collection. Make it
your top priority to obtain a clear idea of what each of these
managing your horse's care.: Don't just wait for something to go
wrong. Get involved firsthand with the care of your horse, and be
aware of every crevice on his/her body. Communicate with your vet
and farrier and know that the equine athlete requires consistent
care and appropriate maintenance. Don't over-ride your horse. Forty
minutes of work, five days a week is adequate if the work is
your horse's physical and mental condition on any day are only a
snapshot of his current nutrition, exercise and rest program!
Tip of the Month-
Always think about your reins and your
shoulders controlling the horses' shoulders, just as your legs and seat
control the horses' haunches and hind legs. Remember that in order for
an aid to be effective it must be executed correctly and at the
correct moment, with the appropriate intensity and duration. Never
forget that it is the combined hand, seat, and leg aids that
create a happy horse, and no aid ever stands alone!
-May 2002 Tip of the
maximum results while you're riding your horse, first consider that who
he is today is only a snapshot of his current nutrition, turnout, and
physical condition. If you're not satisfied with his performance, ask
yourself if you are enabling him to meet your goals. For example, if he
is lazy, there may be any number of reasons such as too much turnout, too
little nutrition, too much work, or inappropriate work. If he is fresh
or naughty, you may ask yourself if he's getting enough turnout,
appropriate work, or too much protein.
is essentially hard work for any horse. As their guardians, it is our
job to assume responsibility for their care if we expect positive
results. Keep a journal of your horse's complete program. Make an entry
for every day, even if you don't ride. Entries can be brief, but be
specific. Include information regarding changes in feed, turnout,
weather, farrier, vet, and any other detail that involves your horse. I
know that if you're faithful in your journaling, you will begin to
understand patterns in your horse's behavior. Always remember that
although they can't speak like you or me, they are constantly
communicating with us, and we must listen....