Don’t forget about dressage

During hunting season it’s tempting focus only on conditioning and jumping.  It’s all too easy to forget about dressage. Not the dressage as in riding the movements for perfection, but rather the dressage that helps your horse stay supple, strong and stretched — able to dodge that tree with a quick leg yield or to collect up easily when the hunt comes to a quick halt.

Let’s face it. You don’t want to ride a hunt horse that’s heavy on the forehand or sluggish off the leg. You want a horse that’s balanced and responsive.  But when you’re out hunting you don’t pay attention to what lead your horse picks up or what diagonal you’re on and that can lead to a horse that becomes one sided.

I make it a practice to devote at least one ride every week to working my horse on the flat in ways that will keep him supple. Usually that means working in some leg yields, sometimes spiraling in and out of circles, sometimes across the diagonal. I add some shoulder ins, especially on the short side of the ring. And I work on bending, especially using outside bend on a circle, but also ride “broken lines” along the long side of the ring, making sure that Freedom changes the bend of his whole body.

I also make it a practice to pay attention to my transitions because it’s easy to fall into the habit of letting your horse either rush or fall into them.

Just to keep Freedom (and me) happy, I usually find a way to work in a few jumps, too.

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