Dressage made easy

Charlotte Dujardin
Kudos to Charlotte Dujardin for choosing to wear a helmet for Olympic competition rather than a top hat. I hope that many others follow her example.

When you watch Olympic level dressage, they make it look too easy. Their figures are accurate, the use their corners, they sit unbelievable trot lengthenings without looking like their teeth are jarring, and they obtain remarkable results with aids that are subtle and almost invisible to the untrained eye.

Of course, it’s not easy at all. When most of us ride a dressage test it looks more like this! We obviously failed geometry because our circles are not round. We achieve magnificent bend,

Dressage Test
Sadly, my dressage tests always looked more like this one.

but only in our horses’ neck, and our transitions happen more or less close to the appropriate letter! To achieve a sitting trot that doesn’t expose air between our butts and our saddles, many of us end up with a gait that approximates a western job. As for the subtlety of our aids? I suspect cursing out loud is not an approved method of communication.

I no longer compete at dressage because I’m not a terribly precise person and because I discovered foxhunting. But I still school it. I like my horse to listen (and respond) to my aids. Occasionally I need a few steps of leg yield to ensure that I miss that tree when galloping down a trail at high speed. And I want my horse to be balanced and light on his forehand, so we do a lot of shoulder in, hundreds of transitions, and some counter canter almost every time we work on the flat.

I have a lot respect for those Olympic riders. In fact, they’ve inspired me to practice more and bounce less. Freedom showed some remarkable lengthenings today when we were out in a field (I’ve never gotten them in a ring) and I did the only practical thing: I posted.


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