Wednesday, July 7, 2010

WWE Does Not Spell USDF

So we're in the middle of this heat wave - in the 90s, which is pretty fierce for Maine, and I was whining about riding in the heat but then I watched Hidalgo with Tristan and felt like a total wuss. I rode Ruby late in the day when it wasn't so hot but still, we were both a little melted after a half hour ride. Ruby has been a fun little horse to work with. The interesting thing about her is that she never has the same problem 2 rides in a row. One day it was hanging on the right rein, than pulling her head down toward her chest, then she wouldn't back up, then she wouldn't turn right, then she was hanging on the left rein, then bucking in the canter, then not turning in the canter... She comes up with a new issue every ride, which is good because it means we've worked out the previous problem. I just hope she runs out of ideas pretty soon...

I'm taking her to a schooling Dressage show on Sunday to do Intro B and Training 1. The Intro test could be fairly good but the cantering part of Training level could be interesting. My only goal, taking a horse to it's first show, is to stay on and stay in the ring. There are no other expectations. Some young/green horses have been unfazed by the whole experience, some can't handle the warm-up but do a nice test. Some warm up great but then have a melt-down going in the ring. And then there's Cavallo, who warmed up great, had a solid test and then refused to walk through a puddle to get back to the trailer. We spent more time working on that than we did showing.

When showing, the judge only sees that one snapshot of time. She has no idea that it's a young horse at it's first show. She has no background, no history, no sympathy to training issues you've been working through. She can only judge what she sees in that 5 minutes according to the standard. Your horse might have short legs and a long body and it's doing the best trot lengthening it can possibly do but it still doesn't mean it will get a 10. It may be that that particular trot lengthening is a 10 for what that horse can do, but against the standard, it may be a 6. It's not that the judge only favors Warmbloods, it's that she has to judge against what a perfect trot lengthening would be.

The cool thing about Dressage is that it can help a horse with curious conformation to be more athletic and a better mover. Correct dressage training develops the muscles that allow a horse to be brilliant, the way they look when they are playing in the field and showing off. How many of us have seen the shaggy, fat school pony do Passage around the paddock when he's in high spirits? The horses have the natural ability (some just have more of it) and in Dressage we try to bring that out and develop it. Notice, however, that I said "correct" Dressage training. There are some horsepeople who associate Dressage with the horse's head being down and curled into its chest. That's not Dressage. That's over-use of the reins which was meant to be the topic of today's blog. Roundaboutly, I suppose it was. I just took the scenic route to get there.

I looked at some ads for horses for sale in a magazine and saw a few ads with photos of horses being ridden with heads down and necks curled like periwinkles and the ad reads "would be a good Dressage horse". I think, no, would be a good battering ram since he can't see where he's going and you can't stop him.

It's only recently, of my 26 year history of riding, that I have gotten the idea of riding the horse to the reins. I wish I could share it with everybody, because it works so much better than trying to wrangle the horse's head in. I'd rather see the little kids flapping around on horses with no contact, than see a woman with biceps like Jesse Ventura hanging onto her horse's lips with all her might. Not that I haven't been there, it's a process we go through as riders. As long as we keep trying to improve and find better ways to achieve communication with our horses then its okay to make that mistake.

Now I feel as though I've done a bit of lecturing... I can't help it, it's the instructor in me. In the future, I'll try to be a little more light-hearted. It's just that when I have a revelation that benefits riders and horses, I want to share. Now I feel the need to sing "I'd like to buy the world a Coke..."

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