Monday, August 8, 2011

Seeing Dressage in a whole new light …

At Professional’s Choice, there are riders of nearly every discipline: barrel racing, cutting, Three-day-eventing, trail, pleasure, and of course, Dressage. If you have ridden in the English style, it is highly likely that at some point you have taken part in simple forms of dressage. Yet, it seems that most riders do Dressage training rather grudgingly. It’s a little like eating a small portion of the vegetables on the dinner table, but really saving lots of room for dessert, which for many riders is to be allowed to jump. Only a few devotists find these introductory Dressage movements a partly captivating, partly art form. Personally, I’m at some odd point in the middle. As a child, I was part of Pony Club, where Dressage training was regularly required. My pony at the time excelled at it, and I was able to show him through 2nd level. But then the jumps became bigger, my pony became older, and it was time to move to my next horse, a monster 17.1-hand jumper (who knew as much Dressage as squirrel chasing). He and I were in love with Three-day-eventing, and at that time, our opinions to dressage were mutually reinforcing. In Three-day eventing, Dressage was that mandatory first day thing that came before the really fun stuff, jumping and cross-country. Every Three-day event became a toss-up to see if we would survive the dressage test. Jumping was so easy, because there wasn’t a required “free walk” where I had to reluctantly relinquish my reins, or that “canter-to-walk” transition where it was it was not unusual for him to decide to simply step out of the arena or to remain cantering in place. Then, about four years ago, I completely switched disciplines to Reining, and bought an adorable two-year-old quarter horse. He is the thoroughbred’s polar opposite, a sweet, lazy, loveable Gumby horse. He also has one very clubby foot. In Reining, one extremely important movement is to be able to spin in place. Now my sweet baby would try his heart out, but his anatomy and conformation made it just about impossible to spin to the left. Instead of letting him ram his legs repeatedly into each other, hoping he would magically figure out how to maneuver his awkward body, I took an entirely different route. Every day we launched into a series of Dressage maneuvers that taught him to isolate different parts of his body. We learned Leg yield, Shoulder-in, Haunches-in, and even Half-pass. Through a weekly regime of these movements, he learned to compensate for his clubfoot. After this training, we returned to re-learning the spins, starting with a Leg yield, and slowly moving into a spin. It was a wonderful experience for both of us to see it all click for him. He literally picks his leg up like a high stepping horse, then swings it over, and repeats this maneuver at high speeds. It is a delightful thing to watch as his spins to the left now keep up with any seasoned Reiner. As a side note, one of the local pony club girls horse came up lame on the day of the big Dressage rally event. Out of sheer desperation, She asked to borrow my reining pony, and was she surprised when she pulled in one of the highest scores of the day on a Reining quarter horse. As a result of this experience, my view of dressage has forever been altered. Suddenly, I see Dressage as an invaluable tool in my kit on how to help horses find ways in which to move their body on command. I still love all the fun events of riding like jumping and reining, but my feelings on Dressage are starting to shift from “sort of in the middle” to definitely appreciate this unique discipline.

If you are also beginning to see Dressage in a different light, or want to learn more about this art-form, I’d like to re-introduce you to Catherine Haddad, who is a master of Dressage, and who also happens to be one of Professional Choice’s leading endorsers. I’ve listed a few dates for her clinics below, and if you’re in her area on any of these times, I encourage you to check out her clinics.

Clinic list for August-September, 2011
Aug -9-10 clinic Hawk Hill Ranch, Bedminster NJ, Randi Leoni,

Aug 18-21 show Saugerties CDI-W

Aug 22-23 clinic Forest Hill Farm, Lafayette, IN, Jennifer Kaiser,

Aug 29-30 clinic Franktown Meadows E. C., Reno, NV, Amy Robinson,
Aug31-Sep 01 clinic Denver, Marian Nilsen,
Sep 5/6 clinic Briar Quest Farm, London, Ontario, CAN, Shirley Moraal,
Sep 8-12 show Gladstone USEF Festival

Sep 13-14 training with Morten

Sep 15-18 show Saugerties CDI-W
Sep 19-20 clinic Mt.Olive Farm Valley Lee, MD, Donna O’Connor,

Sep 21-22, clinic Shoeman Road Farm, Haslett, Michigan, Linda Clay

Sep 29-Oct 2 show Devon CDI-W

Thanks for reading,