Tips from Train­ers Who Teach

Dressage Today - - Content - By Jan Brons with An­nie Mor­ris

Jan Brons de­scribes how you can as­sess your horse for progress.

When train­ing horses cor­rectly, we im­prove and progress over time, but day to day it some­times feels as if we’re tak­ing a step back­ward. This is nor­mal. There are steps you can take to avoid frus­tra­tion for you or your horse, which I will now de­scribe.

Horses are like us. If I’m in the gym, some days I feel stronger, looser or more mo­ti­vated than oth­ers. I must ad­just my work­out for what my body is telling me to do. With horses, we need to do the same. When you go through your warm-up, you fig­ure out how the horse feels and you can ad­just what you do that day.

Pin­point What to Work On

Be aware of what your horse’s strong points and weak points are. Your trainer can help you dis­cover them. If you are sit­ting on the horse for the first time, you may or may not be able to fig­ure out his weak­nesses quickly. As you have more of a re­la­tion­ship with the horses that you ride you will know where the weak­nesses are and where to zoom in first. For ex­am­ple, if the horse is lazy, then you may need to make him re­spond quicker to your leg aid. If you have a horse who is weak bend­ing one way or the other, you may need to work on that. For ex­am­ple, a horse may be weaker bend­ing to the left, so I make sure there are no sound­ness is­sues first. You may no­tice he wants to put the left hind leg slightly to the left in­stead of un­der­neath you. There­fore, you fo­cus on train­ing to make the left hind leg bet­ter aligned, which will im­prove the left bend. You must re­peat ex­er­cises to put the left hind leg un­der­neath the horse, such as cir­cles to the left or the leg yield to the right.

You must find where the prob­lem is, and some­times it takes time to fig­ure this out. Also, you must be flex­i­ble enough to change your ap­proach if you re­al­ize that your orig­i­nal plan is not work­ing. Ree­val­u­ate as you move for­ward and see which prob­lems are solved and if any new ones have arisen.

You can use the Train­ing Scale to guide you: Is the horse rhyth­mic? Is he sup­ple and re­laxed? Is he con­nected? Does he have suf­fi­cient im­pul­sion? Is he straight? Is he col­lected to a de­gree ap­pro­pri­ate for his level?

Ad­dress your own weak­nesses as well. For ex­am­ple, are your leg aids as or­ga­nized as they should be? Is your core as strong as it should be? Are you co­or­di­nated or should you fo­cus on the in­de­pen­dence of your seat? In dres­sage there is no such thing as a per­fect ride, so there must be some­thing that can im­prove.

Video for Suc­cess

Video is a fan­tas­tic tool to ob­jec­tively look at your­self and the horse as a com­bi­na­tion. I like to see a video of my­self rid­ing once or twice per week to look at the over­all out­line of the horse and if he car­ries him­self through the ring in the ap­pro­pri­ate bal­ance for the level we are train­ing. You can also look in the mir­ror, but you go by so fast that it can be de­ceiv­ing. I have a much eas­ier time see­ing the over­all pic­ture when I sit in front of the TV or my com­puter screen.

You don’t nec­es­sar­ily need to video your whole ride. Video a minute or two of a weak­ness in your pro­gram, maybe in the warm-up or dur­ing a move­ment. Look at ex­actly what goes on with you and the horse to see what you can im­prove. Also, look at some­thing you are su­per at. See the over­all pic­ture and be proud of what you do well.

Make a Plan

Uti­lize the Train­ing Scale to ad­dress the weak­nesses in your horse along with what you see in the video and then you can make a plan. I am tough on my­self and I ex­pect my stu­dents to be tough on them­selves and look ob­jec­tively at where the is­sues lie.

Some­times you ap­ply more pres­sure as you ap­proach a higher level, and horses can re­act to that. It’s im­por­tant to ask your­self where your horse’s frus­tra­tion might come from. Is the prob­lem in his body or in his mind? Do I need to have the vet check some­thing out or is the horse con­fused and sort­ing out what the aid means? You may need to back off a few days with your de­mands to get on track again. Give the horse time to sort through his body and mind when you progress. This takes pa­tience and con­fi­dence from the rider.

To help avoid frus­tra­tion, I find a day dur­ing and at the end of the work week when I do less-de­mand­ing work, such as a trail ride. The horse can­not give 100 per­cent ev­ery day, so this gives you a way to keep him happy and get the most out of the rides so you can progress in the long term as a pair.

The horse can­not give 100 per­cent ev­ery day. Plan your rides (in the ring OR ON ěJG ěRCKĚ DCSGF ON JOV XOTR JORSG HGGĚS CNF ĂNF C VCX ěO LGGP JKM JCPPX KN ěJG VORL XOT FO Ì

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