Tips from Train­ers Who Teach

REESE KOFFLERSTANFIELD ex­plains how you can hone your at­ten­tion to de­tail

Dressage Today - - Content - By Reese Kof­fler-Stan­field with An­nie Mor­ris

Each day you ride your horse you are train­ing him. The work should im­prove his way of go­ing, but in­cor­rect work will have the op­po­site ef­fect. Cor­rect dres­sage train­ing is all about the de­tails. You can im­prove your horse’s through­ness by pay­ing at­ten­tion to de­tails in your tran­si­tions, in the walk work and in cor­rect geo­met­ric fig­ures.

Ride Your Tran­si­tions

Tran­si­tions are im­por­tant be­cause they are a huge part of what we do while we are rid­ing. If you go through a Train­ing Level test and count the num­ber of tran­si­tions, it’s alot. There are so many scores there. Each tran­si­tion you ride ev­ery day you should ride as well as pos­si­ble. I want to say ride for a 10, but re­al­is­ti­cally if you work for an 8 you will still im­prove your through­ness.

For ex­am­ple, if you are walk­ing and you want to do some work in the trot, don’t jump right into trot with­out fo­cus­ing on the tran­si­tion. Fo­cus on these qual­i­ties:

IS THE HORSE IN FRONT OF THE LEG AND re­ac­tive when you ask for the tran­si­tion?

IS THE HORSE BAL­ANCED LON­GI­TU­DI­NALLY or is he on the fore­hand?

IS HE STRAIGHT OR ARE THE SHOUL­DERS OR haunches out of align­ment?


De­mand that cor­rect­ness from the horse through your at­ten­tion to de­tail in ev­ery tran­si­tion. You’ll make the horse more ride­able, de­velop him in bal­ance for self-car­riage and build his gen­eral strength. The more tran­si­tions you do cor­rectly the more through the horse will be.

Fo­cus ON the Walk

We walk a lot dur­ing a ride. You might not even re­al­ize how much you walk, but add up the warm-up, cool-down and all the breaks in be­tween. It is one of the three ba­sic gaits, and you have many min­utes to prac­tice im­prov­ing the walk ev­ery ride.

A com­mon pet peeve of mine is what I call the “splat tran­si­tion.” That is when a stu­dent goes from work­ing well and she be­gins a walk break and “splat,” ev­ery­thing is gone. The rider for­gets about the rhythm, the self-car­riage, the con­tact and the flex­ion as she falls into the walk. She starts wan­der­ing around, maybe chat­ting with a friend. When you walk, you should walk as you would walk in a horse show. Medium walk,

free walk, col­lected walk—pick a walk and ride it cor­rectly in­stead of rid­ing an un­rec­og­niz­able gait. Gen­eral aware­ness that you need to walk as you do in the test will make the walk in the test (which al­ways has a co­ef­fi­cient) so much eas­ier.

How­ever, walk­ing well is not just for rid­ers pre­par­ing for a show. Af­ter the walk break, the horse should feel bet­ter. The break is to let the horse re­lax, stretch his mus­cles and catch his breath. He should still be con­nected and work­ing through his body. If the horse doesn’t feel bet­ter af­ter the break, that’s an in­di­ca­tion that you need to spend more time in the break or work on the qual­ity of the walk.

Cor­rect Geo­met­ric Fig­ures

Ask your­self how many cor­ners you ride in a day when you are school­ing. I have never counted, but it’s a lot! Dres­sage is about rep­e­ti­tion: If you ride only one out of 10 cor­ners cor­rectly, you will find cor­ners dif­fi­cult in a com­pe­ti­tion set­ting. This goes for all school fig­ures as well. Ev­ery cir­cle has four cir­cle points that you should be able to find if you know the size of the arena and where the fig­ure is. Watch that the ge­om­e­try is cor­rect, that you’re not rid­ing an “amoeba” but a proper cir­cle con­nect­ing the points.

You want the horse to im­prove when you use your school fig­ures. Say you ride a 20-me­ter cir­cle to the left, but the horse is al­ways fall­ing in on his left side and you are miss­ing the cir­cle points for a cor­rect cir­cle. You know you must fix the sup­ple­ness is­sue be­cause the dif­fi­culty with the cor­rect cir­cle line in­di­cated the root of the is­sue. The horse is lean­ing and fall­ing in and you need to cor­rect him by push­ing him off the in­side leg out onto the cir­cle line. If you don’t no­tice you are miss­ing the cir­cle points, you prob­a­bly won’t no­tice that the horse is fall­ing in on the cir­cle.

De­tails in dres­sage are so im­por­tant be­cause they help you un­der­stand and im­prove the ba­sics and progress with your train­ing. If you don’t no­tice the de­tails, you might miss some of the big pic­ture and that could slow your pro­gres­sion. De­tails are also the key to suc­cess in the show ring. Each test is scored by in­di­vid­ual move­ments. If tran­si­tions are not rid­den well, the cor­ners are am­bigu­ous or the walk is medi­ocre, your score will be im­pacted as well as the over­all im­pres­sion of the sub­mis­sion of your horse.

6he key tO dReS­Sage Suc­ceSS iS iN the de­tailS. *eRe 4eeSe -OĠeR 5taNĂeld RideS 6OwN aNd %OuNtRy 'laNcOuRt, a yeaR Old &utch 9aRMblOOd geld­iNg.

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