Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Not Proper Dressage, But Dawn Offers Something Special

I have very little training in formal dressage - just what I needed to get through Training Level eventing competitions in college.  But I've read, and tried to learn - there's a lot of good in modern (classical dressage) that I try to make use of with my horses.  I think if you have forward, and rhythm, and relaxation, the rest matters less, and so long as your horse is happy and not forced or over bent, things are good.

Recently, Dawn has been offering me something different, and special.  We've been working on softness for a long time - since I started riding her about 4 years ago.  She's much less braced and much softer laterally and vertically than when I started working with her.

But just in the past week or 10 days, she's been offering me something new - something pretty amazing.  One of the things we sometimes do in our morning ride, after our warm up at trot - pretty long and relaxed - is to do short/long trot, with long trot on the diagonals and short trot on the ends of the ring - I don't ask her for true collection or extension as she's in her late teens and she's not got the conformation to be able to easily do these things at her age.

Recently, when I ask for short trot - by "thinking" myself more vertical and reducing velocity while maintaining energy - without any leg - she's offering this - she arches her neck so that her poll is higher than I've ever seen it, tucks her face - I don't want her going behind the vertical - while staying very soft in the bridle - there's hardly any pressure at all on the reins - and slows her trot way down so the cadence is half that of a regular trot.  I can't see it so I don't really know, but it feels like something halfway between a collected trot and passage - it's pretty magical.  Since she's offering it and interested in doing it, we're playing with it, although not too much as I suspect it's pretty strenuous for her, although she seems very proud and satisfied with it.

Wish I could video it to see what we have . . .


  1. Sounds like a collected trot for sure and it might actually be the start of passage. If you think "halt" while still keeping that softness and she continues to keep the trot rhythm, then you will even get some piaffe.

    What you need to know is whether or not her hind end is still engaged as she slows. But from your description, it certain sounds as if it is.

    What fun to be able to play with this since Dawn is offering it all on her own and not being forced.

  2. It does sounds wonderful. With all your feeling abilities and experience, whatever you think you've got going on - is more then likely it. Enjoy that magical feeling!! Nothing compares.

  3. How very cool that she's experimenting. It sounds like it would be a wonderful experience, not just the movement, but her feelings about it too. They do so many proud, majestic movements in the pasture, and lose so much of that when we ride them. Some day I'd like to be able to share moments like that with Joseph.

  4. Houston -- we have collected trot!! Woo-hoo! ...and you got it in the best way possible. Dressage is (should) be all about rhythm, tempo, relaxation and response from a feel -- all things that you practice/teach your horses. As the horse gets stronger, they are able to offer more and it is very, very cool when it happens. Best of all, is it happened from the correct progression; building strength and feel - not from a forced frame. Yay for both of you!!

  5. If that's not proper dressage, then I'm not sure what I've been doing all these years. ;) What you described is exactly how collected gaits are introduced. And it's so important to make sure that the horse is proud and happy with themselves, it should be "play" to them! If you keep it up, she'll slowly build the strength to maintain it for longer stretches. Considering that the longest dressage tests are only a little over 6 minutes and not in constant collection, I think Dawn could do just fine!

  6. I can just picture it, and I'm sure it's beautiful. Ladde does something quite similar when he wants to be more forward than we'd like, it's his way of controlling his speed with animation, I guess. We call it his Andalusian impression. Could you ask someone at the barn to video your rides with Dawn? I'll bet she feels very pretty when she's doing it. :)

  7. Love your post :)

  8. Oh exciting! I love it when horses do things like this and I think it is totally possible.

    Harley will collect his walk if we do walk canter transitions. Sometimes he throws in a few almost on the spot trot steps before the canter. Feels awesome!

  9. Oh I do hope you can get someone to video that!

    1. Would love to see a video myself . . .


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