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Tips For Riding A Dressage Horse

So you're thinking of taking up dressage with your horse, or maybe you are already competing successfully but looking to develop it.
In this article we will take a look at the key points of dressage and some tips to progress your dressage to the next level.
It is vital we know what dressage actually is! For many, we already know what it is but can we define it? There are many different interpretations and definitions of the sport.
At its most simple, it is the training of the horse in which this increases control, safety and pleasure of the ride.
This is dressage that spans across the entire sport of equestrianism and will be found in show jumping, eventing and many others, not just dressage! But there is a level where this basic dressage develops into a more sophisticated, demanding movements and techniques.
From this the higher levels of dressage develop.
To add to the basic definition, the horse must now work to his greatest gymnastic ability whilst developing and maturing into a supple, obedient and well-muscled "equine athlete".
Both horse and rider have to roads that both must travel, one of increased physical strengths and dexterity, the second is a mental understanding of the exercises, training techniques, willingness and honesty.
Both paths must be undertaken and both undertaken by horse and rider.
Without this, the full potential of the partnership between horse and rider will not be achieved.
As well as an understanding of what dressage is, we need to know what the judges of a dressage competition are looking for.
To keep this simple and snappy, they are looking for the correct execution of the compulsory exercises, found in the dressage test being carrier out, performed with correct, regular gaits and the correct 'way of going'.
This term, 'Way of going' is a key point in understanding dressage in order to ride a better dressage test.
A forward response from the rider's leg aids.
Horses that are unresponsive to the leg lack the momentum and motivation for action and impulsion from which all the natural movements derive.
Suppleness of the horse.
Another vital component of the successful dressage horse is his suppleness through the back, body and neck muscles.
This is accomplished by balanced riding with tactful aids used in conjunction with the correct suppling exercises.
You should first supple your horse longitudinally (downwards), from his tail to his head and then laterally (left and right).
Like humans, horses are often stronger on one side than the other and we aim to equal these strengths and weaknesses.
It is really important that enough time and the correct exercises are used for this.
It is not forcing the horse into a certain shape! It should be a win-win situation for both horse and rider.
Take your time to achieve suppleness and an understanding of your horse's mechanics.
So both you and your horse develop correctly.
Accepting a rein contact.
This acceptance of a soft rein contact should develop nicely if you take care of the first two points.
The reins are a line of communication and complete the "impulsion circuit".
This starts in the hind legs, over the back and through the reins to the rider's hands and returns through the rider's seat and legs back to the horse's hind-quarters.
What to aim for:
  • Regular and rhythmic gaits:
Showing correct and natural sequence in walk, trot and canter.
  • Forward activity:
Strong but controlled energy.
  • Elastic suppleness:
Both longitudinally, from tail to head, and laterally which is sideways bend.
  • Engagement:
This is when the hind legs of the horse step well underneath his body.
  • Balance:
When the horse carries more weight on his hind legs, it will appear more light on his front rather than looking like he is heading "down hill".
  • Obedience:
Instant and correct responses from the horse to the rider's signals, this is achieved best when the horse is willing, confident and understands the exercise.
  • Harmony:
Ease and elegance and which both and horse and rider work as a partnership.
The most important thing to remember when training is that it is not our right to make a horse do what we want, we are very privileged that horse's are so trusting and accepting of our partnerships.
Riding and exercises should be carried out in such a way that both horse and rider win.
Finding an experienced coach to progress through with your dressage is vital.
We all have coaches, even the very best.
Understanding the horse's physical and mental make up will really help you to become and better rider and trainer of horses, remember Rome was not built in a day and most of all it is about having fun.
There's no point in doing it otherwise!

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