From Endurance to Dressage
So how am I dealing with the fear? I need to get better. It's that simple.
This last week in my classroom, I was teaching a lesson on dependent and independent clauses. MH, one of my students said, oh, when the sentence starts with a word like when and has a comma, that's a dependent clause! There was no mistaking the look of perfect understanding on his face. He got it and was clear in his understanding.
That's exactly how I felt after reading Beth Baumert's recent article in the February issue of Dressage Today. I mentioned this yesterday. The article is actually a modified transcript (I think) of a symposium given by Kyra Kyrklund, a Finnish Olympian and clinician. I've read the article at least a half a dozen times. She isn't saying anything new, she's just saying it at a time when I am ready to understand it. The article isn't even about fear. But it is about how to become a better rider which will help me ride Sydney with less reason for fear. If I can ride him more effectively, he won't need to escape, and I won't be fearful.
I'm just going to share some of her quotes and how I connected with the ideas presented.
1. "... you should try to let the neck get longer not by throwing it away, but by feeling his mouth go forward." Brilliant. Oh my gosh. That makes perfect sense to me. That's reaching!
2. "It's hard to lengthen the topline, but if you shorten the bottom line by asking the horse to tighten his tummy muscles, it becomes easier." Finally, a way to achieve the lengthened topline. And here's how:
3. "The lowest part of the rider's leg - the foot - "pumps up" the horse's rib cage. It's like putting air in a balloon. [...] If you don't put enough air into the balloon, then it sags down. If there is too much air, then the balloon explodes." This is a little like Val's (Memoirs of a Horse Girl) description of leg hugs. And I can completely relate to the exploding balloon!
4. "I collect his body without letting him run away, first by using the leg. Then my rein is prepared to tell the horse not to go faster." Yes, yes. Go on. This makes perfect sense.
5. "I keep contact with the outside rein and turn him with the inside rein and outside leg. In this way I move the horse's shoulder, not the head, until he finds his own balance." Oh boy, does that make sense! And it worked wonders with Sydney. Out of desperation, I will sometimes (no longer) try to move him over with the outside rein. It doesn't work very well. An effective, well positioned outside leg works much better.
6. "Have the feeling that your horse's neck is going away from you, not that his nose is coming toward you. "On the bit" is not so much about keeping the nose on the vertical, but rather that the horse is carrying himself. Stay heavy in your seat and feel that the transitions start with your horse's back." Oh! This is Speedy G exactly. He likes to drop behind the vertical, but by feeling the transition coming from underneath me, we have really made some great progress.
7. "If we ask novice riders how much of their focus is on the horse's head, most of them, if they are honest, might say 80 percent. But the head is perhaps 10 percent of the horse's body, so be sure you are not using 80 percent of your focus on 10 percent of the horse. Ride his body and influence it." And there it is. The nugget that proved to be another one of those Game Changers that I mentioned last week. Ride his body and not his head. JL is constantly telling me not worry about where his head is. The part she left out was what to worry about instead. Now I know. During my last half dozen rides on both boys, I have focused on their bodies and not their heads. What a total difference that concept has made. Because you know what? Of course you already do, but when you ride their body, the head puts itself where it's supposed to be. Doh!
8. This one might well be my absolute favorite and is yet another Game Changer, "The rider's knee is like an arrow. It gives the horse direction by showing him where to go. The two knees make a corridor, and the energy of the horse flows through the corridor." Hello! I've heard the energy flowing through the corridor thingy before, but it didn't really make any sense. What energy? Using your knees to tell your horse where to go? Now that's helpful. It's like my dad telling me to point my index finger when I throw the Frisbee. It will go where you point. This knee pointing idea explains why when the horse is drifting out that you might slightly open the inside leg and add outside leg. You're giving the horse a place to move to while pushing him there with your outside leg. Brilliant! (And it works!)
9. "Feel the contact in your elbow, not in your hand. Then almost feel that you do the rein aids with the elbow so the hand can stay soft." I kid you not. I almost fell out of my chair when I read that. Instead of just telling me to bend my elbow, this gives a total purpose for that idea. Game Changer! All week I worked on that concept. The first thing it did was to actually help me bend my elbows. It also kept me from "breaking" my wrists. Since the aide was coming from my elbow (in my mind anyway), I felt my hands straighten up.
10. "Horses learn by pressure and release. You apply pressure, they respond, and you must release the pressure. If you don't release - for example, if you don't let the rein loose - you can't use it again." Hmmm ... this seemed to suggest a cause to Sydney's rearing and bolting. Is Sydney not getting the release? This is something I thought a lot about over the week and applied whenever I could.
Tomorrow ... How I applied these ideas to my riding!
Those are great! Thanks for sharing - they're going to be useful for me, too :). I remember reading Kyra's dressage book (Dressage with Kyra) when I was a kid and it made a big impression then. Probably would help me to re-read it now haha.
3/5/2012 10:18:56 am
Thanks, Kelly. I love reading dressage articles and books because you can take as long as you need to ponder. And if you go back and reread, you always catch something new. :0)
3/5/2012 10:32:10 am
It was a great article. I wanted to scan the whole thing to post, but I assumed "Dressage Today" wouldn't be too happy about that. Copy write infringement and all that. I am glad some of it resonated with you, too.
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About the Writer and Rider
I am a lifelong rider.
I began endurance riding in 1996 where I ultimately completed five, one-day 100 mile races, the 200-mile Death Valley Encounter, and numerous other 50, 65, and 75 mile races. I began showing dressage in 2010.
Welcome to my dressage journey.
About Speedy G
Speedy went from endurance horse to dressage horse. After helping me earn a USDF Bronze medal in the summer of 2020, he is now semi-retired. Speedy is a 2004, 15'1 hand, purebred Arabian gelding. His Arabian Horse Registry name is G Ima Starr FA.
Izzy was started as a four-year old and then spent the next 18 months in pasture growing up. I bought him as a six-year old, and together, we are showing at the lower levels. He is a 2008, 16'3 hand warmblood gelding. His Rheinland Pfalz-saar International (RPSI) name is Imperioso.
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