The 2014 HCBC “Dressage Through the Levels”  Symposium was another fantastic event at Thunderbird Show Park.  After living in the northern part of this province for 12 years, not being able to regularly attend these training events, I appreciate the opportunity to learn, and grow my understanding of dressage through these clinics.  If you were unable to attend, here are a few training tips and highlights I took away from the weekend.

Ellen’s common thread is that whether we are in the warm up, or in the test, we must ride each step, ensuring our horse is round, connection is established, and forward.  Most of the riders had a bit better warm up then actual test.  It’s why dressage is difficult.  Transitions come easily when our horse is round, connected and paying attention, but what do we do when we are in extended canter,  M is approaching and our horse is mentally in left field?  We ride. Create what is needed for that transition to be a success. Passengers need not apply. 

Ellen repeated the notion of not spurring the horse each step.  The spur is a refining aid, used for correction.  If we use it every step, we dull our horse to the result the spur is intended to have.

Bending exercises were performed, and riders were often instructed to have their leg at the girth.  Many of us “think” our leg is at the girth, until we actually see that it’s actually farther back on the horse’s barrel.  The inside leg has to be at the girth, so that the horse understands the difference between a bending aid and a forward driving aid.  So, grab the video camera folks, and take a look at your leg position during a serpentine.  See how your horse responds to having that inside leg clearly forward at the girth, with you sitting on that inside seatbone.

For those more advanced riders, Ellen gave a great tip on riding the change of direction in the half pass.   She wanted the riders to 1) change the flexion to the new direction 2) and in the next step start the half pass in the new direction.  What this does is that it already puts the shoulders ahead of the haunches when you initiate the change of direction.    The first step in the exercise is to introduce the change of flexion during the half pass without a change of direction.  Some horses found this difficult esp at the canter, as they associated the exercise with a flying change.  It taught those horses to wait on their riders aids, and aided in loosening a tight neck, which is often associated with anticipation of the flying change.

I give the riders credit for allowing themselves to be judged in a public setting, and allow us as bench warmers the chance to learn and enhance our riding skills.  I love watching the audience, esp at times when something may not be going right.  Everyone is half halting in their seats, and shifting seat bones to help the flying changes.  Classic.  I should video tape the audience next time!

  I think we have an awesome dressage community here in BC, and look forward to creating a very unique club where we can all learn, grow,develop, and support each other  as riders. 

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Have a great day!