Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Dressage Geek Mind

Our first educational event of 2010 is fast approaching, and as I plot and plan, I thought I’d give you a peek into the labyrinth of my mind.

In winter, as much as I hate the cold, I love the uninterrupted training.  I love wrapping my mind around why a particular thing is hard for one horse, then figuring out how to make my idea the easiest, most logical thing for my mount to do.  This is what drew me to dressage, not the tail coat and top hat.  So I guess you could say I’m not really a Dressage Queen, I’m a Dressage Geek.

I spend hours in DG mode.  I think about why one thing is hard for one horse, and easy for another.  I compare their conformations and I compare their minds. 

For me, this is fascinating stuff.  We all know the short backed, more Baroque style horses have talent for collection while the more rectangular-built horses have more talent for extension, but why?  If we understand why, can we talk the Baroque body into an 8 extension, without disrupting their delicate balance? Or how do we get the powerhouse hind ends to carry more weight without getting tense? 

In DG mode, I jump to role of physical therapist.  Can I help the compromised horse?  How can I select the right movements so dressage becomes therapy, improving their soundness as well as their training?  I stare at their hind-end muscles, comparing symmetry, and think of what exercises will stress the weaker leg without over-taxing it, and how to alternate muscle groups to symmetrically balance this horse’s body.

Then my DG mind crosses over to horse psychologist.  How do I settle the tension on my try-too-hard horses, without dulling their gaits? How do I jazz up my couch-potato types, without creating tension? How intensely can I stress their bodies without frying their brains? How often should I alternate between work that improves their confidence and work that improves their strength?   

Of course, my DG side doesn’t let my riding off the hook either.  How does my seat inhibit or enhance this horse?  If I sit more full on my seat, or more up on my thighs, which seat gives me more access to his topline? My half halt is very different on my over achievers than on a less ambitious horse.  Yes, the aids are technically the same, riding the horse between my leg, seat, and hand, but the flavor of them changes dramatically.  If I ride Venus’ half-halt on Secret, well, Secret would be a nervous wreck.  And if I did the opposite, Venus would have even less brakes. 

Then, because I’m such a truly annoying DG, I start babbling about these differences to anyone who will lend an ear.  Cara, Linda, and Lynn were probably entertained the first few times, but now, well, I think they’d rather hear “yea, it was a good ride” instead of the biomechanical and psychological break down of each footfall. 

So Thursday, I’ll babble to whoever wanders in.  I’ll even try to answer questions about my thinking.  I’ll do my best to let you inside my DG trainer’s mind.  It’s an experiment, and hopefully one you will find helpful in your own training.

1 comment:

  1. That's not true I still like to hear you DG ways, it interests me I don't think like that, I just feel and fix, my first instinct isn't to break every piece down, it is just to feel what makes it better.