The Dressage Training Pyramid for Mere Mortals

We have a special treat this week! My good friend and fellow equestrian Lauren Baker and I are guest posting on each other’s blog. I’ve known Lauren since the late 90’s. She is the former editor and publisher of Flying Changes Magazine, a Northwest sporthorse publication and my favorite regional horse magazine. Lauren did that for 21 years before handing over the reins to new owner, Lorna Lowrie, in March of 2014. She now works as freelance writer and blogger. Lauren has a fun writing style that I’m sure readers of this blog will appreciate.

 The Dressage Training Pyramid for Mere Mortals

By Lauren Baker

 Any dressage rider worth their salt has seen the dressage training pyramid. Some people even remember what it says. I had to look it up.

It looks like this:

USDF Training Pyramid - Copy

So, collection is the ultimate goal. Rhythm is where you begin.

But what about the real-world training pyramid?

In the real world, we generally start with Survival.

If the rider is focusing on stay-alive skills, there’s no room for rhythm … unless we’re talking about the kind of rhythm that comes from hyperventilating. Who of us has not had a ride worthy of hyperventilation?

Once we’ve ridden our horse enough (or sent him off to training camp) and feel our life is not in immediate danger, we can work on Go … quickly following it with the all-important Whoah.

Whoah is so important that I use it in non-horse-related emergencies, as well as barn-related opportunities. I’ll yell ‘Whoah’ in a potential bicycle accident or a near-miss pedestrian/motor vehicle incident.

People look at you strangely when you yell ‘Whoah!” outside of a barn but when, when used with enthusiasm, you get results.

Once Go and Whoah have been mastered, preferably in a small space where you can’t get run off with, it’s time to move on to Steering.

If you’re riding a horse that doesn’t steer, it’s important to advise other riders in proximity that they are in mortal danger, soley responsible for their own safety. Again, you’ll get strange looks—but it’s better than killing someone.

Beginning steering should take into account the horse’s general lack of knowledge. Don’t expect any sudden turns unless they are accompanied by a buck, shy, or rear. Green horses are so much fun!

To summarize, before we can get to the lofty dressage goals of Rhythm and Relaxation (the baby steps of dressage), we must first achieve the following:

Survival Pyramid

 

No offense, USDF, but I think your training pyramid should be expanded to include those of us with young and green horses. It kind of sucks to find yourself completely off the chart.

Once we have the survival basics, THEN we can move on to the beginnings of finesse. Until then, focus on keeping yourself breathing and moving in Rhythm, in a Relaxed manner. Try to Connect to your horse in a level appropriate to his green-horse nature but expect that connection to be fluid and dynamic (aka: wildly erratic). Ask for Impulsion – but not too much unless you’re an adrenaline junky!!

You should definitely stay Straight (as in not drunk or stoned) and Collect your thoughts. You’ll need your wits about you, trust me.

Check out Lauren’s new blog Dressage for Mere Mortals – a blog for “ordinary people, who love & perhaps struggle with the intricacies of dressage.” Good stuff!