January 3, 2011

Bred for Dressage

As I return home from a long weekend with the in-laws I am reminded that I was bred for dressage.  I love my in-laws, they are the best in-laws a person could ask for.  They are loving, fun and treat me like their own.  But any time you spend a length of time with a group of people so different from you, you can't help but feel a little lost and start to do some soul searching... I'll get to how this relates to dressage in a minute... I promise.

Some background... My husband and his family are very laid back, I am not.  They go with the flow, I like to steer.  They are happy-go-lucky people who have a loose plan but for the most part, things happen as they happen.  For better or worse, I am not one of those people, I am constantly planning, thinking about what is going to happen next and what time it needs to happen.  Its how I was raised; it is what makes me comfortable.  Without a plan I feel lost and disconnected. So as I was sitting there with my husbands family trying my hardest to be easy going and deal with the constantly changing up-in the air agenda I started thinking about it.  And I started making parallels to the horse show world.  And I realized my need for a plan is probably why I gravitated towards dressage so easily.

In dressage training there is a specific pyramid you are supposed to follow to train your horse.  And the tests are very specific tests, they tell you what to do, when to do it and even what they are looking for when you do it.  No question left unanswered.  And you get the test well ahead of time, so you can train and know what to expect.  In the jumping world, sure you know you are going to jump a course and you know how high it is going to be, and you get the course... but not until the day of the show.  You usually have a few hours at best to memorize the course and you and your horse don't get to practice it, the first time you ride the course is in your class... yikes.  But at least you know what is coming next.  The worst (for me) is the flat hunter type classes.  You know the ones, where you ride around in the ring just waiting for the judge to yell out commands.  You trot along never knowing when they are going to ask you to canter and for how long.  I'm not bashing these types of riding or shows, I'm just saying they aren't for me.  I remember when I used to ride hunter/jumper I would get so nervous in the ring; waiting, anticipating what was to happen next.  Would I be in a good spot for the transition?  What if I'm hidden behind another horse?  How long will I be expected to hold my 2-point? 

Now that I ride dressage, I go in the ring knowing I'm ready.  I know the test, I know my horse, I know exactly when and where our transitions will occur.  And because I've practiced the test a few times (not enough that the horse has memorized it) I know our trouble spots and will be prepared for them.  This kind of preparation may be seen as a crutch in other show circles; a good horse and rider should be able to think on their toes and not need so much preparation.  I don't disagree, in fact other than the anxiety I enjoyed hunter/jumper classes.  But dressage came along and took away the anxiety so all I was left with was fun and determination.  As always, I may have veered away from my point a little.  I just think knowing my challenge at hand makes me a calmer more confident rider, and even if no else does, I know my horse probably appreciates it.  Now if I could get the in-laws to send me an agenda 6 months in advance everything would be  perfect!


  1. Great post. It's funny, I love the progression in dressage, that there is a plan and goals to work towards, but I hate planning anything else :)
    Just read your last post on riding Training Level test one. Made me laugh - I know exactly what you mean!
    Happy New Year!

  2. Tehehe, I can't say as I'm an intense 6 month ahead planner, but I do understand the comfort of having a plan. I think that's why I always preferred essays to tests. I hate essays, yes, but you can work it into the ground. A test, you only get one shot at it. That said, I love over fences classes! Nothing can replace the thrill of a good ride though, no matter what you do.

  3. Good comparison with the essays vs tests. And I like jumping too, just not so much in a class. Your "thrill" is my "Oh my God!" :). Dex hasn't jumped ever, but I'm hoping to get him started just for fun once we have some good solid flat work.