Is dressage necessary?

“Dressage is like watching cement dry.” “Dressage is like watching grass grow.” We’ve all heard the comments from non-dressage riders. In all honesty, I can understand how, especially at the lower levels, it appears redundant. But I also can say with elevated pulse that it can bring an exhilaration unlike any other I’ve experienced riding horses! It is my passion. Yes, many years ago I rode hunters, I competed in combined training, and even fox hunted. I’ve felt the slide and spin of a reining horse. I’ve felt the gallop that causes your eyes to tear up. But nothing compares to the creation of Baroque art! With the development of all the natural inborn talents of the horse, art is created, and those fortunate enough to be astride experience living art.

I totally understand that other riders have that same feeling with the discipline of their choice. I am not wishing to develop a “Dressage Cult,” but I do believe that dressage is a valuable and healthy foundation for all styles of riding. In my opinion, dressage is necessary in the training of all horses. Dressage is equine gymnastics. No one can deny the beautiful musculature, coordination, and grace of a human gymnast. The gymnast spends many hours developing joints and musculature. Without the gradual and correct development of their body, their ability to perform would be greatly compromised. Horses are no different. All of the movements in dressage are natural. It is a systematic and gradual development of the horse. When we take the time to properly develop the horse’s joints and musculature, the horse is able to perform movements of incredible power with maximum grace. Using dressage to develop the foundation for your style of riding will enable you to jump that fence with less effort, to run faster, turn easier, and stop quicker. So, regardless of discipline, a horse will perform with much greater ease, coordination, and power.

It should be a non-confrontational relationship guided by love and kindness. I am not naïve, however, and dressage, unfortunately, is not always ridden with love and kindness. We only have to click a mouse and we’ll see Rollkur, which is both physically and psychologically damaging. We also see mouths clamped shut with cavesons, hands jerking on mouths, and spurs digging in sides. This saddens me to see in any discipline, and my choices are to either turn my head the other way or to reach out when opportunity allows to share a softer and kinder approach. There are riders with far more talent and experience than I, but there are a lot of horses in this world calling out for help. My goal in teaching students and training horses, and my goal with this blog, is to make a difference in even a few horses’ lives. My hope is that by sharing a different approach, that perhaps it will trickle down and people will “pay it forward.”

The physical and psychological well-being of a horse are synonymous. What better way to bring the spirit of the horse and rider together?

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