Thoughts on a young horse

Debbie De Witt (boarder and GP dressage rider) and I were walking around the arena this morning talking and I mentioned that my 4 year old, De Novo, was just beginning his schooling to understand dressage. He is being asked to become round, bend and listen to yielding aids from the legs. I asked her how it was that you can look at any video on Youtube of a 4 year old warmblood in Germany and have it look like it was in a 2nd level frame? Here is one. Made no sense to me why or how they did that. We ended up having a long discussion about the direction that modern dressage is going. It seems to us that no longer was it acceptable by the judges to see a training level horse who was rhythmical, forward, round and accurate to win the class. She sees at almost every big show that those who win at training and 1st level are already showing collection. Debbie has a student with a drop dead gorgeous Holsteiner who can walk a circle in his stall and make you drool. He is beautiful and probably has never spent a day of his life being long and hollow in his topline. Yet, when the rider shows him in 1st level, she gets a 50-something% and comments that the horse needs to show more round and throughness. I guess you need to see the horse to understand that his normal way of going is very very engaged, suspension and collected. The same rider then cranks his nose up and in, gives him a boot and rides the same test and wins it. Horse is more tense and it gets a better score?

I wonder if the sport of dressage has matured to quickly. In the effort to have a competitive student and rider who do well at shows and get ribbons to justify all the expense that the owners pay (what a silly argument). But I hear it sometimes. Anyway, this has created a sport that has forgotten to take the long view of training the young horse. Why not spend a year to teach the horse rhythym, forwardness and obedience? Why do drawreins need to be pulled out in order to make the horse look more advanced than it really is?

2 Responses to “Thoughts on a young horse”

  1. Tina


    Easy questions but definitely the heart of what dressage is about currently. There is a reason why some of us dressage enthusiast are not eager to go off to the shows, especially at the lower levels. The “crank & spank” horses win despite obvious tension and general unhappiness. Their movement seems to blind everyone to basics, are they rythmic, relaxed and moving thru their backs and not legs. You can love dressage and not love where the competitive sport is right now. Any one who has seen a horse in good training progress so that they are balanced and move more freely with the rider understands what we should be striving for. Better yet, if you have had the occasion to feel the moment when your thoughts invite your horse to do a movement without the rider doing anything, this is the goal. Dedicated to Dressage and a happy horse and believing that the dressage community will slowly wake up and reward the long term goal and not the short spectacular show. Tina

  2. meika

    Couldnt agree more, Tina.

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