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Posts Tagged ‘dressage’

Whether it was the dawdling pony, ignoring our short, five-year-old legs ricocheting off his sides, or the experienced schoolmaster who knew enough to make us earn a forward ride, we have all struggled to put a horse in front of our leg at one point or another. A common mistake when your walk leaves much to be desired, it would seem, is to actually spend time working on the walk. The short of the long is: Don’t do that.

Christoph Hess, FEI “I” judge in both dressage and eventing, gives us these alternatives to developing a good walk in his book BETTER RIDING WITH CHRISTOPH HESS:

 

A good walk is developed by the rider through correct riding in the basic gaits of trot and canter. This sounds paradoxical at first, but practice shows that a good walk cannot be achieved by always “working” the horse in this gait exclusively. Rather, a good walk is developed by having the horse securely on the rider’s aids, allowing himself to be ridden “through” while stretching and in balance at the basic gaits of trot and canter.

TrainingaGoodWalk-horseandriderbooks

Photo by Peter Prohn

At the walk, the rider can check how rideable her horse really is. She can determine if the horse is supple and relaxed, responding to the driving aids—without the horse being lazy and lethargic—and “seeking” the bit, meaning he is stretching toward the rider’s hand. The rider must always be able to ride forward, and also sideways, at any time. The better and, above all, more responsively the horse accepts the rider’s driving aids, the better the results on the walk will be.

 

HowtoGetaGoodWalkpin-horseandriderbooksRide It Correctly

In dressage tests, the walk scores are given a coefficient of two, which means the walk counts twice. For one, the crucial rhythm, fluidity, and ground cover are scored. For another, the judges pay attention to ensure the rider actually rides the walk and does not just go along as a “passive passenger.” This active riding of the walk is an important criterion for assessing whether or not the rider is on the correct path to training her horse. To accomplish this, the rider applies her driving leg aids at the moment the hind leg on the same side is striking off. This is a process during which the horse ideally “picks up” the driving aid himself. The prerequisite for this is a supple hip joint. At the same time, the rider should follow the nodding of the horse’s head and neck with her hands and have the feeling that the horse is framed between her aids. As this takes place, the horse will stretch forward and downward, opening the angle at his throatlatch, and through this, the line from forehead to nose should come just slightly ahead of the vertical. This is the prerequisite for the horse to establish an even rhythm and achieve ground-covering strides.

Though this sounds easy when put into words, it is really not easy to achieve in practice. In the course of her education, every rider must discover for herself the right feel for riding the walk. On the one hand, she needs to allow the horse to walk on without driving him excessively; on the other hand, she cannot become really passive, which can lead to a considerably worse walk.

RideBetterwithChristophHess-horseandriderbooks

An even walk with a clearly recognizable “V.” This is a visual aid for a clear four-beat rhythm. Under no circumstances should the foreleg and hind leg on the same side come close to moving concurrently. This would indicate a pacing walk. Illustration by Cornelia Koller

 

Trot-Canter Transitions

Doing transitions from trot to canter and canter back to trot is one of the most valuable exercises for effectively improving a horse’s “throughness,” willing cooperation, obedience, and responsiveness to his rider—all necessary for a good walk. I recommend you incorporate these transitions very deliberately into the content of every daily training session. Practice these on a big circle, making sure your horse stays on your driving aids, even as he “shifts up a gear” from trot into canter and then “shifts down a gear” from canter back to trot. On the “downshift,” it is especially important that you maintain the impulsion from the canter as you return to trot, without the trot becoming rushed. You should visualize yourself “cantering into the trot” as you begin to trot. This is only possible when you are supple through your hip joint, following the movement of the new gait, allowing it to carry you along. In order to further optimize your horse’s “throughness,” you should just slightly lengthen the canter strides just before the downward transition to trot, then after the successful transition, just slightly lengthen the first trot strides. As this takes place, the horse must maintain a forward tendency. Under no circumstance, should the transition be from an extended canter into an extended trot (which has a tendency to be a “passage-like” gait). As the actual transition takes place, you must always have the feeling that you could offer a release, typically by moving one or both hands forward along the horse’s neck, or allow the horse to “chew” the reins from your hand.

If you ride the transition from a backward orientation, meaning from short canter strides and/or into short trot strides that lack impulsion, you will not be able to ride a rhythmic, fluid, and efficient walk. At the moment of the transition, take more feel of the horse’s side with your inside calf, which will make the transition so much easier; with a well-trained horse, you will then be able to complete the transition without application of rein aids. You’ll feel, respectively, as if you’re only “listening in closely” to the horse’s mouth with your hands (through your reins). In this way, you will avoid applying inside rein. Doing so blocks the horse’s strikeoff from the inside hind, which leads to a failed transition. The canter-to-trot transition, in particular, has a pivotal significance to harmonious and, thereby, sensitive riding in all three basic gaits.

One more useful tip: a few canter strides before your transition to trot, think leg-yield; if you’re more advanced then think shoulder-fore or shoulder-in. The same applies to the transition from trot to walk.

Ride Better with Christoph Hess REV-horseandriderbooksFor more riding and training tips from Christoph Hess, check out RIDE BETTER WITH CHRISTOPH HESS, available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE for more information or to order.

 

Are you looking for new ways to rev your riding engines? Jane Savoie’s bestselling equestrian sport psychology book IT’S NOT JUST ABOUT THE RIBBONS is now available in audiobook format!

CLICK HERE to learn more.

Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of equestrian books and videos, is a small company based on a farm in rural Vermont.

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DressageforNoCountry-horseandriderbooks

In the 1970s, the sport of dressage was still in its infancy in the United States. Unlike the countries of Europe, there was neither an established tradition nor a written history to educate and inspire. A rider intent on learning the discipline had to be prepared to travel, to immerse himself in other cultures, and to care only for what those who had already mastered the art might teach him.

DressageforNoCountryPin-horseandriderbooks

Photo by Rose Caslar Belasik

Paul Belasik was this rider, intent on learning all he could about dressage methodology, and willing and able to compare and contrast the various means for achieving related goals: beautiful movement, “lightness,” connection between two beings. In his new book DRESSAGE FOR NO COUNTRY he shares a lifetime of searching and studying, both through stories of his own adventures and thoughtful essays on the subjects he has pondered during the years he has trained and ridden horses. Beginning in northern New York, and traveling to Portugal, and later, Vienna, Belasik serves as a tour guide of the various dressage “paths” he had the chance to explore, including the German system, the Portuguese art of equitation, and the revered institutions of the Spanish Riding School.

Dressage for No CountryArmed with the knowledge and experience he accrued over time, Belasik debates whether classical dressage and competition dressage are at all compatible. Then, he considers the role of mindfulness, how to become a good teacher, and how to be a good student in today’s horse world, providing the guideposts needed to take dressage–and riding, in general–the next step forward.

DRESSAGE FOR NO COUNTRY is available now from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE for more information or to order, and watch the book trailer below!

Did you know? TSB is streaming some of its most popular equestrian videos! We really are! CLICK HERE to visit our streaming library where we are regularly adding new titles.

Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of equestrian books and videos, is a small business based on a farm in rural Vermont.

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RidingintheCloud-horseandriderbooks

I’m guessing I’m like a lot of you–a job, a family, a gym I try to frequent, friends I try to see, books I try to read, promises I try to keep, and oh yeah...horses.

Needless to say, the above list is not compiled in order of preference.

So how, when one is so dang busy, does one actually become a better rider? Obviously, I think books are a pretty great means of continuing an equestrian education…but I’ve recently tried something else that is an awesome fit for those who want to feel closer to the individual imparting the knowledge. I’m taking TSB author Janice Dulak’s Pilates for Dressage® Ridermanship® Course. She calls it a “Clinic in the Cloud” as it is (mostly) all virtual, but at no point do you feel like you are floating or alone! Janice has constructed the course so not only do you feel fully engaged with her–and even other students–but you have plenty of reminders to help ensure you don’t forget that you are working to improve yourself…and that’s not just for you, that’s for your horse, too.

Janice’s course platform is seamless and very simple to use. Everything is laid out in progressive steps and there are interactive checklists that update your experience and allow you to move on when you are ready. Moreover, all the myriad pieces of the course (video instruction, worksheets, audio lessons, chats, and live phone calls) remain archived and easily accessed if you need or want to review at any time.

RidingintheCloudPin-horseandriderbooksSo what are you learning, exactly, up in the Ridermanship cloud?

A former professional dancer, Romana’s Pilates Master Instructor Trainer, and USDF Bronze medalist, Janice specializes in the integration of Pilates concepts and riding. She has created a vocabulary with both the instructor and the rider in mind that is meaningful, and she helps riders understand their bodies and move them differently so they can do what the instructor is asking.

“In Ridermanship,” Janice adds, “you’ll learn to create self-carriage in your body, and practice correct biomechanics to ride your horse with greater feel and harmony. Lessons and exercises will train you how to develop your physical self, so you will know what you need to do in your body to help your horse perform—and the partnership with your horse will be complete.”

Her Ridermanship Course provides guidance and exercises that lead to posture improvement and an independent seat and legs, that refine your seat and enhance your rider influence, and that ensure your overall continued development as a rider. There is no lack of substance–the sheer volume of information provided is impressive! But it is so neatly packaged in friendly and easily consumable parts like video lectures and short workouts, you don’t really notice…until you see it is almost the end of the week and you are only halfway through your checklist of action items! Luckily, Janice keeps the virtual experience a flexible one, and the course automatically adjusts to your busy schedule. You might miss a live call with Janice and your Ridermanship group, but you can listen to the recording after the kids are in bed and ask any questions on the Facebook group page, still getting the help you need almost in real time.

JaniceDulak-horseandriderbooks

Janice Dulak can help us find balance, in and out of the saddle!

It has been such a pleasure to feel that the rest of my busy life hasn’t interfered with my desire and ability to improve as a rider and horse person. Having an option to “fit it in” as best suits each day or week, to do a little or pour a glass of wine and absorb a lot, to practice an exercise with Janice’s guidance before committing to the full workout, and to feel I have her support throughout it all, has been terrifically affirming.

Thank you, Janice. When I’m next in the saddle, I’m sure my horse will thank you, too.

For more information about the Ridermanship “Clinic in the Cloud,” CLICK HERE.

CLICK HERE for Janice Dulak’s books and DVDs.

-Rebecca Didier, Managing Editor

Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of equestrian books and videos, is a small business based on a farm in rural Vermont.

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InspireMe-horseandriderbooks

Photo by Venkat Narayanan

“Being coached” and “being a coach” are two of the topics examined in Eric Smiley’s new book TWO BRAINS, ONE AIM. “The aim of this book is twofold,” Eric says. “Firstly, to improve the relationship between coach (in all its guises) and rider and horse; in other words, help the rider learn how to learn, as well as guide those who help others in an instructional capacity make the way they communicate clearer. Secondly, to give those who do not have regular tutelage techniques and practical exercises to help develop riding and training skills.”

We at TSB know Eric best as a riding coach, clinician, instructor, and mentor, but we got to wondering about Eric’s own experiences as a student. Did he have a coach who influenced him in profound ways? How had he learned his craft through the years? Who did he credit for his equestrian successes? Eric was kind enough to share answers to these questions and more:

Being asked to share the story of my “best coach” has ended up becoming a reflection on who I have become and why. Trying to separate horse from person has become impossible. Surely in true horsemen and women the two become inseparable as we live our lives for and because of “the horse.”

Some of our greatest experiences in life are horse-related. Some of our moral dilemmas that have shaped us as people have their origins in equine situations. So for me to separate horse from person or to identify an individual coach is impossible.
 
Sport coaches are defined as follows:

Sport coaches assist athletes in developing to their full potential. They are responsible for training athletes in a sport by analyzing their performances, instructing in relevant skills, and by providing encouragement. But they are also responsible for the guidance of the athlete in life and their chosen sport.
 
WhyWeNeedtoBeInspired-horseandriderbooksAs a child I used to watch my father come home from a stressful and exhausting day as a consultant thoracic surgeon. None of his surgeries were normal—all were life-threatening and in the midst of the Northern Ireland troubles. I would watch him go to the stables on his way from the car to our house. He would spend some time in the company of his beloved hunter “Bob.” By the time he arrived in the house and joined our family, a semblance of peace had returned to his overstressed mind.
 
Non-commissioned officers in the army have a tendency to be direct and explicit when getting things done. There is little ambiguity or doubt in the minds of those who are at the receiving end of the order. I used to watch Ben Jones ride his army remount horse “Custer.” At the time he had been promoted from Sergeant  to Captain to Chief Instructor at Melton Mowbray. He had previously been an Olympic Rider. I was doing a six-week riding course there. Ben Jones was direct with us and his horses. Always fair, but clear what was required. I watched him school Custer on the flat and over jumps, the clarity of where responsibility lay was clear for all to see. I was left with a certainty of “be clear and fair, but make it happen.”
 
“Now, Eric , what’s your question?” Mrs. Sivewright would ask at the beginning of every riding lesson. After an embarrassing first lesson (no one had told me to be prepared), I made sure I had a question ready to ask at subsequent sessions. This sparked my curiosity forevermore. This was at the beginning of my formative nine months at the Talland School of Equitation as I embarked on my chosen career with horses. My curiosity has continued to make me look and listen to any coaching of any sport that I can and then think about how they are going about fulfilling the definition I shared above and what I can learn about about their method and delivery.
 
Two Brains, One Aim“Enterprise” was not an easy horse. Maybe that was why he was cheap and not really wanted by his previous owner! He was, however, very talented but very misunderstood. I was asked if I would like a lesson with Dr. Reiner Klimke on one of his rare visits to Ireland. What a revelation that turned out to be. Day One was disastrous. Enterprise was SO spooky as to not go anywhere near corners , doors, mirrors, spectators, or Dr. Klimke. Day Two was unbelievably wonderful. With quiet, skillful instruction, Dr. Klimke got into the mind of Enterprise and assured him that it was okay. The work was beyond the expectation of anyone present, especially me. I learned to seek excellence and to be creative in doing so.
 
The joy of living in Ireland is the people one meets and gets to know. While being part of a team setting up a coaching structure in Ireland, I got to know someone called Liam Moggan. At the time he was one of the lecturers at the Sport Coach Development Department of Limerick University. I listened, watched, and was in awe of his unerring positivity and communication skills, and his humanity. It was impossible not to come away from every encounter enriched as a person.
 
As you read this you will begin to see that I have not talked much about many riding instructors that have influenced me. At the ripe old age of (??) I believe that most people today will have had more lessons by the age of twenty than I have had in my whole life. Yes, I have been in clinics, and I have learned from those instructors. But my interest has been largely self-taught. I loved the book The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle. It poses the “nature/nurture” question of talent, but it also gives a method of achievement. Much resonated with how I saw coaching and had been plying my trade for many years. It gives one huge encouragement in what your doing when you read such a well accepted book, saying much the same.
 
However, none of all this really has much meaning or practical use unless we are inspired in some way to make it happen. Inspiration comes from many sources. I would implore you to watch a TED talk given by Dame Ellen MacArthur in 2015 (CLICK HERE).

I’m not making any political statement by recommending it, but listening to her it is impossible not to be inspired.

Eric Smiley’s book TWO BRAINS, ONE AIM is available now from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE for more information or to order.

 

Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of equestrian books and videos, is a small business based on a farm in rural Vermont. 

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ribbonsaudiobookavailablenow-horseanriderbooks

TSB is proud to release our first audiobook with one of our original bestselling authors: IT’S NOT JUST ABOUT THE RIBBONS, written and read by renowned rider, coach, and motivational speaker Jane Savoie, is now available from the TSB online bookstore!

We know horse people lead busy lives, often juggling work, family, and riding, so we want to make it easy to listen to some of our top authors’ best advice while commuting, or during your morning walk, or while sweeping the barn aisle or raking the arena track. There’s no better place to start than with Jane Savoie’s contagious enthusiasm, which couldn’t be better highlighted than in an audiobook read by Jane herself.

IT’S NOT JUST ABOUT THE RIBBONS was the followup to Jane’s breakout bestseller THAT WINNING FEELING!the first book ever to recognize the importance of training the mind and shaping attitude in order to achieve higher levels of riding skill. In RIBBONS, Jane shares the tools and ideas for self-improvement that she has used, not only to help herself deal with challenges, but her students—who range from Olympic contenders to intermediate riders—as well. Full of shining examples of the success of her methods of dealing with riding’s—and life’s—challenges, this book is essential for anyone who is passionate about horses but may be struggling, at some level or other, with negative emotions and frustration from slow development of riding skills.

Want to know how much Jane’s techniques can help you in both riding and life? While recording her audiobook, Jane was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a rare blood cancer. Here, in her own words (the introduction she reads at the beginning of the RIBBONS audiobook), she shares how pieces of her book gave her tools she could use in her day-to-day struggle to combat her illness:

***

Sometimes it is hard to believe that my first book about riding and sport psychology—THAT WINNING FEELING!—was published over a quarter of a century ago. Its follow-up was this book: IT’S NOT JUST ABOUT THE RIBBONS. Time has indeed flown, as they say it should when you’re having fun.

And I have, for the most part, been having fun! In addition to teaching and mentoring riders through my clinics and online courses, I discovered ballroom dancing…a pursuit that demands the same kind of relentless attention to detail and patience in the mundane practice of basics as dressage. The two “Ds”—dressage and dancing—have over time given me what my mind and body crave most: achievable short- and long-term goals, small successes to be celebrated every day, and the chance to connect with a skilled and motivated partner, as well as evolve with that partner over time.

But then, in 2015, just as I had begun recording the audio version of this book, I found out I have multiple myeloma, a rare blood cancer. 

My life as I knew it went on hold as I spent the winter going through a round of high-dose chemotherapy, and I actually finished recording the IT’S NOT JUST ABOUT THE RIBBONS audiobook you are about to listen to while I was in the hospital, recovering from a stem cell transplant.

It is so easy to lose yourself in the physically excruciating process of battling back from illness or injury. I realized, as I forced myself to walk, IV rattling beside me, the 40 laps around the nurse’s station that would mean I’d gone a mile, that it was techniques I talk about in this book—those habits formed over a lifetime—that got me out of bed and placing one foot in front of the other, determined to get strong enough to go home.

My positive self-talk mantras became, “I’m going to breeze through this transplant,” and “I’m as tough as nails.” I desperately craved activity, but was often too tired to do more than my laps of the nurse’s station, so I filled that void within by making myself busy with visualization. I looked up pictures of myeloma cells, and when I discovered they looked like sunny-side up eggs, I reveled in the hours I could spend mentally smashing yolk after yolk. The “As If” Principle became my go-to …when I was scared, I acted as ifI was brave. When I felt depressed, I acted as ifI was bursting with optimism. The chemistry of fake emotion is the same as the chemistry of real emotion, so I changed my physiology on my bad days—smiling at nurses and doctors when they greeted me, replying, “I’m great!” when they asked how I was feeling.

That doesn’t mean I wasn’t discouraged when my blood counts didn’t improve on a particular day, but I always remembered what I wrote in this book about resilience, and the importance of being able to bounce back in the face of challenges—because that is what makes sure you stay in the game.

My wish for you is to not only learn how the tools in the chapters ahead can better your riding and improve your ability to meet your equestrian goals, but also that you find yourself, like me, better equipped to handle the kinds of trials, small and large, that prove themselves the bumps in the roads we travel.

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Jane Savoie’s strategies can help you chart your course to success. Art by Beth Preston from It’s Not Just About the Ribbons.

 

The IT’S NOT JUST ABOUT THE RIBBONS audiobook is available now from the TSB online bookstore.

CLICK HERE for more information or to order.

Want to read more about Jane Savoie’s dancing career? CLICK HERE

Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of equestrian books and DVDs, is a small business based on a farm in rural Vermont. 

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ridersguiderealcollection-horseandriderbooks

Renowned educator, clinician, and Western Dressage World Champion Lynn Palm says that one of the quickest ways to understand true collection is to try it yourself. Here’s an easy exercise from her book THE RIDER’S GUIDE TO REAL COLLECTION to help you feel what your horse feels when you ask him to collect.

TRY THIS

1  First, get on your hands and knees, with your knees directly under your hips and your hands directly under your shoulders. In this position, you’re going to have your head above your back because it feels more comfortable. Because of the weight of your head and neck, you’re going to feel more weight on your hands than on your knees—the same as the horse in natural carriage.

1

Photo by Cappy Jackson.

2  Now, pretend you are doing a canter depart. You should find that you can bring your hands off the ground without difficulty, although perhaps not as gracefully as you would like.

2

Photo by Cappy Jackson.

3  When collection is achieved through training and developing the horse’s body, the hind legs engage and move forward deep underneath his body, the spine rounds, and the forehand elevates. To simulate this, bring your knees underneath yourself to round and elevate your back.

3

Photo by Cappy Jackson.

4  Try your canter depart again. You should be able to lift your hands easily: This position simulates a horse that is collected.

4

Photo by Cappy Jackson.

5  “Set” your head, like a horse in false collection. Put your head down so it is level with or below your topline. You should feel the added weight on your hands at this point. When this happens to the horse, he can’t bring his hind legs underneath his body to start collecting himself. Move your knees far behind your hips.

5

Photo by Cappy Jackson.

6  Now pick up your “canter.” It should be extremely hard to lift your hands off the ground. This is what your horse experiences, too!

6

Photo by Cappy Jackson.

rider's guide to collectionTHE RIDER’S GUIDE TO REAL COLLECTION is available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE for more information or to order.

Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of equestrian books and DVDs, is a small business based on a farm in rural Vermont.

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dressageinharmony-horseandriderbooks

Photo by Coco Baptist

Wouldn’t it be cool if every horse made a New Year’s Resolution not to shy at silly, innocuous, or invisible things in 2019? Alas, I think we all know that isn’t likely, so best case scenario is we riders resolve to do better by our horses when the shy does happen.

The late Walter Zettl was a highly respected clinician and proponent of classical training principles. “My approach,” he said, “is that of complete sympathy for the horse and devotion to its happiness and well-being…. I attempt to educate riders to make their horses happy, confident, and proud to work for them.”

Here is Zettl’s advice for handling the horse that shies, from his book DRESSAGE IN HARMONY:

Young horses often shy and jump away from new objects or situations or quick movements. Older, more experienced horses may also jump away from new “goblins,” but usually time has accustomed them to weird blankets, shadows, flowers, sunbeams, and so on. One should never forget, however, that the horse evolved as a grazing animal whose main defense against predators is flight. A few months or years of training will never overcome millions of years of evolution.

To cure shying, the horse must be brought to trust his rider and himself. He must trust that the rider will let him run away if something terrible happens, and he must feel balanced and in control of his body. You often see riders trying to force their horses past a “scary” object, and the horse becomes more and more tense, and the rider resorting to more and more force. You can never beat the shying out. What is really happening in the horse’s mind is that he is being trapped near this frightening thing and that his one defense is taken away. Also, he learns to associate a whipping with an object, place, or situation, and we have succeeded in teaching him that this thing is to be feared, and he becomes more and more tense. 

When riding past a frightening place, the rider must become more relaxed, careful, cool, and quiet. When the horse trusts that he can run away, he will accept that he does not need to—yet. The rider must lightly control the horse, but always give the horse the reassurance that flight is possible. The rider must also keep the horse well balanced, so the horse feels that he can jump away. 

dressageinharmonyshying-horseandriderbooks

By positioning the horse with a good bend away from the object (shoulder-in for those horses that understand it), the horse cannot bolt away so easily through the inside shoulder, although he still sees an “escape” through the front. For example: When a horse shies from an object on his right side, he usually bends strongly right to look at the object, plants both front feet, and pushes out through the left shoulder. Keeping the bend left makes this more difficult, making it easier for the rider to keep the horse going straight past the object. Making the horse bend right and pulling him toward the object only makes the horse more frightened because escaping forward takes him toward the hazard. 

dressageinharmpb-horseandriderbooksYou can learn more from Walter Zettl in his book DRESSAGE IN HARMONY, available from the TSB online bookstore where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE for more information or to order.

Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of equestrian books and DVDs, is a small business based on a farm in rural Vermont. 

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