Tag Archives: Beginning in Dressage

Novice Test – Rein back

[dropcap]I had[/dropcap] a surprising email from the U.S. recently asking me why we English riders DO NOT use ‘backing up’ in our training.  She had been advised by an English instructor … “we NEVER back a horse up!”   The instructor couldn’t really say why she never backs a horse up, just that it’s not done.  The question was “I can work with answers that have content and rationale.  I can’t work with answers that are ‘just because….’ do you have any thoughts as to why, in English schooling, horses are never backed up?

My dear Dressage enthusiasts, we all know this not to be true.

So, somewhat bemused, I responded advising my new American friend that we do indeed ‘back up’ our horses.  It’s called rein back and is in every test from Novice to Grand Prix.

An example of what you will find in a test is …

 C Rein back (for one horse’s length)
CH Medium Walk

So, let’s have a look at the whys and wherefores.

Why Do We Teach Rein Back?

Continue reading Novice Test – Rein back

The Crystal System Book – Test Pilot Competition


The Crystal System Book is well under way and it’s time to introduce you to Amanda Crowley and her horse Mistress Polly.  They are my Crystal System ‘Test Pilots’.

In early June, Amanda Crowley wrote to me from the ‘About the Authors’ page of my blog site, having subscribed to The Crystal System.

Sitting HorseIt’s Sunday morning. Sun is shining (woo hoo!) and I am messing about on my iPad (again) looking for something new, enlightening, exciting to help me start my journey with my newly acquired friend and I have found you!! And I am excited. I am not a natural in the saddle although I have been riding for years and I have faced the same questions time after time “Why can’t I do it?” “What am I doing wrong?” “It can’t be that complicated.” Followed by “Failure. I am just not good enough and don’t deserve to be up here in the first place.” So, I did a really stupid thing and went off to a racehorse rescue and acquired my beautiful thoroughbred mare, Polly. She is never going to be a diva because I am not talented enough but she is better than me and I am determined to get her to a decent level because a) she deserves it and b) I need to prove it myself. I can’t wait to see if The Crystal System can help me get there.”

At this time I was pretty well entrenched in writing The Crystal System book and I felt like Amanda had been sent to me from above.  Absolutely perfect; just what I needed – a rider who is disillusioned, frustrated and is actively looking for a way forward and seems to be excited by my method.  So I emailed her and asked if she and her horse would be willing to be my ‘test pilots’ for the book.  I was delighted that she agreed.

I sent Amanda the first 5 chapters, followed by two chapters at a time up to the 13th and final chapter of the first draft.  I am sharing with you her critique of the book because she has given me loads of feedback and helped me to mould the content by adding and taking away as we went along.  I am doing this because the book is now with the publisher as a first draft and I am looking for a couple of other ‘test pilots’ to work through The Crystal System and give me an honest and open critique so that I can get it ready for market.   So I’ve decided to do a mini competition on the blog for my subscribers.

This is what Amanda has to say …

“The first positive dressage coaching/training book I have read. I should be feeling down and depressed and a failure but I am feeling uplifted and driven because finally, someone else has put their hand up and said what I have been feeling – nearly everything strikes a chord. I thought I could ride – every issue I have ever had with my horses has always been their fault – not mine – I am the human being and you are the horse and you should be doing what I tell you.  Problem is, the horse speaks Russian and I was speaking Chinese – communication breakdown. And, oh how I wish this book had been written 30 years ago!!

Let GoThe book takes you through the whole gambit of emotions – from the “Yes, we can do it” to the “Who are you kidding”.  The first downer was the brutal realisation that I can’t actually ride at all and the book points out many, many reasons why; lack of focus, vision, commitment, fitness, drive, co-ordination, position, wanting it all now – instant results. It will take an extremely strong and motivated individual to look at themselves and admit it.  But I have admit it and it feels good.

I watch others around me battling with their horses in the school trying to carry out this movement or that movement and the horse refusing point blank and now I know why.  They can’t ride either!! But it’s not about them. I have stopped trying to live up to unrealistic expectations – this is, after all my hobby and my release but there is no reason why I should not ride well and give both myself and my horse a pleasing experience every time I ride. I am not a talented rider but we can achieve something.  I am sure of that!!

The book hits right at the core of the thing almost straight away – don’t do it if you don’t want to – be happy with what you’ve got if that’s your bag but if you do want it, be prepared to put in the work.  Take your time, have a goal but only one you can achieve, have a plan to reach your goal. Be realistic about the time you have with your horse and what you can achieve in that time.

The book truly is a self-help guide – you will achieve so much if you take each tiny little piece and work on that. The mistake I made was getting so excited about the whole thing that I tried to cram everything into every session with my horse – disaster – then the feeling of “I knew it wouldn’t work.” Then the eureka moment “of course it’s not working, you are trying to teach her to speak a language that you can’t speak yourself yet”. So, I took a step back … learned a word … taught it to her then moved on to the next one.  I am not going to get quick results with Polly as she is an older horse being re-trained and I am an older rider being re-trained!!  And we are still learning words – I have yet to move on to whole sentences!!

The one thing which made such a huge amount of difference for me personally which I took into my training sessions from the start  was the tip to relax the lower jaw. Wow!! I had no idea I was clenching my jaw but that one thing releases the tension in the neck and shoulders which in turn helps the elbows to lie quietly by the sides.

Novice HorseI have become a novice rider and it actually feels nice!! I am learning again but I am learning the right way. When something goes wrong now, I don’t get cross and frustrated. I take a deep breath and think about what the reasons might be – what have I done – and nearly every time I can pinpoint the problem and it’s never down to my horse.

Dressage has always had me transfixed. How on earth can a rider make a horse do that? It looks so easy and effortless and of course, I can ride, so I can make my horse do that. Yeh right!! I want to change though – I want my little horse to be a happy and healthy little mare and to enjoy her work. I don’t want her to dislike me being up there.  I want to be in tune with her. I want her to listen and I want to hear what she’s saying. If I can achieve that, even if I never ride another dressage test, I will be happy.  Can I learn to ride dressage? Of course I can!!

I have to admit to being pretty taken aback at Amanda’s review.  Got quite emosh!  Now, I await the feedback from the publishers whilst I begin the illustrations, which I am really looking forward to doing.  I am developing a cartoon character called ‘Crystal’ who is modelled on our amazing Lusitano mare Sintra and I can’t wait to introduce you to her.  ‘Crystal’ will give tips and demonstrate my thoughts throughout the book and bring a little humour to the mix.

Dressage CompetitionHere’s the deal.  If you would like to be part of The Crystal System journey and get the first draft of the book absolutely free so that you can work through it and give me feedback for my target audience, email me on help@likecrystal.com and let me know WHY YOU WOULD MAKE A GOOD TEST PILOT.  The book is aimed at all levels of rider.

  • If you are just setting out in Dressage, The Crystal System is absolutely the best place to start
  • If you have already started but are struggling to progress, this book is a must!
  • If you are already competing successfully, The Crystal System will help you evaluate the effectiveness of your riding and give you plenty of strategies for your continued success
  • If you are a trainer The Crystal System will guide you through the process of analysis of your methods so that you can take only the best of it forward.

There really is something for everyone.  To be a test pilot you need to be riding regularly; be willing to follow the program; be sure that you are happy for me to go public with your views and be a subscriber to The Crystal System Blog.  You have until the last day of August 2014 to let me have the reasons why you would make a good test pilot, I will then choose at least two riders and announce the winners in early September.Excited Horse

Ooooo, how exciting!

So looking forward to hearing from you but most of all to helping you progress your dressage dream.

Good luck

Patricia – The Dressage Tipster


More about The Crystal System Launch … A blog about a blog  /  One is an Author