Horses have been part of human’s history for centuries. A system of training was first documented by the Greek writer Xenophon, as horses had to be obedient and manoeuvrable. So in time horsemanship became an art and the first riding school was set up in Naples in 1532 by Federica Grisone.
A little Dressage Trivia : As an Olympic sport it began in 1912 in Stockholm, however, at this point it was more of an obedience test derived from military tests. By 1936 at the Olympic in Berlin, the standard rose dramatically to include most of the modern movements. It was not until 1952 that women were allowed to compete in the Olympics!
So, Dressage in its original form was developed as a test of the horse’s obedience and today your training should demonstrate that your horse is obedient to your aids. But in order for you to expect your horse to be obedient and responsive you will need to understand how the horse can most comfortably carry you. Ask yourself this question …
WHY should your horse be ‘on the bit?’
This fundamental question, which you should know the answer to from day one of training is one that many riders cannot answer.
The horse which is round and on the bit is adjusted to take the riders weight easily. To comfortably carry you and use his body with ease. When we climb aboard a horse he has to brace his back muscles, so it is important that we make it as easy as we can for him and build the muscles he needs correctly. We do this with correct training which includes the horse being “on the bit”.
A horse which is not able to carry the rider properly will become tense and uncomfortable and likely to be evasive and disobedient.
What to do? …
Firstly, to assess obedience in the horse you must assess your riding. Be very clear with your aids. Before you ride, revisit in your mind the aids you will apply for each movement and check for yourself once on board that you are actually executing them as intended. Sometimes we do something for so long it becomes ingrained and a little sloppy. Think about your driving! Is it as accurate as it was the day you took your test?
Secondly, take time to understand the reasons why; the benefits of and the disadvantages to not riding your horse on a contact and in an outline. To carry you comfortably he needs your help.
Why would you not want to do this for your friend?
Patricia – The Dressage Tipster