At a recent clinic on general horsemanship, the clinician repeated over and over again he was “getting the horse ready” to move or complete a task. He was preparing the horse to choose the correct way to move based on his preparation. This took me a moment to realize that this is what we as dressagers must do in order to succeed at the number of transitions we ride during a Dressage test.
It occurs to me that it is not so much the trot lengthening that we show that earns us our mark, but how we prepare for that diagonal line. It is how we set up the horse on the short side and the turn onto that diagonal that sets the score.
This is a difficult mental task for some amateur riders who may be dealing with show nerves. Some riders are a little tight themselves during a test. I think we could turn this around by not focusing on riding the movement (the diagonalfor example), but breaking down how we need to set up the horse. s Any time you can focus on small things that can set your horse up and allow the horse to perform, it helps with show nerves. If you are focused on preparation, the horse can then do his job. Setting the horse up is proactive. Trying to fix a bad line is reactive, and a futile attempt at best.
Sometimes that means riding a letter ahead. I used to think I had to ride to the letter. This made me “late” in my transitions and behind in my thinking. Also when things didn’t work out the way I had planned, my nerves would increase and I would get tight. Now I try to not ride the test, but prepare my horse for the upcoming transition. We still end up at or close to the letter, but my thinking has changed.
My thinking ahead of my horse has helped him become calmer and more willing to do his job. After all I am suppoed to be the benevolent leader and then allow him to perform. It has taken me awhile that making him do a transition is not as effective or asthetic as seting him up and allowing him to follow through.
I hope this insight helps other dressagers out there.