Dressage, from the French verb, dressager, “to train” has a reputation for elitism. After all, the sport is based on highly trained cavalry manouvers shown at court before kings and queens.
The “princess principle” embodies the entilted few who have the means to compete a made horse, sometimes observed showing at a level above capacity. These riders as seen with an entourage of support personel rivaled only by minor celebrities and reality T.V. stars.
I stand firm in my conviction that those of us who tirelessly train our own horses in the classical style, manage their health, feed and turnout sacrifice as warriors of our sport. We save enough to buy a young prospect then fight to accumulate funds supporting years of training, boarding and care before we can step into the show ring.
Dressage warriors are their own grooms, personal managers, stable hands, veterinary technicians, tackers and cool out riders. Those with the embedded “princess principle” will never know the sacrifice and joy the rest of us experience. Warriors are absolutely willing to take on all of these roles and responsibilities. That’s how tough it is to get to Grand Prix. The difference between the warrior and the princess is the personal cost, the self sacrifice and what riders must give up to gain in the years it takes to train a Dressage horse. There is pride in being a warrior rather than a princess.
So not a princess
Here are some best practices for building a dressage barn. The list is based on years of boarding and training at different equestrian facilities.
The indoor arena, in our northern climate, is central to the equestrian community. Years past, show barns boarded a mix of riders of various disciplines. There were few dedicated dressagers and more hunter jumper riders back in the day.
Footing originally was basic. It usually started with a clay base, with local sand, wood chips and perhaps some dust control product added. Watering arenas was part of the maintenance cycle.
The arenas were often insulated and heated as an afterthought, or when it became financially viable to do so. Heat and water created a problem with footing, either exacerbating the dust or causing the clay base to rise. The worst cases of watering and indoor in our climate can cause mold issues and water damage to steel arena supports. Footing continues to evolve into a state of the art all its own.
Now purpose built arenas and barn designs take into account specific disciplines in equestrian sport. Considerable research has gone into the design phase and best practice when implementing an arena build.
Let’s take a look as some other equestrian facility best practice ideas:
- Room for trailer and big rig turn around & parking
- Plan for having a safety gate at the facility entrance to contain any “run away”
- Purchase the correct vehicle and tools for stable management
- Consider hvac needs and heat conservation methods in arena planning
- LED lighting throughout and special lighting for farriers and veterinary considerations
- Safety mirrors and appropriate angle of mirror set for maximum view above kick boards
- MP3, blutooth, technology in planning music systems
- Sound systems should be accessible both from the viewing area and from the arena floor
- Make sure the arena can support a dressage court (20 x 60 metres) with a 5 metre perimeter
- Have a “drive through” arena and barn isle
- Plan a dedicated storage area for the dressage ring, cavaletti, and jumps
- Design a viewing area for spectators that is functional (WiFi), warm (heated), and comfortable
- Keep sufficiently large paddocks close to the barn for ease of turnout.
- Automatic waterers designed for negative temperatures
- Warmblood size stalls, rubber mats, windows in barn
- Consider using a method of non slip flooring throughout barn
- Blanket bars and halter racks in front of every stall
- Wash racks with hot and cold running water
- Washer and Dryer for horse laundry
- Washrooms in barn and viewing area
- Generous sized tack lockers for clients
- Organized feed room and feed cart catering to standard and customized feeding protocols
- Dedicated area for weekly hay storage onsite, with bulk storage planned for a separate hay shed or building
- Dedicated area for show trunks and extra blanket storage
- Accessible and copious numbers of brooms, forks and muck buckets to encourage clients to clean up after their horses (make cleanliness user friendly)
- Empower a dedicated staff capable of the highest level of care
Feel free to add your own ideas for best practice attributes of an equestrian facility. Together we can raise the bar.
ANYBODY CAN LEARN TO RIDE, for riding is nothing but skill. Skill can only be acquired by continual “trying out” and practice, but not by imitation of a model. Once skill has been acquired, however, it should be exercised in good form.
Riding is pleasant and can be made an art. And who would not be an artist? Only those, however, who try with their whole soul. to understand the horses’ psychic disposition and who endeavour to establish perfect harmony by sensitive feel instead of crude force, are entitled to be called artists. “Feel” is no “black magic”, and anybody can acquire it to a considerable degree.
The end of all schooling and dressage is perfect harmony between human (man) and mount – Beauty. The horse must show that it feels comfortable and the rider must not betray how hard it is to achieve this!
Unfortunately, there seems to be some misapprehension amongst English riders as to the nature of “School Riding”. More often than not it is confounded with “Haute Ecole”; some even go so far as to call it “trick riding”. It is nothing of the sort. Ordinary “School Riding” is the fundamental education of both rider and horse; it is, if I may be allowed to coin a phrase, the Grammar School for man and mount alike, and it is regarded as such by practically every Continental horseman, no matter what his particular “horsey” creed. There are even trainers of racehorses, especially hurdlers and steeplechasers, who take pupils regularly to school (it need not always be a covered one) during the off-season, to make them “handy” and obedient, or to break them of bad habits, such as rushing their fences, storming away, being difficult to turn, ets. Ordinary School Riding comprises all forward movements in all three gaits, all turns, and side-steps, and the rein back, as well as all those “exercises” and “lessons” which help to develop suppleness and complete obedience in the horse. (F.W. Schiller, 1937)