Dressager’s Log…Kim Cox

Watch my back
Hindsight is 20/20

Roderick is a 12 year old Dutch Warmblood gelding, imported KWPN (Ferro X Dance-O-War XX).  He has awesome presence and potential.  I am truly fortunate that he is my equine partner.

 To achieve our goals, as a team I must target “suppleness”. General suppleness, in the jaw, poll, through the back and in lateral work. 

This means both of us have work to do.  It is not just me working on Roderick. I need to continually ask more from myself as a Dressager, softer aids, ask and allow the horse to respond, don’t nag with the aids, insist when I must, help Roderick stay balanced, and give him the confidence he needs to achieve at the higher levels. 

I wanted to show third level this year, but some elements, like changes and half pass need confirmation before we move up. Dressage friends told  me to go ahead, show at third level and let the changes and half-pass develop over the year.  Experience tells me that this time I won’t rush, and we’ll stick to the plan, confirming  our training to succeed in the long term.

My goal is to ride Roderick to Prix St. George.  When  Roderick is consulted on this decision, he  snorts in agreement.  However, Roderick, like  most horses, doesn’t keep a calendar in his stall, so fails to see the reason for “getting geared up” for the start of the show season.  Let’s say we are a work in progress.

My Plan:

1. Increase my focus on feel and response.

2. Be consistent in asking and my aids.

3. Ask and allow.

4. Take flexion in order to give.

5. Balance my horse before each transition and in circles.

Calgary Dressage MP3 Downloadable Music…Here

Click on this link for Calgary Dressage Freestyle Music…..Freestyles are Fun.

(All music downloads are free, as a service to all  Alberta Area Dressage riders. I hope to  to encourage more Kurs at competitions. )

Nice Halt
Nice Horse, Nice Halt

No more Top Hats Allowed in National Level Tests!

A great Poster
Freestyles Rule

Equine Canada/Dressage Canada have issued a late rule change that as of May 1st, 2011, only competitors above 4th level will be allowed to wear Top Hats in Canadian Competitions.  All others must wear a safety approved helmet with harness when mounted on the show grounds. Failure to comply will cause the rider to be eliminated from the show.

Any Comments?

Here is a copy of the new rule as of March 23rd, 2011:

ARTICLE E 4.0 SAFETY HEADGEAR [effective May 1, 2011]

1. ASTM/SEI or BSI approved headgear must be worn by all riders

showing Fourth Level and below, regardless of age, when mounted on

the competition grounds at EC Bronze, Silver and Gold competitions.

2. ASTM/SEI or BSI approved headgear must be worn by all noncompeting

riders mounted on horses entered in classes at Fourth Level

or below in EC Bronze, Silver and Gold competitions.

3. All riders of any age while on non-competing horses must wear

protective headgear at all times while mounted on the competition


4. The penalty for contravening 4.0.1 is elimination.

5. Non-competing riders who contravene 4.0.2 and/or 4.0.3 will be

instructed to dismount until wearing an ASTM/SEI or BSI approved


Note: At the tack check which follows the test, the steward may ask the

rider to dismount so that the helmet may be inspected for the ASTM/SEI or

BSI label.

My comment is that I will miss wearing my Top Hat until I can ride in the FEI classes. It’s unfortunate that this elegant piece of our attire will no longer be visible at the higher national levels of our sport.  I acknowlege the inherent risks of riding, but always felt that once you reached third level, you were secure enough in your training to make a personal decision as to the head gear appropriate for your level of showing. Equine Canada (Dressage Canada)’s position is to: ensure our safety and protect against liability.  I thought that is why we signed waivers to compete at  shows. 

Calgary Dressage Tips: How to Ride a Diagonal…

Extended Trot
Diagonal in Lengthening or Extended Trot

When you prepare to ride the diagonal line:

Take a half halt (outside rein), make the  turn to ride your diagonal.
Line up the letter with your outside hip as you make the turn to the diagonal, then ride toward the letter lining it up with the new outside hip ( your hip, not the horse’s).
Don’t try to lengthen immediately like a shot out of a gun.  Ask for a more active trot, not quicker.
Do lower your hands (this keeps him on the bit and in the frame)

Ask for the lengthening and allow your horse to develop it.
Use your seat and legs to ask for lengthening.
Tip your shoulders slightly forward when you lengthen.  Slightly forward only!
Leaning back, like you may see other riders do is incorrect, and will cause your horse to hollow his back, lose his frame and lower your mark.
Try to shift your balance from your seat bones to your pelvic floor, if sitting gets difficult.
You have to trust that you won’t bounce out of the saddle….you won’t.
Please don’t grip with your legs, or you will bounce.  Think “Thump Thump Thump” with your calves and keep as much weight in your heels as you can.
You should feel that even though your shoulders are tipped slightly forward, your legs are still “under you” in correct alignment with as much weight in your heels as you can.
Ride to the far quarter line, if you’ve lined up correctly – you should be coming to the letter with your outside hip. Half-halt outside and change  bend toward the new direction. Use your inside leg.
Very subtly, resume your trot position – onto your seat bones, roll your shoulders back so your hands come back to the correct position, check you thumbs and close your hands and half-halt.  You will be preparing for a turn to the short side….so think “leg yield” around the corner.

This is detailed, but this is the mental process I ride through on every diagonal.

New – Revised Technical Requirements for 3rd and 4th Level Freestyles

Great shot of the Dressage exercise "shoulder in"
Know the rules

This is from Dressage Canada as of March 1, 2011 (Very important for Calgary Area Freestyle riders):

“Freestyle riders, please take note that in keeping with the new dressage tests, the third and fourth level freestyle tests have been revised.

In Third Level, counter canter is no longer a required movement.

In Fourth Level, changes of every third stride are not required and the canter pirouettes are now “working half pirouettes”.

How to Remember Letters Around the Dressage Arena…

I hope this helps Calgary Alberta area dressage riders.

20 x 60m
Dressage Competition Arena

I’ve come up with a way to remember the letter positions around the Dressage arena.

Starting with A and going clockwise around the ring:

  • A-All
  • K-Kings
  • V-Visit
  • E-Each
  • S-Special
  • H-Horse
  • C-Cantering
  • M-Merrily
  • R-‘Round
  • B-Beautiful
  • P-Pastures
  • F-Free

I understand that the original Dressage letters were abbreviated names of  a King’s horses, whose stalls surrounded the indoor riding school at court. That would explain why Dressage letters are not in alphabetical order. Does anyone have any other information on the origin of Dressage letter placement? Send a comment.

First Level Requirements….Tips

Calgary Alberta area show season begins next month with the Carrots & Cocktails Series at Anderson Ranch.  If you choose to move up to 1st Level classes from training level be aware that the expectation is “to confirm that the horse, in addition to the requirements of Training Level, has developed thrust (pushing power) and achieved a degree of  balance and throughness.”

Your horse needs to move forward through the elements of the First Level tests.  Use corners to balance your horse and ask for more roundness in the frame.  Throughness is characterized by the horses pushing power working through your horse, making him light in your hand and round on the bit.  Keep transitions smooth by taking the time to plan and prepare.  Required elements come more quickly in the tests as you progress up the levels.  Make sure you memorize you tests and plan how to ride each element. If you rely on a reader, you won’t have time to prepare for transitions.  “A horse goes how he’s ridden”, use the test elements to your best advantage by knowing what comes next and how to help your horse.