The Importance of Dressage in all Phases

My first preliminary dressage test

My first preliminary dressage test

Truthfully, this post may be a little bias being that I love dressage more than the average junior, but it still needed to be said.

Most juniors blow dressage off or think of it as unimportant, simply because jumping is more fun, right? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard “ugh dressage lesson today” or “I hate dressage, it’s so boring.” I also can’t tell you how many times I’ve wanted to shake these people by the shoulders screaming “HELLO! DRESSAGE IS THE MOST IMPORTANT PART!!”

Galloping through a turn

Galloping through a turn

This is for many reasons:
•you win off your dressage score
•dressage helps you tremendously in the other two phases
•dressage pictures are so good looking (hehe)
•if you’re good- you have an advantage because the majority of juniors just cringe their way through it (and it shows in the scoring)

Swedish oxer

Swedish oxer

Here’s how it can help you in stadium:
You wouldn’t go up to an upper level fence not knowing how to adjust the stride or move a shoulder when necessary would you? I hope not- that’s just scary for all involved. Well where do you think you learned how to make said adjustments? You guessed it- dressage. If you’ve ever watched a beginner novice pony fly around a stadium course Supermaning all the jumps and cutting turns way to tight, you know fear. It’s scary because the kid points and shoots- there’s no setup or adjustment. However, if you’ve watched an upper level (I’m stereotyping here- stick with me) stadium course, it’s calm and you don’t have to hold your breath over every fence (usually). This is because the rider is cueing the horse in on what to do- rather then pointing and saying “have at it.” These are the riders that use dressage to their advantage rather then run away when the hear the word.

The first jump of a combination

The first jump of a combination

How about cross country?:
Well, when your galloping along, you pick a rhythm, depending on which level, the speed is different. You and your horse become one galloping at the same speed continually until a jump comes up. That’s when you sit, adjust the stride (depending on whether it’s a flyer fence or a technical fence/combination), and help the horse safely make it over the jump. Here is where your horse needs to understand your seat *cough dressage cough* to be able to make the adjustments necessary to safely execute the jump. The combinations though, are when it really becomes important. You need to be able to make serious adjustments on the spot which requires a good eye, and knowing how to make these adjustments. These aids mostly come from your seat & leg, and sometimes your hands. You learn how to make on the spot adjustments in dressage believe it or not. Think about it- you’re going straight down the long side and then slowly cue your horse in that you need to make a 10 meter circle in the middle of nowhere. He didn’t know that- but you used those small aids to let him know that this is what’s happening.

If you’ll open your mind to the wonderful, fun, and rewarding world of dressage- you might just see it my way. Of course I credit my love for the phase to my mom and also my dressage trainer- Linda Zang.

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