Treasure State Equestrian Center
- Here the Horse is able to carry itself without support emotionally or physically.
Physically the Horse's weight is rocked back onto its hindquarters and legs by lowering the hindquarters and hocks. This allows the Horse to obtain its full power and shift its weight off the front shoulders when needed.
Emotionally the Horse obeys the Equestrian out of trust and understanding, while maintaining self expression, confidence, and grace.
Here two extremes are obtained; complete relaxation and obedience with ultimate power and confidence.
The synergy of Horse and Equestrian creates a power beyond words.
-- Horse are naturally stronger to one side or the other, just as most people are right handed. Therefore the Horse has a difficult time traveling straight. At this point in the training the Equestrian works on riding the Horse forward and straight.
This is developed at this stage rather than earlier so as not to lose the expression in the gaits and also to utilize the contact established with the aids. Being able to influence both sides of the Horse is an important part of developing straightness and cannot be performed without an understanding of the aids.
Here is where the Equestrian develops the Horse beyond what the Horse would develop natural, since naturally the Horse does not travel straight. Naturally this is okay, since the Horse does not have to carry or pull weight. But it is the responsibility of the Equestrian to help the Horse develop this ability to maintain future soundness.
- Here the Horse understands and accepts the communication aids as two-way communication and listens and responds to the Equestrian. The communication aids work as an elastic connection between the two bodies.
The hands to the mouth, the seat to the back, and the legs to the body: the Horse and Rider begin to communicate effectively and listen attentively to each other. At this point the Equestrian can truly influence the development of the Horse.
When un-mounted the Horse and Equestrian maintain the attentiveness and understanding between each other.
- This is the means for developing the Horse - Equestrian relationship. This principle is where the relationship must begin, and true harmony cannot be achieved without it. The Equestrian must establish the role of the trusted leader through understanding the Horse's way of communicating and establishing the respect of the Horse.
Throughout the development of the Horse, the Equestrian must continually maintain the trust and communicate effectively with the horse. From initial contact with the un-started Horse, to the upper levels of the chosen sport, the Equestrian must understand all the communication aids and how to use them appropriately.
First the Equestrian will establish communication and trust with the horse from the ground, and then will be able to transfer that over to when mounted. The program that skips communicating with the horse in horse language, will end up needing to consistently over apply the aids while on their back, as the communication will be weak.
Classical Dressage develops an understanding between Horse and Equestrian of the role the human has as the leader, using established norms of horse language. Then when mounted the communication aids are used to refine the communication from their back. Only until there is communication and trust established between Horse and Equestrian can the Training Principles begin to develop an athletic partnership.
The Safety of the Equestrian and Well being of the Horse are vital to every successful training program, if either are jeopardized, a mutually beneficial relationship can not exist.
Different graphical representations are used to illustrate the Classical Principles for horse development. The analogy we use is that of the tree. The development of the Horse-Equestrian relationship is one of continual growth. It is rooted with truths that must occur if the process is to grow. The Principles, when applied properly provide the stability for achieving the Horse's true potential.
When all the Principles are working together the Art of Horsemanship is achieved, the place where Horse and Equestrian work together in harmony, in body, mind and spirit.
The Principles cannot be viewed in isolation, nor do they follow an absolute direction. Instead their interrelationship is like the rings of the trunk. They build upon and within, there is no destination with any one, only a journey of continual growth.
- The stage where harmony is achieved. Horse and Equestrian work as one with mind, body and spirit. As with beautiful music, where all instruments work together to create a wonderful masterpiece, both Horse and Equestrian achieve harmony. The communication is invisible, the trust obvious, and the commitment enduring.
At first this stage will only be felt for a moment and may come at any time, but once the Equestrian achieves this moment, both Horse and Equestrian will enthusiastically pursue the next moment when they can exist again, as one. As the Horse and Equestrian strengthen through the Principles, the moments will begin to happen with more frequency, then moments will become full strides, then full movements.
Once here, the Equestrian understands what the "Art of Horsemanship" truly means.
- The Training Principles of Classical Dressage provide the framework for the Equestrian to develop the Horse's true potential. As the Principles are achieved and built upon, the Horse-Equestrian partnership will develop into an athletic team where both are committed to continual improvement.
Classical Dressage recognizes that not all Horses and Equestrians are the same, and therefore provides numerous techniques and methods within the Principle framework. It is the Equestrian's responsibility to choose the appropriate development plan for their partner.
Part of the plan includes choosing the games or jobs the Horse will do, and developing the Horse to be able to handle the challenges. The Equestrian must realize that only some Horses can do all things, but all Horses can do some things. The Equestrian must understand the potential and limitations of the chosen Horse, and plan accordingly.
As humans, we love to play. As a species, Horses love to play. The time tested Principles of Classical Dressage provide us a means to develop both Horse and Equestrian to be able to enjoy the games, safely.
Classical Dressage provides the process that helps the Equestrian develop a trusting relationship with their Horse that achieves harmony of mind, body and spirit.
- Here the Horse relaxes throughout its whole body, including under the weight of the rider. The Equestrian develops the Horse's strength and balance enabling it to move laterally and longitudinally without tension or resistance.
Gymnastic exercises are used to develop the strength of the Horse's body, while providing an environment that allows the Horse to maintain relaxation throughout its body.
Here the Horse gives itself to the Equestrian, allowing the Equestrian to shape and develop the Horse's body and mind.
The Equestrian's proper use of the communication aids and balance while mounted are extremely important. Anytime the communication aids are used improperly or ineffectively, or the rider is unbalanced, the consequence will be tension somewhere in the Horse's body, or mind, to compensate for the rider's tension.
- The Horse develops the strength to move forward without tension, pushing off with the hind legs and moving without resistance. Gymnastic exercises are used to develop the pushing power strength which increase the Horse's confidence to move forward from behind and through its back.
The legs must bend at each joint so as to land on the ground were it points and the shoulders must remain free. This will allow the expression and power to come from behind and through the back and shoulders. This is known as "Schwung."
- Here the equestrian works to develop the Horse's body and mind to be able to work in proper rhythmic gaits, while maintaining relaxation. The equestrian is looking for correct gaits- four beat walk, two beat trot, and three beat canter. Rhythm and Relaxation tend to help develop each other, as the horse works towards its rhythm, the exercise tends to help relax the mind which in turn helps to develop more rhythmic correct gaits.
"Pure" gaits are an important goal, that is: Are the gaits correct as relates to their regularity? It is important that the gaits are even, equal in length, and level, where each step bears equal weight on both sides. Correct gaits will be an important aspect of the future soundness of the horse. To overlook this important aspect jeopardizes the well being of the horse, especially when the weight of the rider is added.
Throughout history, horsemen have challenged the need for the Principles of Dressage, claiming it takes too long and the movements can be achieved much easier with other methods. However no alternative method has created the true form of movements found in Classical Dressage.
The alternative methods of the past and of today only achieve circus movements at best. To the untrained eye, the Horse may look like it's doing higher level movements. But if the correctness of gaits are lost, then the movements are only being mimicked. This is fine for the person wanting to entertain, promote, or compete at the cost of the Horse, but is of utmost concern for the purist who is concerned for the Horse's soundness and the Equestrian's safety.
Rhythm and Relaxation are imperative in the development of the Horse.