I never was good at geometry.

Do you know how hard it is to make a horse go in a perfect circle? Pretty damn hard.

We rode Intro Test A in my mini arena for the second time. It’s basically walk/ trot, do a circle, walk diagonally across the arena, do another circle, trot some more and then stop perfectly square. Sounds easy enough, right? Not so much. We’re pretty rough. Things that sound simple and look simple when performed by well trained horses (like stopping perfectly square, trotting in steady rhythm and walking in a perfectly straight line) are surprisingly difficult when performed by greenies like me and Baron. We have our work cut out for us.

I must say that I am enjoying immensely our little foray into dressage. I always liked yoga and gymnastics because they were about muscle control and core power. Dressage is the equivalent for horses. I am also a teensy little bit of a control freak and a perfectionist. In dressage you don’t just trot, you trot perfectly- with rhythm, impulsion, and perfect posture. You don’t just walk haphazardly around the arena and stop any old way. You walk proudly in a straight line and you stop square, with all four of your horse’s feet firmly planted. It’s about quality.

If you read this blog you know that I don’t have as much time or money as I’d like to spend with a trainer so a lot of what I’ve done with Baron I’ve had to figure out for myself. After riding the test, I asked myself how in the world am I going to get better? What do we work on first? So I looked up the dressage training scale. It’s a pyramid that shows you how to progress in training a horse. Here it is:

Here’s the website I stole this from: http://www.artofriding.com/articles/trainingscale.html

At the bottom of the pyramid is rhythm. There’s my answer. The first thing we have to work on is getting rhythmic gaits. Baron’s default response when he doesn’t understand what I’m asking is to go faster. I’ll put my leg on him to ask him to move a little closer to the rail and he thinks I’m asking him to go faster. At the racetrack the right answer was always “Go faster!” From now on, whenever I ride I’ll be focusing on getting a slow, steady trot, not an “I’m tired, can we walk now?” shuffle, not a hurried “Please, please can I canter?” jiggy dance. Again, way harder than it sounds. 🙂

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2 thoughts on “I never was good at geometry.

  1. Debi November 12, 2010 / 3:38 pm

    Hi again. Love reading about your lovely horse. Since you are doing a lot of self training, could you get hold of Betsy Steiners ‘A Gymnastic Riding System using Mind, Body & Spirit. As for riding a perfect circle, it is quite daunting. The method I use to teach it is to ask (I teach mostly children so bear with the analogy!) the rider to visualize a rainbow. Then to cut in half and ride one half of a rainbow at a time. From ground to sky to pot of gold. Then the count strides for each half rainbow! If you could find a ‘clip on metronome’ at a music store and attach it to the saddles D-ring and set it to a trot rhythm it can help you and Baron in finding and keeping the rhythm. One of my working students is an aspirring music teacher and the youngsters she rides have this amazing regular rhythm. If you sing, Betsy has songs that follow the different gaits beat, it is fun! Imagine a class of teens singing ‘Yellow Submarine’ to find a walk rhythm!

  2. juliaeverheart November 13, 2010 / 5:02 pm

    THANK YOU for the comment! I love tips and pointers! I like the rainbow analogy and I will definitely look for the book. I really like Mary Wanless’ books as well. She uses a lot of visualization exercises like your rainbow.

    I have tried singing while riding but not for rhythm. I heard it helps you open your chest and relax and it will relax your horse as well. I love the idea of different songs for the different gaits. I especially like that it’s something I can work on while riding out in the woods. I don’t need any fancy equipment!

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