First off, let me give the disclaimer that I don’t consider myself a “dressage rider.” I want to compete in hunters, but I believe dressage training is essential for the development of the horse, especially a young-ish green horse like I have. I read dressage books all the time and watch Jane Savoie videos on youtube, but definitely consider myself a hunter rider.
With that said, I want to do a post on some of the trends in modern dressage that I’ve noticed as a curious outsider. Specifically, I want to talk about headset and overbending. From my somewhat uneducated standpoint, it seems like many of the pictures and videos I see from the dressage world show horses that look uncomfortable and contorted. Here’s an example:
This horse’s head is cranked so far back I’m not sure how he can see what’s in front of him! Pull your chin down to your chest for a second and see how that feels. It’s not comfortable, is it? Surely this can’t be the relaxed, happy state dressage riders are aiming for!
Here’s another one:
This horse is bent behind the vertical just like the last one. This horse seems to be starting a turn though, so maybe he’s overbent from turning. It just doesn’t look attractive to me. It looks contorted.
Now, here are a couple pics I found of dressage riders where the horse is clearly on the bit but not cranked so far behind the vertical.
This horse looks like he’s using his back and stepping under himself, and he looks comfortable! He is definitely connected to the rider’s hand though, so she hasn’t given up contact by giving the horse more freedom in his head and neck. I think they make a very pretty picture!
What a pretty picture! Look at the suspension- all four hooves are off the ground. He has a beautifully developed topline, the rider has contact, but his head isn’t cranked down to his chest. This is the sort of thing I would aim for with Baron. To me the horse looks light and bouncy, very controlled, but freely moving. Aaaaaah, maybe someday!