Catching Up

Well, it’s been a while… so there’s lots to catch up on!

The short summary is: Remy did get out to one more show over the summer, up at Silverwood, where he put in his best (and most relaxed… finally!! yay!!) effort yet, and then Liam got a nasty puncture wound that put an end to my show season (warning, there is a picture below, it’s not a horrible pic but you might not want to look if you’re eating…). Liam got better, and the boys gained another “brother” mid October when I added Austin to the herd (more on him below).

All three horses are improving by leaps and bounds. Remy has developed some INCREDIBLE gaits, and continues to find lateral work quite easy. I am really working on his canter at the moment, trying to build him up so he can carry himself more easily and develop more collection (currently, when he starts to get tired, he leans on the bit racehorse style and falls on the forehand, ignoring my half halts and is quite content to let me hold him up… unfortunately, he’s way too big for that!). He’s just started getting really good flying changes, has a great counter canter, and a great half pass, so I have plenty of stuff I can mix up to make canter patterns and keep it fun.

Remy growing up, and getting fancy!

Liam is finally fit again after taking almost 2 months off with his puncture wound the end of July.  We are working on tempi changes (we’ve even been getting some 2’s!), he has a good start on pirouettes, and is starting to get the idea for canter half pass, although he still finds that tough (not sure why, but lateral work has never been his forte). I’m working hard to build more adjustability into his gaits (I don’t think extended gaits will ever be his best movement, but I’d like to be able to show enough difference to get a 6 at least), and getting better transitions within gaits. I’m still hoping to finish up my bronze medal on him just because it would be so personally meaningful, and now I’m starting to get little ideas about even going for the Silver with him… but there’s no pressure because I know Remy is ready to take over the show pony job at any point, so Liam and I can just have fun and keep riding and see where it gets us… and so far, it’s getting us closer and closer to my goals!

Liam’s nasty puncture wound. His shoulder and chest swelled up so much he could barely walk!

Liam, all healed up, doing what Liam loves most!

Austin is a 10 year old paint that I got mid October, he had formerly been a trail horse, so while he is super broke and totally bombproof, he was pretty uneducated as far as aids and arena work goes. I’ve been riding him about 5 days a week, 3-4 dressage schools and 1-2 times jumping. He walks and trots reliably on the bit now, and picks up both canter leads and is starting to stay on the bit at the canter, but it’s not perfect yet. He is responding to lighter and lighter leg aids (which is great, he had no “go” button at all at the beginning!), and is doing a pretty decent leg yield and shoulder in at the trot. I’ve discovered that what he REALLY loves is jumping! He’s also teaching lessons a few times a week, so he’s had a pretty busy schedule! But he seems to love the attention and every day when he sees me coming he greets me with a whinny and comes to the gate to meet me. Such a sweetie!

Austin, such a sweetie!

Austin, starting to muscle up nicely!

I’ve also become interested in the new Western Dressage movement, to me it sounds like it could be the best of both worlds, and provide a great alternative to the typical Western disciplines for someone that prefers a Western saddle. It will allow all the benefits of traditional, classical dressage to be brought into the Western world, and provides a place for dressage enthusiasts who ride stock horses to try something different and maybe find an arena where their horses will be more competitive. Plenty of potential benefits, and I sure don’t see any harm, so I’m not sure why there seem to be so many people against the idea, but I’m pretty sure I’ll be giving it a try this spring! Read more about Western Dressage here http://www.northamericanwesterndressage.com/index.php/articles/articles/68-western-dressage-birth-of-a-discipline

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6 thoughts on “Catching Up

  1. Our local dressage chapter (member of the California Dressage Society) offered Western Dressage exhibition classes, test of choice, at our October schooling show. We had one rider–he’s a reiner–enter two horses. He did a slow spin at the end of his second ride, which made everyone cheer (and the judge LOVED it). I think we will continue to offer the WD option at our shows. Offering these classes as exhibition only is permitted under USEF/USDF rules, according to a report in the latest issue of the CDS newsletter Dressage Letters.

    • I think the *good* reiners very much train by dressage principles. That doesn’t necessarily mean the ones who win, but neither does it mean the trainers who win in dressage are using correct dressage principles. I went to a mounted shooting event, and there were horses who very clearly carried themselves in a way they could go out and do lower level dressage with ease. Sure enough when I watched them in warmup they were doing lateral work and lengthening and shortening their strides to increase adjustability once they were going at speed.

    • It’s so cool that you guys have had the experience of seeing that type of good Western riding! Around here there is really minimal Western riding, except for backyard trail rider types or some of the scary Mexican rodeo stuff (which I had the unfortunate experience of becoming acquainted with last summer). I think more people would get into dressage (especially men) if english saddles and white breeches weren’t required. I wish we had a few of the “good reiners” you guys describe around here to set an example!!

  2. I think a lot of the hatred of Western Dressage is ignorance that there are good riders in every discipline, bias toward warmbloods or those who can have warmblood-type gaits, and a dislike of some of the goals/ideas of some of the WD organizations.
    The riding school I started at was owned by one of the founders of the local dressage club. Most of us at least started in western saddles, on longe lines, but the ultimate trainer there was a retired military captain on his (GP, I think) Lipizzan stallion and I rode with one of his students who I believe rode a Selle Francais mare. I actually took lessons from three trainers: Western, hunter and dressage. Funny enough, they ALL looked for the same basics of seat, impulsion, quiet hands, responsiveness of the horses and lateral work.
    All three of my instructors also rode in the weekly “training” class put on by an old cowboy. If possible he had everyone ride in snaffles with two hands, but he had them learning about lateral work, straightness, and controlling the horse’s body. He taught about softening the horse’s body so it could step under itself, use the hind end, and bend the hind legs. To me THAT is western dressage. I disagree with an organization allowing curb bits at the lower levels and lack of emphasis on impulsion, but despite how a lot of Dressage scoring goes impulsion does not mean air time and flashy front end. I won everything in both an English and Western saddle on my last QH, who was a 16hh palomino. He was built uphill and only by collecting in a dressage sense could he lift his back and lower his head. He also had the common QH attributes of a too-upright shoulder which didn’t let him have the freedom in front you see on top dressage horses and upright pasterns which meant basically no air time. But he could SIT, and could jump well. I think at the time he could have done well in dressage because he was super adjustable and correct and dressage still wasn’t very big here yet. Nowadays he would not do that well due to lack of air time and extension – very much abilities horses are or aren’t born with. If Western Dressage puts less focus on gaits and more focus on correctness, GREAT! I believe we could use that, and there’s no reason for folks on western horses to fail to learn how to correctly control a horse’s body. Of course, I also don’t believe the tight contact a horse is crammed into which so many people want is the way to go with dressage, either, and want someone to slap the trainer who has all her students on very nice horses ride with draw reins across the face so she realizes that she’s failing her students and their horses, as it’s not a coincidence none of those horses have toplines to speak of! I don’t think Western Dressage which seems to fail to encourage impulsion in the descriptions I’ve seen is any more of a failure than normal dressage which rewards horses with naturally airborne gaits and poor training/lack of development. I don’t understand why people are threatened, either. I detest the current trends in the western rings, which is a huge part of why I ended up in dressage – I wanted horses going well and using themselves well, not horses whose bodies were damaged by being asked to go in an unhealthy way. Why not give options to riders who prefer western but want their horses to develop nice toplines and strength?

    • I think I agree with pretty much everything you’ve said! That summed it up really well. Good riding is good riding, regardless of what kind of saddle you’re sitting in. I think that’s what intrigues me about the Western Dressage idea, and I guess I’m hoping it will get a little bit away from some of what’s taking over traditional competitive dressage (and chasing regular people away, like the need for super-gaits and rollkur and whatnot), without going too far in the other direction and away from classical ideals (like rewarding non-forward gaits like a jog, or a shanked bit at lower levels, but it sounds like they aren’t going there at least!). It would also be such a great way to include more people in the sport of dressage, and a way to help make the benefits of dressage available to all different types of horses, whether or not they’d ever be the type to end up in a typical competitive dressage barn type atmosphere. A girl can dream, right?

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