Dressage (Divas) Dissected by Natasha Olivant
Well, firstly I would like to say well done to all of those who entered Dressage Divas, it was a very stiff class to judge as the standard was high.
I think what has come out of it for me is that the word ‘Dressage’ is a very interesting one that means a lot of different things to different people and I felt that perhaps that might be a good starting point for discussion….
For a lot of us, when we think of Dressage, it immediately conjures up images of immaculately turned out riders executing perfect and seemingly effortless moves on horseback, astride priceless horses. We then look at our beloved equine and reflect on our meagre resources and conclude that that image is so far from our own pairing that it would be a mockery even to attempt it, and thus we often conclude that Dressage is ‘not for us’.
For those of you who did not enter Dressage Divas for that reason, or who have niggling self doubts but secret aspirations to be the rider in that ‘Dressage Image’ I described, I would like to tell you that Dressage does not belong exclusively to owners of white leg bandages, which, by the way, will not help your journey to self improvement!
The winners I chose in Dressage Divas were not all riding hundreds of thousands pounds worth of horse flesh, they were chosen because their photo showed horse and rider harmony. The riders had a good riding position, which I believe is fundamental to riding success, there was no obvious resistance or tension demonstrated in either party (I was particularly looking at the reins here) and finally the horses were in a carriage appropriate to type and obvious level of training.
I am as a rider and trainer very passionate about Dressage, I am a self confessed Geek! However, I think perhaps my interpretation of Dressage is not conventional.
I do not compete and have no interest in competing as this does not personify the end result for me, what I am addicted to are the amazing things can be achieved when you combine a horse and a rider, neither of whom have a common language and yet united they can create magic. Whether that happens in front of an audience or not is irrelevant – it is so personal and about my relationship with my horse and I.
Dressage is just a word for that magic feeling when we and our horse feel like one and it must always be universally available and accessible to everyone in possession of a horse or the desire to ride one, whatever your riding level, because essentially being good at Dressage is not just about your ability to execute a faultless sequence of predetermined riding moves, although we have come to see it like that, but in essence it is training your body absorb the movement of a horse successfully during an ever changing set of parameters, be they environmental, climatic or emotional as after all, no two horse paces are the same and it is our ability to constantly adapt that makes us good riders and therefore good trainers.
Dressage is just good riding skills and that is why I think it should be on everyone’s ‘To Do’ list even if and especially if your end goal is not to ride dressage tests!
The only criteria is an open mind and the acceptance that the journey to being a good rider is a long and hard one (not going to lie about that)….see it as… ‘ongoing’! However, it will be peppered delightfully with the most amazing moments of sheer joy that make it the most incredible experience – we can all relate to that as there must be something that gets us up ridiculously early every morning to look after these creatures!
Once you have grasped the fundamentals or maybe just filled in the gaps in your knowledge, you will be amazed how everything you try and do on horseback is suddenly so much easier. The sad truth is though, you can and many people do ride for 30 years and still have escaped the absolute basics of how to sit on a horse so that they are responsible for their own body weight! Think of all those unfulfilled horses carrying around unbalanced riders L Its not possible to be perfect all the time, but we owe it to our horses to try.
If you don’t want to add to that statistic and I have inspired you to re-evaluate your perception/preconception or even misconception about dressage and you are considering giving it a chance…I will be blogging through The Mane Show over the next couple of weeks simplifying subjects like ‘The Independent Seat’ and many other terms prevalent in our horse vocabulary that we accept as normal because we hear them so often, but which say nothing about what they actually mean or how we achieve them? Hopefully you will be able to join us and that you will find something to take away with you and apply to your own riding….
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