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Sarah Martin, an accomplished Dressage trainer, spoke during Big Dee’s Anniversary Event about Using Pyramid Training for Dressage and general foundation riding. Sarah has several Professional Accomplishments including; USDF Bronze, Silver and Gold Medalist, USDF Certified Second and Fourth Instructor Trainer, USDF “L” Program Graduate with Distinction and has been a Trainer for USDF Horse of the Year horses and riders from Training Level through Prix St Georges.
The training scale, according to Sarah, is a foundation to establish concepts with your horse in the beginning and to continuously re-establish them as you progress to more difficult movements. Ultimately, the work is about balance – your horse’s balance, your balance, and coordinating the two in harmony. Much like natural horsemanship – the rider’s seat is the center balance point. Like horses, a rider has a strong side, and a weaker side. Horses mimic the stiffness as well as the suppleness from the rider, so in order to be in true balance, the rider must work on his/her faults as well as strengthen their body.
Initially a few training concepts will be what early stages consist of.
• Rhythm is the repetition of the footfall, tempo and purity of the gait.
• Suppleness refers to the relaxation of muscles and the horse’s ability to both mentally and physically cooperate with what is being asked.
• Connection is the ability of the hind leg to come underneath horse’s body, step under the body through the back, and come over the shoulder and neck and into the connection of the bit.
As training continues, the demands of the horse’s movement increase.
• Impulsion is an important idea to understand to progress further in Dressage. It refers to the horse’s ability to compress it’s body and then lengthen out – think of it like a coiled spring.
• Straightness in Dressage refers to the horse’s ability to center it’s shoulders between the hind legs; leg yields are a great way to develop a supple hind end.
Second Level and beyond
Once someone has a solid foundation, they can continue forward, but always keep the basic building blocks in mind and refer back to them when needed.
• Collection and Elevation will be the hardest factor, obtaining a lift and increased range of motion in the horse and a balanced and perfected form from the rider.
How to apply the knowledge
A positive state of mind will get the rider much farther along than a negative one. Also keep in mind that “unwillingness” might not be a refusal to do what is asked, maybe the horse cannot bend or flex the way you are asking. Horses, like people, have limits to their physical strength. Instead of constant repetition of the same exercises and getting frustrated, try smaller, more meaningful exercises and know when to stop to allow your horse to both comprehend what you are asking and relax from the physical work. As a horse is worked, the muscles become bigger and more dense. If a horse is tight or tense, think about how you can alleviate the issue whether it be a massage or stretchy exercises on the weak part.
Disclaimer: This seminar was given at Big Dee’s Anniversary Event. All content provided by Sarah Martin on Big Dee’s blog is for informational purposes only. Big Dee’s will not be liable for any losses, injuries, or damages from the display or use of this information.