The Dressage Rabbit Hole

Serious question though – why do eventers say it like DRESS-ahge but dressage people say it like dressAAAAhhgge? Things that keep me up at night…

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But for real though, Henry and I have been back in a regular dressage lesson schedule for 4 months now. Yeah ok, we only do a lesson every other week, so that’s only 8 lessons, but there has been a lot of progress in that time. Granted, I never have media of it because Dressage Trainer is also holding his microphone and trying to coach me at the same time. And as of late he’s been layered under blankets because Texas has decided it’s a winter state now. Seems cruel to ask him to video. Someday I will wrangle someone into taking a few clips, but that day has not come yet.

reaaaally good at getting pics of him standing in the parking lot, though

In October we started working more on haunches-in, which built up into renvers and half pass. We go home and work on the same exercises and combination of exercises that we do in lessons, and Henry has very quickly gotten quite good at some of this more complicated lateral work. Especially half pass.

straightness
everybody’s favorite shareable diagram, or as I like to call it, Dressage for Dummies (aka me)

For some reason he’s a bit of a savant about this particular movement. It’s gotten easier and easier, and better and better, on a very steadily upward trajectory that is uncommon for horses in general and this horse in particular. The half pass work at both the trot and canter on Wednesday got several “excellent”s from Dressage Trainer. We don’t generally get that word very much. Along with this little breakthrough, Henry’s started to get stronger in general and offer more “sit” in his canter. The connection issues that we used to have are pretty much gone and I can actually ride him UP into my hand most of the time.

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Well, unless he’s tense, which definitely still happens sometimes. Once he’s tense he just locks up his back and pretty much everything goes out the window in a heartbeat. I’m not sure that’ll ever change about him, to be honest. Which is why horse shows are always a mixed bag. The work at home though, it’s gotten so much better… it’s like the more complicated we make it, the better he does.

The strangest thing that has come out of this little re-dedication to the dressage work is that we’re finally to the point where I’m starting to… dare I say… enjoy it.

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Now that Henry has more buttons to play with, so to speak, our rides are a lot more complex, which makes them more fun to me. Too bad they won’t be putting half pass into these eventing Training level dressage tests anytime soon, that would really help me out. It has made me want to branch out a little and experiment with some more complicated tests, though, even if it’s just at home. The challenge is stimulating to me in a way that dressage hasn’t ever been before. Up to this point it’s kinda just been one big aggravating snoozefest. No offense.

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I still can’t imagine doing only dressage, the jumping part is too fun, but I’m starting to get a little more into it now. Lessons are something I look forward to instead of something that feels like an obligation. I kinda feel like Alice, falling down the rabbit hole of dressage.

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We’re signed up to try Prelim A at a small schooling show this weekend, mostly just for funsies. I haven’t actually ridden the whole test all the way through yet, and I won’t get a chance to try it in an arena before we get there so it might be shit, but that’s ok. We’re just playing around really, and taking the opportunity to get in the sandbox.

Now if only we could start getting some of this “at home” Henry to show up in the ring, we’d actually be cooking.

30 thoughts on “The Dressage Rabbit Hole

  1. ha ha ha i love the Alice in Wonderland Theme going on πŸ™‚ Yay Henry for becoming a dressage beast πŸ™‚ But yeah you saying you like dressage is scaring me a bit πŸ™‚ Good luck this weekend!!

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  2. I’d like to think I’m a relatively intelligent person and then I look at that diagram and all my brain cells fly away. All the things just don’t. make. sense. I haven’t even made it into snoozefest, we’re still in like ‘would put even sugar high ADD 6 year olds to sleep’ phase.

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  3. It drives me NUTS the way eventers say dressage… and I’m an eventer! I always wondered where that came from.. like I don’t remember ANYONE saying DRESSage back in the early 2000s?!

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    1. So I commented before I read the rest of the post.. and YES welcome to the eventers-who-love-dressage world! We’re starting half-pass ourselves and I get all giddy nerding out over that stuff because FUN!

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      1. Actually her name is what jumped to my mind when I wondered about who started that trend… I’ll be saying it dressAHGE as I’ve done all my life nonetheless!

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        1. I think there’s a British pronunciation and a “rest of the goddamn world” pronunciation. Since England did eventing and sucked St dressage for so long…. I think you can infer why the word has stuck like that in eventing.

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  4. I’ve been lost in my own bubble apparently bc I’m not recalling anyone saying dressage any other way than the normal DressAge way…will have to start paying attention bc I’m curious now!!! And I feel ya on if the horse at home would show up to shows dressage scores would be a slam dunk πŸ™‚

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  5. I’ve never seen that diagram before, but it’s fantastic. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of Renvers before, but that diagram made sense to me. (Sorry, hunter princess over here…) I think I’ve actually done the movement, just never knew the name! So um, thanks?
    I always thought the pronunciation was a regional thing? I’ve heard both from dressage riders.

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  6. Yay dressage! I’ve always thought eventers do themselves a disservice sticking to the most boring of dressage things for so long. Like, you don’t need a degree from Dressage University to try working on a shoulder in with your horse, and it might help you ride a better and more even 20m circle at BN. But eventers are often intimidated, and thus don’t push. So they don’t find that adjustability that comes from really working into the bridle. It’s addicting as hell when the horse seems to read your mind and float sideways here and there with nary an aid in sight!

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    1. Yeah I think riding with a straight dressage trainer is helpful. I never would have thought to even try a lot of this type of work on my own (like, why?) but it’s helped a lot. My trainer is a de Kunffy protege so he specifically strings exercises together to help build the horse’s strength and straightness as opposed to just working on parts of test.

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      1. Yesss! The “dressage as bodywork” theory works so well, and the horses really respond well to it. It’s amazing what you can get out of them just by working out the stiff bits and striving for an overall more flexible and strong athlete. ❀

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  7. My jump trainer says it DRESS-age and I just can’t make myself do it. I wouldn’t be able to pull it off anyway, so I keep it at dress-AGE like a normal human. I can never get any dressage media either. People jump to come with me to jump lessons, but when I mention going to a dressage lesson, suddenly EVERYONE is busy.

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  8. The beauty of dressage, for me anyway, is the revelation that a tiny shift of weight or body position can make a huge difference to the horse. Horses feel a lot more than we think they do, and it can be such fun to, for example, just push one hip slightly forward at the halt and get a perfect canter depart from that halt on the lead I asked for. Or adjust my seat bones a tiny bit and lift my crotch a certain way and all of a sudden the horse who was standing with an inverted banana back and head lowered is now standing with head and neck properly positioned and withers lifted and croup lowered. No hand or leg action required. I’m sure your de Kunffy protege can explain how it is possible that these cool things can happen!

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  9. Frankie seems to be a lot like Henry here (pretty sure they’re similar in a LOT of ways) in that the more “complicated” or difficult the movement, the more engaged and active he is in thinking and performing it. Like he doesn’t give a crap about doing anything at the walk, shoulder in is yawn, but he’s started offering half-passes to my WILDLY MESSY aids. My trainer spent years doing straight dressage, so she definitely keeps our flatwork interesting and it has had a completely transformative effect on our coursework.

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  10. I love the way you think and the way you write, especially when you realize that it is fun.
    I’m not an eventer, and never will be, but I have volunteered and been steward at some shows and the Dressage portion almost seems like drudgery to some. Only if they realized. 1) their horses would be more fit and respond better in jumping and cross country. And. 2) their scores would be so much better if they could NAIL the Dressage.

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  11. Very perplexed as to why that diagram says “haunches-in” but then “renvers”?! Like, it’s kind of driving me crazy. It should be haunches-in and haunches-out, or travers and renvers. Am I right or am I right? Stick to one language please and thank you. πŸ˜‚

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  12. Hahahahaha, that’s how it starts! I little half pass, a little simple change, and suddenly you’re wearing the dressage frock! Sure, you never quit jumping, but it’s amazing how quickly you can find yourself at a dressage only show. And added bonus, no trakehners that make you want to throw up a little. Or course walks at ungodly hours.

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  13. I’ve seen quite a few thoroughbreds that can overthink/get a bit tense in dressage excel as the work becomes more complicated.

    Not 100% sure why but I think it is because they are too busy doing the movements which happen more often and require more effort, therefore not allowing them the chance to get tense or anxious in simpler movements or the moments between movements.

    So glad it is going well for you both!

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