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  1. #1
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    Mar. 10, 2006
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    Default GM's approach to training vs. dressage

    It has been a long time since I have done the hunters and have only competed at the lower levels in dressage and I am having difficulty reconciling the two.

    I attended a George Morris clinic today and one cannot question the man's knowledge and ability but here is where I get confused. GM says put your legs on the horse do not kick. My dressage trainer has me breath with my legs and apply little kicks to get impulsion. GM has you hold the reins higher and keep a strong contact until the horse gives whereas in dressage we "squeeze a sponge" to get a response.

    GM wants the horse forward of your leg using spurs or crop if necessary. The horse I ride, a warmblood cannot seem to get into a forward mode until he is well warmed up.

    So my question is can you somehow combine these two methods with good results?



  2. #2
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    Oct. 28, 2009
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    What do you mean by kick? All I can picture is little kids bumping their legs on their ponies, but surely that's not what you mean.



  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by kalidascope View Post
    What do you mean by kick? All I can picture is little kids bumping their legs on their ponies, but surely that's not what you mean.
    Maybe I should have said "tap" with the legs and if they don't listen to a tap use two quick taps in succession as opposed to squeezing the with the legs.



  4. #4
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    Yes and no. You can't have a breathing, draped dressage leg while at the same time having a proper hunt seat leg with the weight distributed between the thigh, calf and stirrup and the heel flexed. They are different seats, with different goals. Can you learn to ride proficiently in both styles- yes. There are some eventers out there who ride quite well and quite specifically/differently in each seat- and others who have one style that they adopt for both phases.



  5. #5
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    Feb. 3, 2000
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    I am an eventer, and I have3 diiffeerent riding styles (yes, cross country is different from show jumping).

    I got one of the biggest insights into how to improve my dressage in a G.M. clinic (keep my legs still).

    Some of your "in dressage we do.." statements do not ring true to me.

    GM says put your legs on the horse do not kick. My dressage trainer has me breath with my legs and apply little kicks to get impulsion.
    Well, MY dressage instructor has me put my legs on but not kick, nor even tap with my legs. Do to so would be to "nag at" the horse, and encourage the horse to ignore my leg. If my horse does not respond to my leg and set, we escalate to the spur or whip depending on circumstances and the horse. I am not talking about hitting the horse hard- just enough to startle her into responding FORWARD.

    Music would like to be lazy and ignore my leg and seat. If she ignores my leg (and it is safe to do so) I use spur and/or whip to transition to a hand gallop, and gallop at least halfway round the ring.

    It only takes a couple of such escalations before she starts responding immediately to my leg and seat.

    I agree with G.M. on this, for dressage as well as jumping.

    GM has you hold the reins higher and keep a strong contact until the horse gives whereas in dressage we "squeeze a sponge" to get a response.
    Depends on the horse. I wouldn't do that with Belle (a bit hot, wants to curl).

    But with Music (lazy, likes to brace her poll), when I learned how to do that (keep a "fixed" hand, and keep pushing with the leg and seat until she gives) we made enormous strides in our dressage- going from beng "stuck" at Training/First to getting over 60% our first time out at Second. Once she has "given" she gets a "squeeze a sponge" hand. But if/when she braces her poll I use the fixed hand/strong leg approach.

    GM wants the horse forward of your leg using spurs or crop if necessary. The horse I ride, a warmblood cannot seem to get into a forward mode until he is well warmed up.
    In dressage, even more than jumping, it is very improtant to have the horse in front of your leg, using whip and spur if necessary (see comment above about hand gallop). The horse needs to be in front of you leg from the moment you get on. Even the free walk from the barn to the ring needs to be forward.

    Your horse may have you convinced that "he can't get into forward mode". The truth is that (unless he has an actual physical problem) he "doesn't want to", but he "can". He is "playing you like a violin".

    There are lots of other, more significant differences between riding dressage and riding jumping, but these particular things are the same.
    • The horse MUST be in front of your leg, and forward, from the moment you get on.
    • Don't nag/kick/tap. If the horse does not respond to your squeeze, immediately escalate to whip and spurs.
    • If the horse is bracing at the poll, a "fixed hand" is an effective correction.
    Janet

    chief feeder and mucker for Music, Spy, Belle and Tiara. Someone else is now feeding and mucking for Chief and Brain (both foxhunting now).



  6. #6
    Join Date
    May. 4, 2012
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    Default

    I agree with joiedevie99 and Janet.

    If I was Cat Tap, I would ask this exact question to my dressage instructor. There is much to be gained by asking why you are using your aids in a certain way, and why you're not using them in other ways.

    One thing I have discovered through the years is that I've been taught to do things one way because I wasn't good enough to do them the "right" way yet. For instance, rein contact was taught one way until I had hands independent of my seat, then contact became something very different. Like don't use the reins to post trot, use the horse's bounce, so NO rein contact allowed! Or when I first learned to put a horse "on the bit," I was told to squeeze and see-saw a little, because at the time it was the only way I could get the horse to give and bend at the poll. This gave me the feel (illusion?) of a round horse. (Of course, that was riding the horse front to back so it was just a temporary stepping stone.) Once I got a little better, I was told to stop doing that, in fact don't ever ride like that again, and to do more of a soft holding rein that I push into and give with, using only a very occasional squeeze on the particularly stiff horses. Or when jumping, first I was taught to reach up and grab mane, then reach up but don't grab mane, and eventually don't reach "up" anymore, simply forward as needed. Talking to your instructor about the aids you do use and the aids you see others using but you don't can give a lot of insight into energy/impulsion and the influence of it.



  7. #7
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    Aug. 14, 2004
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    also realize that there is not just one way to ride horses. even in dressage there are various "schools" of thought on how to ride.



  8. #8
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    Sep. 11, 2011
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    agree that its not so black and white. You version of dressage may or may not work for everyone. I don't use as much leg as you do nor do I sponge the reins.

    I try to maintain a constant light contact. And yes, have seen MANY warmbloods need a crop to get going and its not due to warmup.

    So just consider a bit of a bigger picture.... with out actually seeing what you are discussing (and the larger thoery behind it) its so hard to say anything more specific. Your idea of a kick or holding may be quite different then someone elses'.



  9. #9
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    I do both hunters and dressage and use the same leg (different sitrrup lengths tbough) for both.

    Leg is quietly passive as much as possible. I loathe the "squeeze and grind every stride" ride. I also do not like a super grippy, no-stirrups leg and my junior eq days are over, so I just let my leg be light and still.

    If horse needs more gas, one squeeze. If that doesn't do it, one "tap!" with the leg, then a "tap tap!!" On occassion I will "box" (aka 'wallop') with both legs, an aid which is audible to onlookers, lol.

    I also don't sponge the reins. To me that is nagging. Aid goes on, I want an answer. Sponging to me implies releasing before the answer and/or indiscriminately asking again when you have already gotten an answer.
    Now, where is the line between rewarding a 50% answer with a 25% give and then right away asking again for the rest of the answer, and sponging? Debatable. The best ride is, as usual, somewhere in the middle.



  10. #10
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    There are also good/bad, knowledgeable and not, dressage (and h/j) coaches. Dressage riding has changed A LOT in the last 20+ years. Remember that GM ALWAYS comes from the classical, traditional school, not the latest fad. He has had training by the BEST classical riders, and knows his stuff. He hates kicking. Hence he always wants you to carry a stick and wear spurs, so you can increase your demands for response WITHOUT kicking.
    Laurie
    Finding, preparing, showing and training young hunters, in hand and performance.
    www.juniorjohnsontrainingandsales.com



  11. #11
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    May. 4, 2003
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    Default

    Just as an aside and not exactly on topic - but there is some video somewhere of GM riding a catch ride on a GP dressage hore - and he does a fantastic job.
    Now, I just know, one of the brighter COTHers will find that and link it. Thanks.
    Proud member of People Who Hate to Kill Wildlife clique



  12. #12
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    Mar. 26, 2006
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    So here's some perspective from the dressage side (based on my last lesson).

    The response to the seat, and then the kick, and then the whip or spurs (if needed) should be FORWARD, as in walk to trot or trot to canter. Horse should be "Yes, Mam'n!" in front of your leg.

    The response to pressure from the lower leg should be more engagement. Not faster, but more hind end action, with a corresponding lift in the back.

    Not easy to do, but it does make sense if you manage to acheive it for a few strides.



  13. #13
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    Aug. 5, 2009
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    On a video from her first USDF symposium plus her training tapes Kyra Kyrklund demonstrates how to get the horse to virtually jump away from her leg and go forward. This is visually very clear cut in both her instruction and the reaction from the horse and makes it easy to understand.

    Of course, doing it correctly and every time is another story...
    Last edited by betonbill; Oct. 13, 2012 at 01:09 AM. Reason: editing



  14. #14
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    Aug. 23, 2003
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    I was shocked by the dressage riders in the next to last Olympics- the one that was in the Asian nation. They were bang bang banging their horses sides until it looked like a little kid urging on her first pony. Ugh. It was utterly against what I was taught eons ago- riding in the George Morris manner.

    What exactly does it mean "in front of the leg?" How is that not unbalanced?

    Thanks.



  15. #15
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    Jun. 7, 2006
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    "In front of the leg" means the horse has its own motor.

    You can go down the entire longside with your legs off the horse amd he still briskly hums along. You can ride a 20m circle with your legs off and the horse carries on without reminders to keep going.

    If you pick up a canter, take your leg completely off the horse, and it breaks, it is not in front of the leg. If you take your leg completely off the horse and nothing changes, it is in front of the leg.

    A lot of h/j horses ridden with the "constant" leg and "squeeze every stride" ride would pretty much instantly fall apart if you took your leg off entirely for fifteen strides and asked, "How forward are you really?" Take the consta-squeeze away from the rider for two strides and they're walking. A more dressage trained horse knows a brisk "tap!" (which is not, btw, a kick) is coming the instant he slows even a little, so the rider can sit there with the leg completely quiet and the horse just motors along.

    That is "in front of the leg."



  16. #16
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    Oct. 24, 2001
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    Virginia
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    Quote Originally Posted by Foxtrot's View Post
    Just as an aside and not exactly on topic - but there is some video somewhere of GM riding a catch ride on a GP dressage hore - and he does a fantastic job.
    Now, I just know, one of the brighter COTHers will find that and link it. Thanks.
    The blog of Catherine Haddad's is still up, but the video now seems to be private

    I've got to ditto Janet that as someone who's moved from hunters to eventing, and had to learn Dressage along the way, I've not found much in my dressage lessons that's greatly contradicted anything I've read or heard GM say. Mine needs to walk a while to warm up before she really starts using herself, but it's got to be a nice forward walk, or you're not really warming anything up!



  17. #17
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    Sep. 11, 2011
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    Quote Originally Posted by lauriep View Post
    He hates kicking. Hence he always wants you to carry a stick and wear spurs, so you can increase your demands for response WITHOUT kicking.
    there should be NO NEED for kicking in dressage!!!! A reminder once in awhile is one thing but if you don't have a horse with a desire to go it makes everything so much harder... been there, done that. (This also assumes the rider is not a cause in the laziness of the horse/blocking the horse!)



  18. #18
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    Just so we are clear on "the tap" versus "the kick," the tap is using the inside of the ankle with roughly the same amount of force as you would use to playfully swat someone on the arm.

    It does not involve spur, because as I said, the INSIDE of the ankle.

    Next up in progression is the double tap, then a ljttle spur, then a tap tap with the whip.

    Personally I would rather use the intermediate aid before going directly to spur and whip.



  19. #19
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    Of course, if you want the horse to respond to a "small aid", you have to make sure that you NEVER give the small aid by mistake, without meaning to.

    Hence the importance of keeping your legs still when you are not giving an intentional aid.

    Simple, but not easy.
    Last edited by Janet; Oct. 13, 2012 at 12:13 PM.
    Janet

    chief feeder and mucker for Music, Spy, Belle and Tiara. Someone else is now feeding and mucking for Chief and Brain (both foxhunting now).



  20. #20
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    Mar. 26, 2006
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    What exactly does it mean "in front of the leg?" How is that not unbalanced?
    Sometimes it's not. As was explained very nicely upthread, when we say "in front of the leg" we mean the horse is motoring along without constant nagging from us.

    If we're having Issues with Forward, sometimes all we want the horse to do is GO when we cue for that. If they are off balance and on the forehand, that's OK, we can work on that later by using half-halts and rebalancing. "Forward" always comes first. Everything else gets easier when that is there.



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