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Wondering about Western Dressage?

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  • #21
    I would be sad to see a reining spin in a WD test.

    Big can of worms here, but a horse that spins good and fast on the INSIDE hind as his 'pivot point' is NOT balanced and set up to go after an errant cow immediately after the spin.
    You can see here in this slo-mo video that the spinning horse is on the wrong lead, relative to what is asked in a pirouette.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ePdn2tKW8fg

    If you do the 'reining spin' as a pirouette, the 'pivot foot' is the outside hind. The horse will not spin as fast. However, by setting the spin up as a pirouette, the horse is able to at any point in the spin, leap forward into canter to cover an errant cow. If he's spinning reining-style, on the 'wrong lead', he will have to rebalance himself before he can go forward.

    The whole 'reining spin' issue was a favorite of reining show-types to discredit Ray Hunt and Tom Dorrance, for 'teaching the spin wrong'. When asked about why they never did a reining spin the way show horses were trained to, Tom Dorrance replied (paraphrase here) that they pretty much didn't use that 'turn' to control a cow...because it doesn't control the cow.

    A rollback, though, DOES balance the horse for an athletic maneuver, like going to a cow or a jump. A rollback is a GREAT gymnastic exercise, but you can't start with a fully realized gallop in, rollback and gallop off. A rollback rebalances the horse, teaches him to rock his weight backwards, and especially weight the outside hind leg. If you want a great canter depart from halt or walk, you MUST be able to ask the horse to weight that outside hind, because he strikes off into canter with the outside hind. A canter depart with the horse already taking his weight on a coiled hind end (from balancing back in a rollback), striking off cleanly, makes for a lovely collected canter.

    Given a series of 'western dressage' tests, I would not ask for a rollback at speed until the higher level tests. I would start with rollback at a walk: done from a halt, backup four or five steps, rollback 90 degrees and walk forward. You might call that turn on the haunches, at that point. (And repeat in the test with another rollback going 90 degrees the other direction.) You'd progress through trot, halt, backup, rollback 90 or 180 degrees, trot; then go to lope, and last eliminate the backup before the rollback.

    And with half-pass, I would definitely put it in a test, but again at a higher level test. Lateral work needs to start at leg-yield, proceed through shoulder-in and then get to half-pass.

    Comment


    • #22
      That's the kind of thinking that goes into constructing a test. Thanks for the insight.

      Comment


      • #23
        Originally posted by longride1 View Post
        Keep this in mind when you're thinking of what should be in a 'dressage' test. Each movement chosen should be an exercise that strengthens the horse and prepares it for further work. A dressage test doesn't test accuracy - the picture. It test the muscles development and strength required. We know the training has been correct because the horse doesn't lose balance in a movement or going from one movement to the next. We know this because the feet land where we expect them to land while the horse maintains a balanced carriage and consistent contact. So if a horse is balanced, and a half pass is performed in a way that correctly builds muscle and balance, it will be done "correctly" or if you like accurately. To do it any other way shows a lose of balance. So should a spin be in the tests? Does doing a spin prepare the horse to do other work or is it a skill, like jumping, that is unique to itself. Should we ask the horse to maintain the canter in a pirouette, which is done to increase the flexibility and carrying power of the hind legs, or should we ask for a spin or a roll back which is very fast and very practical but does little to gymnasticize the horse? If a roll back is a gymnastic exercise, how is it improving the horse's overall carriage and balance?
        Yup. I get it. I'm not an expert in reining, so y'all feel free to correct what I get wrong in what I'll say.

        What I worry about is the way it seems to work in reining: Young horses do the same "movements" as older horses. So most of the competition and training of the horse is about improving the same things.

        That raises a question and a problem:

        1. Why does it take a dressage horse so dang long to get whatever muscle strength, coordination and training that guys put on young reiners? For that matter, how can USEF Hunters and HUS horses be so broke/strong that they deliver smooth flying changes early... while dressagers take forever to do those and make a big deal of that movement?

        2. FWIW, I don't think going in the "reining paradigm" direction is a good idea. Here, I mean that you do the same stuff when the horse is 4 or 10.... but don't expect good quality from the young horse. I think it will be too easy to keep mediocrity when the horse is 10 rather than asking him (or the trainer) to appreciate the nuances of "same but better." But I also think that the Western folks won't be patient enough for traditional dressage tests when it's clear in their training tradition that horses can do much more complex stuff earlier than the English world things.
        The armchair saddler
        Politically Pro-Cat

        Comment


        • #24
          The key word is straight. Western horses do flying changes. So do hunters. A baby can do flying changes. The change itself is not a particularly difficult thing and in classical dressage wasn't even a "movement." It comes late in testing because it must be done from full collection to be of gymnastic benefit or any kind of test. So the "test" isn't the change, but the level of collection that accompanies the change to give it lift and "expression." Same thing with reinback. It isn't tested until very late because the test isn't going backwards, but the balance required to go backwards then immediately forwards without losing the clear quality of the walk. Again this requires the ability to collect.

          Why does it take so long - because just doing the movement isn't the thing. Like weight lifting, anyone can pick up a bar bell if it's light enough. But used progressively over time, the weight of the bar bell can change hugely. Dressage movements build strength. It also is of no benefit to do some of them before the basic strength is there. The horse will either do it wrong, which destroys balance, or it can injure itself using muscles that aren't ready. So a horse can run sideways or spin or even roll back without harm as long as it can go crooked when it needs to, but repeated correct pirouettes would break the same horse down.

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          • #25
            In thinking about a response to mvp's initial question about what should be in a WD test, I read a handful of articles that I found on the internet. Some on the WDAA, others that I found in a google search. And, I'm going to take back most of what I said.

            It seems pretty clear to me that what the WDAA intends *is* simply english dressage in a western saddle for people who would like to do dressage but 1. prefer to ride in western tack and/or 2. have "western-type" horses that do not move and carry themselves in the way that the horses competing and winning in English dressage today do. I found it interesting that the WDAA says something like obedience and willingness should be favored over brilliance of movement in the scoring.

            And, there is nothing wrong with any of that.Therefore, I withdraw my earlier objection to having WD be simply English dressage in a western saddle on western horses.

            I will come back later and try to explain why I said I hoped that WD would NOT simply be ED in a western saddle. But, I'm going to have to get some work done first.
            "Facts are meaningless. You can use facts to prove anything
            that's even remotely true."

            Homer Simpson

            Comment


            • #26
              I saw some amazing flying changes at pole bending this weekend. The horse was beautifully balanced, the changes ran like water. I wish there was video because I'd study it. I asked the young man if he'd ever considered dressage for him and his saddlebred and he laughed at me. I might convince him to look at WD. He has an awesome seat and his horse is being brought along slowly and thoroughly (we're at the same barn).

              Paula
              He is total garbage! Quick! Hide him on my trailer (Petstorejunkie).

              Comment


              • #27
                Originally posted by longride1 View Post
                The key word is straight. Western horses do flying changes. So do hunters. A baby can do flying changes. The change itself is not a particularly difficult thing and in classical dressage wasn't even a "movement." It comes late in testing because it must be done from full collection to be of gymnastic benefit or any kind of test. So the "test" isn't the change, but the level of collection that accompanies the change to give it lift and "expression." Same thing with reinback. It isn't tested until very late because the test isn't going backwards, but the balance required to go backwards then immediately forwards without losing the clear quality of the walk. Again this requires the ability to collect.

                Why does it take so long - because just doing the movement isn't the thing. Like weight lifting, anyone can pick up a bar bell if it's light enough. But used progressively over time, the weight of the bar bell can change hugely. Dressage movements build strength. It also is of no benefit to do some of them before the basic strength is there. The horse will either do it wrong, which destroys balance, or it can injure itself using muscles that aren't ready. So a horse can run sideways or spin or even roll back without harm as long as it can go crooked when it needs to, but repeated correct pirouettes would break the same horse down.
                Got it.

                The tough part for any discipline that's not going to implode is finding some appreciable goal, or goals along the way.

                So I can see why the Hunter Princess who has the auto-change horse thinks that the DQs are making much ado about nothing. But show HP what else that lead-changing horse can do that her's can't and she'll see the value.

                I think the Western market will be the same kind of task master. They have younger horses that appear to do a hell of a lot that we wait on. They have a training and showing industry that's heavy on futurities and makes this work. (Also, while they get horses doing fancy things faster, I'm not sure they care if the horse is done by the time he's 10 or 12.) Working within these constraints, the DressageWorld is going to have to explain how their scoring and goals aren't just fussy, "how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?"-- type criteria.
                The armchair saddler
                Politically Pro-Cat

                Comment


                • #28
                  I found it interesting that the WDAA says something like obedience and willingness should be favored over brilliance of movement in the scoring.
                  Hooray!!


                  I also would hope that WD would not become ED in a western saddle. (ED? Maybe we need some Viagra...)
                  There are some distressing components in a lot of the winning 'Competitive Dressage', or English Dressage. I am sad to see extravagent movement win a dressage competition, in spite of the horse being very much on its forehand and well braced against a pulling hand. I look at today's newer designs of dressage saddles and see a huge thigh block, so the rider is more able to wedge his body against a pull backwards on the reins. I find that a testament to how much this style has been adopted by current 'dressage', and that is just sad.

                  It would be a bummer if Western Dressage rewarded the very things wrong with 'English Dressage'.
                  So yes, NoSuchPerson, I think I agree with your statement in general.

                  What I would hope to see, in an ideal world, is 'dressage' as a competition that rewards a horse/rider team that is developing strength, timing, athleticism, and collection in an appropriate stepwise manner, regardless of the rider's outfit or saddle.

                  Comment


                  • #29
                    And another thing!

                    When I start horses for western (and backyard) HOs, I have a problem.

                    I can explain to them that the kind of broke, comfortable, "power everything" horse they want to ride comes from correct training and a hell of a lot of strength behind. But I always worry when I have to tell them that it might take a *year* to build those muscles. I can put them on my schoolmaster so that they can see what counts as broke/strong to me..... but then I have to hope that they want that enough to wait for me to make their horse stronger.
                    The armchair saddler
                    Politically Pro-Cat

                    Comment


                    • #30
                      You know, I think the fundamental reason that I'm struggling with this stuff is that I am old. My first encounters with both dressage and western pleasure set my expectations of what those things are. Unfortunately, neither modern competitive dressage nor modern competitive western pleasure meet my mental image and old-fashioned definition of what those things are. So, I find myself juggling multiple competing concepts.

                      I look at the WD requirements and tests and I see it as being the same as dressage - or at least my 1970's era recollection of what dressage is and thus it is simply English dressage in a western saddle. But, as Fillabena notes, current competitive dressage is not the dressage of my teen years, so, yes, in that sense, I do not want to see WD be simply English dressage in a western saddle. (Have I confused everyone yet? )

                      LOL about the ED. Good catch. I was in a hurry and did not notice the consequences of attempting to use an abbreviation for English Dressage.
                      "Facts are meaningless. You can use facts to prove anything
                      that's even remotely true."

                      Homer Simpson

                      Comment


                      • #31
                        You haven't confused me, NoSuchPerson, or from those I've talked with, any of the influential people in the WDAA. Your words echo every dressage person and former WP rider I've spoken with that is excited by and willing to embrace WD.

                        Comment


                        • #32
                          I think what NoSuchPerson means is that modern WP and ED have become bastardized (and different) extremes of what she saw in the 1970s for both.

                          Me, too, though I'm not that old. I think the WD folks' decision to maximize the value of "trained" and minimize the "brilliance" score is a good place to start.

                          That's because so much of the "brilliance" is either bred-in big movement that is expensive and hard for most ammies to ride anyway. The stock-breed folks will need something other than the long-legged moves-huge-in-front WB as a criterion. But they would also restore what I saw in ED in the 1980s: Your POS-moving horse could be competitive because he was judged against the absolute standard of "this horse is using his body the best he can."
                          The armchair saddler
                          Politically Pro-Cat

                          Comment


                          • #33
                            Also a challenge for dressage horses is their size. Yes, it takes longer for horses to reach a certain level of collection because most modern dressage horses are huge, flashy, big moving hunks of warmbloods. They take longer to grow, they take longer to gain that much more muscle, and heck it's hard for their legs to cross when they're 5 feet long! I would say that most western horses (QH is particular) are more agile. But, they don't have the extended gaits that modern english dressage horses need to excel in the show ring.

                            Someone mentioned the snaffle.. That has everything to do with contact. English dressage horses are required to maintain contact. Theoretically, it's light, but it's there. It's actually something your score is based on. So a big debate with dressage riders about WD is that there is no contact, which in principle throws a lot of what english dressage is based on out the window.

                            Also, this is a fun video. I know it's a reiner, but I think its a decent illustration of the differences physically between western and dressage
                            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tF6bfJkhPEc

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