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The Insider’s Perspective of Dressage

IMG_5190Dressage has been in existence for hundreds of years, and is still practiced in the purest classical form in only a few schools throughout the world. It is educational incentives and precise schooling which set this art form apart from other equine sports. Dressage translated, means training through the development of a special communication with your horse, which is also considered your partner. Training with the best interest of the horse in mind, Dressage works with the natural movement of the horse. It takes approximately nine years to train a horse to the advanced levels of Dressage. All horses and riders can benefit from learning the basics of this art form.

Dressage is an art form and an Olympic Sport. Why is Dressage beneficial to both the horse and rider? What makes Dressage so unique is that there are multiple training levels and guidelines that one must follow when correctly training their horse. A trainer can have fun learning these levels with their horse and, at the same time, develop a partnership that lasts a life time. Implementing a systematic training method is very important in this art form. In order to move up in the training scale, one has to learn to teach their horse how to correctly ride movements in the arena. The horse should learn how to balance itself while carrying a rider and staying supple, and learn how to avoid tensing up while doing so. This requires a lot of skill from the rider. His seat has to be balanced and supple in the saddle so that the horse and rider can communicate to each other in a harmonious way with very supple aids. The rider’s hands should be very still and not disturb the horse’s mouth by pulling on the rein. Much damage can be done in the horse’s development when the rider does not know how to stay supple and connected to the horse’s mouth without jerking on the rein.

There are many letters in a Dressage arena, and many of these letters are used to perform different tasks. One has to learn Dressage tests and movements according the regulated roles of the United States Dressage Federation. These tests are designed for ratings from training level to advanced levels. Each test compliments the other.
In order to advance in Dressage, one must respect these guidelines and train the horse accordingly. There are two recognized arena sizes, 20 x 40 meter, which is used for the lower level horses, and 20 x 60 meters or the Olympic size, which is used for a Dressage horse’s first level and up. Be aware that there are many teachers who claim to teach Dressage, but very few who have the proper background and experience to do so. In order to teach this art form, one must first understand the concept of Dressage. To teach this discipline in the purest level, one must have the proper connections with schools that still teach the art in its’ most traditional form. An instructor may have the knowledge of Dressage, but may not be able to understand the horse’s mental state, and therefore not be able to sense how the horse feels and responds to their training. Every horse is different, and one must be able understand how a horse feels and thinks in order to create a training plan. Finally, one should never put personal gains, such as the desire to win, before their horse’s health and well-being. No true Classical Dressage School would allow a student to train in their facility with such an intent.

By Karin Matey


DSC00668The Top Ten Tips for Horse Care

Caring for horses is an art. It takes considerable time, money, effort and knowledge to properly care for these special animals. Horses are not like other animals that can be left unattended to their own devices. Below are some tips to help horse owners make better choices for themselves and their horses.
1) Proper Nutrition
A proper diet is most essential to a horse’s health. Horses need to have a set feeding schedule in order to assure longevity of health and wellness. Grain with proper vitamins and minerals is an important part of a daily balanced diet. Depending on a horse’s body weight, not more than two or three quarts of grain should be fed at a session. It’s best to feed your horse hay before grain because hay is roughage that helps move grain through the digestive system. Extra hay should always be left for consumption to satisfy the individual horse’s need. Because horses have small intestines they need to be able to feed on small portions of hay all day long. Grain should be feed twice a day.
2) Grooming
In order to assure a healthy and shiny coat, horses should be brushed on a daily basis. This helps promote not only a healthy coat, but gives the horse owner a chance to check their horse for hidden cuts or puncture wounds that might otherwise be left undetected. Good grooming habits protect a horse from environmental conditions, such as the wind, rain or sun. A large variety of brushes are available on the market to help with your horse’s grooming needs.
3) Worming
Horses should be wormed at least three to four times a year. Worms are usually caused by flys who lay their eggs in low grass, hay, or even on a horse’s coat. When digested, these eggs can hatch in a horse’s intestines and cause major problems. These may include loss of appetite, weight loss, bloadiness, dull horse coat, or even colic. It is generally recommended to worm your horse every six to eight weeks. A wide variety of worm pastes are available on the market today. If you are in doubt about which worm medicine is right for your horse, then you should consult a veterinarian.
4) Hoof care
The health of a horse depends on having healthy hoofs, and having healthy hoofs depends upon having a well skilled farrier. A farrier can help you decide if your horse will be better off wearing horse shoes or simply barefoot. Health problems can be avoided if a horse owner takes the necessary steps to ensure good hoof care. It is the horse owner’s responsibility to screen farrier’s qualifications before allowing him or her to work on their horse. Horse shoeing, or trimming, is an art. A skilled farrier will consider the whole horse including his disposition, conformation, and the tracking of a horse’s steps, forward before developing a hoof trimming plan. Every horse is an individual, and it is of utmost importance that a farrier has the knowledge and expertise to properly determine and care for each horse’s needs.
5) Stable Management
Proper stable management can help your horse live a more healthy life. Good stable management includes cleaning and mucking horse stalls on a daily basis. It is not sanitary to allow your horse to stand in manure or urine for long periods of time. Bedding should consist of wood shaving, which help control odors and absorb wetness caused by urine. Use of straw bedding can be problematic for some horses because it can also cause colic. Studies show that colic is the number one killer of horses.
6) Veterinarian care
It is very important to vaccinate horses at least once a year for rabies, flu, and the West Nile virus. Vaccinating your horse can help prevent viral illnesses that may lead to common ailments such as respiratory infection or heart related issues. When health concerns arise, it is important to consult with a veterinarian who specializes in equine care.
7) Heated Water Buckets
In addition to hay, it is important to have an abundance of fresh and clean water available for your horse. In the winter, it is best to have electric water buckets available both in and outside of the barn to keep horses hydrated and help prevent colic. Studies show that colic is the number one killer of horses.
8) Horse Blankets
I recommend blanketing horses, especially older horses that may lose much of their body heat in cold winter months. A wide variety of blankets are available for every season including medium to heavy insulated winter blankets, waterproof blankets for rainy conditions, and fly sheets for summer months. Blanketing your horse can help the horse stay cool and offer protection from the sun, flies and mosquitoes. Waterproof blankets are designed to help keep a horse dry and worry free while enjoying the outdoors on rainy day. Protecting your horse with a waterproof blanket can also help prevent skin and coat conditions such as rain rot, a fungus caused by moisture from excessive wetness.
9) Leisure Time
Spending leisure time together can be one of the most rewarding ways to develop a relationship with your horse. There are no special skills required to sit or walk a horse. Observing your horse while in the stall or grassing in the pasture can help you better understand their habit(s) and/or behavior(s). Special time spent together will help promote and strengthen the bond between horse and rider for future success.
10) Staying Safe
In order to stay safe when handling horses, one should consider a few basic rules. All horses have blind spots. It is always safest to approach a horse from the front, and in a slow and calming manner. If a person startles or surprises a horse, it can result in an extreme reaction which may cause injury. Quick movements can trigger a horse’s natural fight or flight instinct and cause them to kick, bit or even bolt. It is our responsibility to be aware that horses can have quick reactions to certain triggers. A horse will allow you to step into their inner circle to groom when a trusting relationship has been established. Horses have a great recognition of a person’s voice. This can be one of the most valuable tools when handling horses.

Written by Karin Matey.