By Stacy Gormley
Any dressage rider who is devoted to the sport will tell you that dressage is the basis of all riding. Even more encouraging, however is the development of other equestrian disciplines such as show jumping and hunters towards this idea. Dressage offers many valuable assets to every discipline. Dressage offers the organization, control, collection and harmony that is extremely beneficial to everyone seeking a better quality equine performance.
Kristin Liebowitz, famed Grand Prix jumper rider and trainer to many top riders, strongly believes that incorporating dressage into her sport horses’ training makes all of the difference. “Jumping is just dressage with hurdles. It’s imperative to me that my horses are with me every step of the way around a jump course, which comes from the dressage training that I focus on with them. Dressage keeps a horse soft and submissive, which helps immensely while jumping.
I rely on little adjustments such as half halts and slight bending aids to pilot my horses around a course. I need my horses to be engaged and using their hind ends to get us safely over big fences.” Kristin has used this recipe for success to earn her numerous top honors including multiple Horse Of the Year and Rider Of The Year awards. Her students have consistently won in their divisions and qualified for national championships numerous times. All of Kristin’s young horses are started off with a firm dressage foundation and build upon that foundation as their jumping training also increases. The results are levelheaded, well-rounded athletes who respond to rider aids on the jump course and are also very capable dressage mounts. Kristin’s horses all know what “on the bit” means and always exhibit clean, uphill flying changes.
Young Rider Jamie Gennari is walking closely in the footsteps of Liebowitz and wholeheartedly agrees with Kristin’s dressage approach to jumping. In only one year, Jamie has taken her horse, Parcival and progressed him from the young horse basics up to Level 6 Jumpers (4’3” courses). The 17-year-old super talent has been under the instruction of Liebowitz for one year and is amazed at their progress. “When I think about where we were a year ago and where we are today, I can hardly believe it! Percy has come full circle and is now a happy, healthy horse who loves his job. We work on our dressage (flat) work on a very regular basis and it has made all the difference in our jumping. This year Percy and I qualified for the national championships in New York. I am so fortunate to have a trainer like Kristin who focuses on quality… and dressage work produces our quality.” Gennari just competed successfully in her first Grand Prix and hopes many more will be in her future.
Liebowitz emphasizes this philosophy to all of her students, beginning to advanced. Up and coming protégés, Betsy Pignatiello and Sonia Planas understand and have learned the importance of this philosophy well. “Cross training makes you look at the walk, trot and canter in a totally different way. Dressage also builds long, lean muscles, which prepare you for jumping and gives your abdominal muscles a real workout!” Sounds like these ladies are all on the right track!