Two Worlds Together Dressage Summit - Classical and Natural Horsemanship Blend

Sunday, March 24, 2019
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Montage-Dressage Summit.jpg

Clinicians:  Christoph Hess, Luis Lucio, Pat Parelli, Linda Parelli. This was the 3rd summit of this kind that has been held. The first was in Wellington, Fl and the second in was in Germany. The clinicians are attempting to blend (bridge) the 2 worlds of natural horsemanship and classical dressage.

Christoph Hess
Worked with 4 different riders (sorry I did not get names) and stressed many times that the better you ride the better friend you are to your horse. Keeping the horse happy and relaxed was stressed with each rider. Hess had the riders warming up on a loose rein in the walk and then trotting with lots of rising trot and then cantering in 2-point or a half seat to let the horses's back warm up. Hess stressed that the horse will find his own balance in this way.  He also felt it was important to do training session outside of the arena because riding over uneven ground is good for developing a horse's balance. Hess stated "You can do dressage anywhere".

Hess likes to see dressage horses engage in some jumping and caveletti exercises to improve freedom of movement and strength. He had each rider work on a leg yield tendency on a circle at the walk and trot to teach the horse proper bend on a circle and develop contact. During the session when a horse spooked and was "running away" he encouraged the riders to go with the horse since they are flight animals and this is their natural tendency. He also encouraged the riders to give the reins more, even in upper level movements. Hess felt that it was better to start work in the direction that is easier for the horse.

During training riders must remember to work at having longer and shorter strides in the trot and the canter and not just the same monotonous gait. This will make your horse more elastic. Riders should end the training session always on a good movement, avoiding "working until you get it wrong". Follow that last, good movement with some easier trotting and then walking on a loose rein. Do not just stop and drop the reins. This is a bad habit that will cause problems for riders.

Linda Parelli
Although I am not a Parelli person I enjoyed Linda Parelli's presentation on The Happy Athlete. She stated that a horse's needs are safety, comfort and play. Ultimately the goal is harmony.

She went on to briefly demonstrate the Parelli way of communicating with horses using the Seven Games and emphasized that most people do not understand the goal of each game.  After explaining these 7 goals she got on her horse and demonstrated how the games apply to riding your horse.

Luis Lucio
Luis Lucio presented on Using the Heart Rate Monitor. Luis has implemented the use of this monitor in his training programs as coach of he Spanish Olympic Team. It is used in many other disciplines, such as eventing, to evaluate fatigue levels and the readjust conditioning training program. It can also give us valuable information about emotional stress and anxiety. It can help us evaluate if the work has been too long or if the horse is getting tired or if they are feeling emotionally stressed and anxious. A normal easy posting trot Heart Rate would be around 90 but when collected at the Grand Prix level (or during a competition) the heart rate could go as high as 110 or 120. Sometimes heart rate is even higher than 120 if the horse is anxious. The more experienced and calm the horse is the lower the HR will be.

In training it is important to know when to take breaks and allow the horse to recover, just walking gently until the HR is below 80. If the HR remains too high for too long we need to ask ourselves if the work was too long or too hard or too emotional for the horse at that time? The HR monitor allows us to make decisions with more than our perception and be more accurate in taking care of our horses's mental, emotional and physical well-being as well as possibly improve his attitude toward training.

It was fascinating to watch the screens placed around the arena showing the heart rates of not only the horses but the riders!!  I think all the riders were feeling the stress of riding in front of a large group of people as their HRs were very high!!  This was an interesting subject for me as I did a research project on recovery heart and respiratory rates of event horses as part of my thesis for my Master's degree many, many moons ago.

Gaile Gibson  
PS. I did purchase Christoff Hess' book, Ride Better and one of the DVDs "The Scale of Training In Action". I used some of the techniques I saw on his DVDs today riding my young horse and was pleasantly surprised to see how much riding a trot circle with leg yield tendency improved his transitions into canter!!