Training Thoroughbreds with Dressage

imatexan_20110611_024Dressage (pronounced dress-ahhzh) (a French term, most commonly translated to mean “training”) is a path and destination of competitive horse training, with competitions held at all levels from amateur to the Olympics.

Dressage training is also the foundation for any type of riding you might choose to do with your Thoroughbred.

Dressage is not just about upper level movements ridden to music in world -class competitions. It is a style of riding that is sometimes referred to as ballet on horseback. Dressage training makes the horse obedient and responsive to the rider, as well as supple and agile in his performance, balanced and listening for the next command from the rider.  You will learn to dance with your horse if you learn dressage. You do not have to become a “dressage queen” to benefit from learning dressage. Dressage will teach you and your horse to ride in a balanced frame, in harmony together.

Thoroughbred horses tend to be on the forehand due to the race training they receive. Race horses balance off the rider’s hands and pull with their front legs. Their hind ends are weak or sore from the way their muscles are used for racing. We use dressage training to rebalance the Thoroughbred and get them to use their hind ends more effectively.

Dressage will teach you to ride off your seat and not your hands. When riding a jump combination, you will be able to adjust the stride of your Thoroughbred by adjusting your position and not by grabbing his mouth or chasing him to a longer stride. With dressage training, your Thoroughbred will be obedient and responsive. Your hands will be supportive but light no matter whether you are riding a dressage test, riding cross-country or jumping a hunter course in the arena.

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At Bits & Bytes Farm we appreciate the skills of a good dressage trainer. We bring in trainers who have lots of great information to share. Each clinician brings new approaches to training – they give us new insights and training techniques so that our toolbox of training skills are enlarged. It always helps to have a person on the ground to help you with your riding.

Evie Stephens is a "hands on" instructor.

Evie Stephens was one of our recent clinicians. She worked with the boarders and Thoroughbreds of Bits & Bytes Farm. Each rider and horse received one-on-one (and hands on) training from Evie. She shared many great tips and techniques with us. She also taught us about the importance of lunging and showed us how to teach a horse to lunge properly and how to set side reins.

Under saddle, we learned how a small piece of string can help balance a horse like using draw reins but eliminating the chance of the misuse of draw reins. We learned how to use our legs to motivate the horse and not drive with our seats. We each learned different things about dressage because we are all at different levels of knowledge and so are our horses – that’s what a good trainer will do.

Dressage when done well is beautiful. While learning, it can be most difficult to master, but every little success makes the journey worthwhile.

Dressage is meditation in motion.

Find a good trainer who wants to share a lifetime of knowledge and learn to dance with your Thoroughbred.

Former race horse, Thoroughbred Popular Five learning his second career in dressage.
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