Training Tips-Dressage Training For The Trail Rider
Many people will tell you that if you trail ride there would be absolute no reason for you to consider dressage training. They will tell you that you don't need to know anything about the concepts of dressage training like for Rhythm, Relaxation, Connection, Impulsion, Straightness and Collection. They are wrong the Pyramid Of Training that dressage riders use when training their horse most assuredly can be utilized by anyone wanting their horse to be relaxed, confidence and athletic on the trail.
Lets talk about a few of those training techniques on the Pyramid of Training and how they are effective training methods for trail horses.
Rhythm: Regularity of footfall that is maintained at all paces or gaits. Maintenance of a regular rhythm in all gaits gives the horse a solid foundation for training in any discipline. Why would a trail horse need to have rhythm? If your horse has rhythm and balance in his gaits he will move down the trail more efficiently. A good steady rhythm in your horse's gait will allow regular and equal spacing between the steps your horse takes, which aids your horse when traveling over different terrain on the trail.
Relaxation: When we talk about relaxation we are referring to the horse being supple and having elasticity in his gait. A horse should be relaxed, supple, athletic and obedient when riding on trail. When your horse is supple he can move freely and gracefully down the trail which means a more pleasurable ride for you.
Impulsion: Impulsion is the movement of a horse when he is going forward with controlled power. The power or engine of a horse is in his hindquarters. If you are on the trail and your horse is engaging his hindquarters he is moving far more efficiently down the trail for you. Your horse is also more balanced and he can adjust to changing terrain on the trail much easier. If he isn't putting on his all his weight on his front legs or as we put " he is not up on his forehand" he is less likely to become tired or injury himself.
Collection: Collection is increasing the impulsion of horse. Collection is often referred to as "being on the bit", but it's asking the horse to round his frame and push of his hindquarters. If horse is rounding his back and is in frame he is moving better. The horse reaches in underneath himself engaging his hindquarters. Why should a trail horse collect you ask, well again your horse is moving more efficiently on the trail which is good for both horse and rider. Being able to collect your horse means he isn't just pounding up the trail beating his fore legs he is using his hindquarters. It also means you can slow his gaits down over some terrain or ask him to length his strides over other terrain. Some riders find it gives them more control if their horse becomes nervous on the trail and loses his focus the rider can ask them to collect which will often result in regaining the horses focus. The level of collections asked of your horse when trail riding is far easier to obtains and sustain than the collections ask for in a upper level dressage test.
This is of course is just a short and simplified discussion of the training methods. There would be far more to be discuss and far more to be learned about this method of training. If you are interested in learning more about how Dressage training may help make your horse more confidence, pleasurable, safer and athletic please consider attending one of my clinics.