Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Dressage training pyramid, how I hate thee

Many of you are probably familiar with the dressage training pyramid:


I currently have a hate/hate relationship with this thing. See, Paddy and I are working on the very lowest two parts of the triangle - Rhythm and Relaxation. If you watched our video from our last lesson, you'll notice that we do a lot of speeding up and slowing down. I assure you that's not intentional on my part - if left to his own devices, Paddy would do a nice 12-mph park trot for an hour straight. So our rides have been a constant discussion:

Paddy: TROT FASTER!

Me: Easyyyy, buddy.

Paddy: FASTERRRR!

Me: Hey, I'm up here, I want to go slow.

Paddy: LOOKIT IMMA TROTTING RACEHORSE!!!

Me: Sit down, shuddap, and walk. Now, trot slowwwww...

Paddy: NEEERRRROOOOOMMMMMMMM!

In addition to our constant chats about rhythm, we also have huge issues with relaxation. Paddy is a forward-thinking guy. He's not spooky, but he's Going Places, and he's going to get there first. It's kind of a miracle I can now ride him at a walk on a loose rein, because when I first got him that would have quickly escalated into a zoomy trot within seconds of being given any slack in the reins. So we're getting better at relaxing at the walk, but relaxing at the trot is still completely beyond us. (And we're not even going to talk about the canter right now.)

Now, the next step, according to this pyramid, is connection and impulsion. But frankly, I'm not worried about that right now. What I AM concerned with is straightness. Because wow, can he throw his weight on his left shoulder (correspondingly taking his weight off his right hind) and flop around like nobody's business. He falls in to the left like he's cutting a cow, and drifts out when going right like there's a magnet sucking him to the rail. Laterals to the left are a joke, since he just throws his left shoulder out and leaves his hind end trailing somewhere in the next county.

I TRY to keep hold of that left shoulder, I really do. But I swear, it's got a mind of its own. Couple that with the fact that he's very heavy on the left rein, and there's not much to hope for. We've tried loads of different exercises - laterals, turns on the forehand/haunches, 10 m circles, serpentines... anything to get him to carry weight evenly on all four legs and be, you know, straight? All this while I'm trying to keep the rhythm and not tense my body up to match his. Nobody said dressage was easy, right?

In my lesson this weekend, we finally found the magic exercise: squares. More about those later, but wow, they got him straight, and for the first time ever we weren't trotting around at mach one-haffie. It was pretty damn incredible, actually. So I just would like to ask the people who came up with this silly training pyramid to rewrite it a bit. Can we put straightness first, at the bottom? Because that's how it seems to work for us. Get straightness and the horse has rhythm and begins to relax. 




Miraculous, really.


19 comments:

  1. Haha! I've always felt that straightness was in the wrong place on that thing. Instead, I tend to rearrange the building blocks however they fit together for the day. Whatever works, right?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I like the image of a bunch of blocks! And I agree, it's whatever works.

      Delete
  2. I feel like I'm on a consistent run up and down the pyramid, lol

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm starting to think it's just a pretty picture invented by some German dressage rider to confuse the rest of us. ;)

      Delete
  3. Trotting is the Haflingers favorite gait. Shy could trot for days and she has a turbo trot. So fast. I don't know much about riding dressage, but it does seem that straightness should be more near the bottom.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Turbo trot is exactly it! They're like little trotting machines.

      I get that straight is higher up because it's surprisingly hard, but I feel like it shouldn't be since it's such a key concept.

      Delete
  4. I think I've said it before but my training pyramid definitely looks like a game board from "chutes and ladders" we bop all over the place ;)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Chutes and ladders... I love this!

      Delete
  5. I think that park horse trot (including the speeding up of it) must be a haffie thing. My haffie mare has two speeds; the park trot, or a western jog, neither of which I want. LOL

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hmmm... I'm starting to see a Haffie trend here...

      Delete
  6. I honestly don't think anyone I've ridden with in YEARS has given much credit to the triangle. I think it's kinda outdated. We've made so much progress since then, who says we have to do it that way?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, my trainer laughed when I mentioned it, but I just found it amusing to see what order the triangle "says" we should work on things versus how things really happen when you're riding. I agree, we don't have to do it that way!

      Delete
  7. Replies
    1. Paddy prefers being round to being square, but fortunately for me he's flexible. ;)

      Delete
  8. I agree that the training scale is not linear. It is more like working through layers and sometimes you can't improve anymore at onelevel of the pyramid until another one is addressed. Harley was very zoomy in the beginning. I remember the square being helpful for us to. The mental challenge seems to aid relaxation which helps tempo and straightness adjustments by the rider. And of course a straight horse is better able to connect. Man, I miss riding!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The mental challenge of a square seems to help Paddy too. Nothing could be worse for relaxation than riding an endless 20 meter circle for him. It's interesting how the zoomy ones need a challenge, isn't it?

      And I hope you get to ride soon!

      Delete