Dressage is an equine discipline of beauty, partnership and art. YouTube is full of spectacular videos of elite horses and riders. When Blue Hors Matinee’s freestyle was viral, a dozen non-horse friends sent me the link. I hear Moorlands Totilas has groupies like the rock star that he is, but my personal favorite will always be Klimke’s Olympic victory lap on Ahlerich.
It’s inspiring to see dressage demonstrated by a skillful FEI rider on an impeccably bred Warmblood as they dance through a grand prix test. I can think of only one thing better; seeing the result of dressage training on a horse who has not had all of those advantages.
Don’t be intimidated by the elite pinnacle of the sport, this stuff works for every horse.
Do you have a young horse? There’s nothing better to settle his mind and develop his muscles. A mid-life horse? Dressage will supple and strengthen a mature horse, often bringing on so much relaxation that snorting vocalizations fill the air. Finally, older horses might be the biggest fans of dressage training. Stretching and bending warms old, tight muscles and a ride can feel like a massage to them. Postponing retirement is always good news for horses and riders who want to continue working together.
This dressage stuff works.
We are a pretty inclusive crowd here at Infinity Farm, not too particular about tack or breed. I have worked with the usual range of horse breeds and disciplines, some lovingly owned and some rescues. All horses are individuals and they have taught me to be confident in these fundamentals of dressage.
But what about donkeys?! Yes, I got the call; would I work with a mammoth donkey? Irresistible. (I have trained donkeys to drive, but mine are too small to ride.)
Meet Sarah and Cindy. (Sarah is the long-eared one.) Cindy is an experienced rider with lots of trail miles, who wanted to see what dressage had to offer. Sarah is a happy, confident donkey used to being treated with respect. We were all on the same page.
There was lots of humor as terms were defined and riding position was adjusted. We had a fine start, circles were roundish and Sarah has a great, ground-covering walk- score an undeniable 8, long-ears and all.
I like to use an Intro level test early on in lessons as a way of explaining parts of dressage. I encouraged Cindy to translate this first test into a kind of arena obstacle course. Sarah has a fine sense of direction, once Cindy located those letters (placed in their usual but nonsensical dressage order.) And Cindy would have more time to navigate if Sarah’s trot wasn’t so forward and light. I’m sure Cindy will figure it out, and Sarah is patient.
At the end of the ride, Cindy pulled off Sarah’s bridle and Sarah had the same sweet smile as the photo above. She likes dressage.
Because this dressage stuff works.
Anna Blake, Infinity Farm.