Dressage Secrets – Tips & Advice for the Dressage Rider

Dressage Secrets - Tips & Advice - hdr

The secrets of achieving a successful and harmonious Dressage Test.

Dressage judge Charles de Kunffy explains some dressage secrets and how to focus on your horse instead of the dressage movements to achieve a picture of harmony and ease in the ring.

The secret to a successful and harmonious dressage test involves two essential principles:

First, when riding your test, focus on your horse, not on the movements.
Second, warm up your horse appropriately so you can present a fresh horse and project a picture of harmony and ease.

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Ride your horse and not the test.

Dressage Secrets from Dressage Judge Charles de Kunffy

Too many riders ride from point to point instead of riding their horse.

Precision is very important, especially in Grand Prix, but sacrificing a movements quality as well as your horse’s suppleness and calmness just to be precise is a mistake.

Riding movements at a given letter is a guideline.

It tests the ability of the rider to control his horse and that the horse moves gymnastically correctly, that is in a rhythmic, supple, elastic, suspended and adjustable manner.

I often see that some riders ride movements that didn’t come out well twice.

For example, if a rider halts at A and his horse steps back, some riders halt again.

However, this will always lower the rider’s score as the judge will always judge the first halt.

A halt has to be immobile and not re-adjusted. Better to prepare for each upcoming movement as well as possible.

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Warm up your horse in a reasonable & efficient manner.

The warm-up is an important tool to prepare your horse for the test. An efficient warm-up is based on a system that can be divided into three phases. Between these, give rewards with brief rest periods.

    Make your horse supple, move him in rhythm and amplify his gaits to increase suspension. Present a fresh, willing, calm but focused horse to the judge. That’s winning for the horse but not necessarily for a red ribbon.
  • Limber up your horse and stretch him over the topline.
    Limbering up a horse means taking time to seek his own cadence and relaxation.
    The secret to achieve this is to ride constant changes of direction utilizing diagonals, circles and serpentines.
  • Perpetual changes of direction make the horse shift his weight from one side to the other with the result that he loosens up. They bring the horse onto the aids as they work the horse’s haunches and encourage him to engage his hindquarters.
  • Do gymnastic suppling
    This means lengthening and shortening the horse’s posture (topline) by lengthening and shortening his stride. This brings the horse’s focus onto the aids and engages his quarters.

Review and perfect these exercises. Remember that the purpose is to focus the rider and to hone the riders ability to execute correctly.

The horse does not need to review the exercises. It is the rider who does.

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Always avoid over-doing just one thing :

Avoid drilling certain movements over and over or working with the goal of making the horse tired by exhausting him.

Dressage Secrets from Dressage Judge Charles de Kunffy

Also, if you start out with a stiff horse and try to loosen him up by beginning the warm-up with collected movements, the horse will never have a chance to relax and become loose.

A principle that always remains relevant is "Your horse is your clock."

A lower level dressage horse can be warmed-up in about 15 minutes, with a Grand Prix horse it might take 35 to 45 minutes.

However, this is a general guideline, which might be different for your individual horse.

As a rider with feeling and a good communication with your horse, you should know when he is limber, supple and contented.

Gymnastic know-how, and preparing the horse properly are the secret for completing a successful, harmonious dressage test.