Coventry Equestrian Center

Dressage Training Demonstration

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Dressage Training Demonstration
October 1, 2006

South Western PA Saddle Club Charity Horse Show
benefitting The Humane Society of Greene County
Waynesburg Fairgrounds
Presenter:   Kristin Hermann of Coventry Equestrian Center
Demo Riders:  Jerri Anesetti, Debra Warfield, and Susan Kuhn

"Dressage" is a French word that means "the training of an animal", specifically the gymnastic training of a horse. When Kristin Hermann, of Coventry Equestrian Center, was asked if she would give a dressage demonstration, she already knew what apporach she would use. Her opening statement to the audience of about 50 onlookers simply explained that dressage does not mean that you ride with a top hat and tails on a $25,000 imported Warmblood or that you ride with a baseball cap that says "Dressage Queen". Rather, dressage training can be utilized for all kinds of riding and horses. By "doing dressage", a horse becomes more supple and responsive to the rider's aids, better able to understand the rider, and straighter in its performance. Ultimately, the horse then becomes a happier, more respective and responsive horse.

To illustrate dressage as training, the demonstration riders showed three very different styles of riding. One rider was outfitted in traditional dressage show attire. One rider rode bareback with no fancy saddle and the third rider rode Western. All three riders demonstrated simple training maneuvers in all three gaits, such as riding a straight line to get the horse to move equally in both directions, stretching to develop the horse's top line and elasticity within the back, and lateral or side to side movements to strengthen and supple the horse. Midway through the demonstration, the Western horse and rider changed to English tack and riding attire and proceeded to exhibit the same maneuvers as when riding Western.

It was explained how "dressage" is a systematic approach to training any horse. This approach utilizes a training scale and various levels that a horse and rider slowly master as they progress with training. When one shows "dressage", that person is simply paying for the judge's opinion on how well the rider is doing with the training of the horse. In dressage tests, compulsory gymnastic patterns are performed that are symmetrical in all tests whether performing at the Walk/Trot Introductory Level or the Grand Prix which is the highest and Olympic level of competition.

Kristin and her demonstration presenters.

Any good basic training system will utilize dressage to encourage the horse to become more submissive, responsive and happy with its work. Not all trainers use the word "dressage" when they speak of training, as Kristin believes this is from stigmas associated with the word dressage such as the misconception that a fancy Warmblood horse and a special saddle and top hat are required. All horses benefit from good correct training/dressage whether it is a hunter learning to canter straight lines over fences and rating its stride, a trail horse opening a gate and moving off the rider's leg, or a Western horse giving at the poll to show submission and acceptance of the bit.
Overall, one does not have to perform "Airs Above the Ground" or the Haute Ecole to do dressage. A rider simply needs to know that dressage, or training, means riding your horse with a foundation of clear communication that progresses both horse and rider through a series of gymnastic patterns to develop as a unified partnership between equine and human.

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