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Western Dressage, "Flat work" for hunters, or Dressage for All Horses

Kristin has been training dressage for over thirty years.  Dressage simply means the gymnastic training of the horse.  Any horse will benefit from schooling dressage.  A rider does not have to show dressage to learn or use dressage to enhance their horses training. 
Recently there has been a trend for Western Dressage!  In 2007,  Kristin did a symposium presenting dressage as gymnastic training for all horses.   (see article to the right).  
All horses benefit from schooling dressage whether it is your hunter learning how to approach fences in balance from both directions, or your competitive trail horse needing to carry itself equally across terrain so as to not wear itself out by leaning more on one leg.  
 Dressage is like yoga for horses.  It keeps the body supple, athletic and balanced for any kind of activity.  Stretching your body and your horse's body  and training gymnastic movements to create and maintain  suppleness makes all horses ( and riders) perform better and maintain soundness for many years of performance or just plesaure.   

Dressage Training Demonstration


Gymnastic Training for all Horses

for the South Western Pa. Saddle Club Charity Horse Show
benefiting The Humane Society of Greene County

Waynesburg Fairgrounds October 1, 2006.

Presenter Kristin Hermann


Coventry Equestrian Center


 “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 approach 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 thousand dollar 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, more responsive to the rider’s aids, better able to understand the rider, and straighter thus balanced in its performance. Ultimately, the horse then becomes happier, more respective and responsive to the rider.


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.


Kristin 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 at Grand Prix which is the pinnacle of training dressage for competition.    
    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 may use the word “dressage” when they speak of training.  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 or the gymnastic training of the horse. A rider simply needs to know that dressage, or training,  simply means riding your horse with a foundation of clear communication that progresses both horse and rider through a series of gymnastic patterns that  develop a unified partnership between equine and human.

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