April 29, 2010

A New Book - The Elements of Dressage

Although I generally describe myself as a hunter/jumper rider, I have a basic foundation in dressage training. I've only ever shown training level, and schooled at 1st level (although at the time I didn't quite understand what that was). My trainer during my college years, CJ Law, primarily shaped me as a rider and it is to her merit that I became the rider that I did in such a short period of time. As part of my training, she was adamant about me having a dressage foundation. Insisting that 90% of jumping is flat-work (something that I wholeheartedly agree with) her flat lessons were often more grueling than the jumping lessons, and that is not to say that those were easy either. I definitely remember jumping with a broom stick behind my back, jumping with my eyes shut, and jumping without stirrups and sometime bareback, just to name a few. Our flat-work exercises were similar, but longer, as there was no time to rest while standing in line as a classmate finished her round. To my twisted brain, the harder the work the more I loved the lesson, and I thrived under CJ's instruction. As such our flat-work exercises were made up of a lot of dressage movements. Through all of this, I learned an appreciation for flat-work, the importance of flat-work to any horse's training and development, and as a added bonus I learned to collect and sit the bounciest of trots on any Arab or other breed you could throw at me!

It has been many years since my last lesson with CJ, and a flat lesson with any trainer. Since I don't want to start working Rose hard under saddle until she's 4, and no real jumping until she's 5, I thought it was about time that I brushed up on my flat-work theology, primarily within dressage. A while back I put myself on the used book wait list at powells.com for K. A. von Ziegner's "The Elements of Dressage: A Guide to Training the Young Horse" and it arrived in the mail a few days ago. I had just finished the last novel in a popular fiction saga I've been reading and really didn't want to study, so the arrival of a new book was the best Saturday afternoon procrastination gift that I could have given myself. I opened the cover and flipped to the first page, and before I knew it I was already on Chapter 3 and have since nearly finished the book!

I am so impressed with this book. Ziegner explains his reasoning for doing things a certain way in the most logical straightforward manner I've ever read, and there is just enough, but not too much historical information to explain his views. My appreciation of the book is certainly helped from the fact that I understand his point of view an happen to agree with the majority of it. As Rose could theoretically go in any direction with her training at this point, I think a good basic dressage foundation will be great for her. She can take her time this first year, really learning to relax, be balanced, and straight. Perhaps I'll even enter her in some training level classes next spring/summer! This book will be a great addition to my library and training arsenal for Rose's first couple years.

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