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Developing the Art of Dressage

Updated: May 18, 2023

Do you understand what the "Art" of dressage is?

  • Yes

  • No

I often don't know where to start these blogs...there is an endless amount of "stuff", thoughts and ideas swirling around my head but that doesn't mean that they should all be seen on paper! So I find myself musing on various topics. I hope that doesn't bore you.

So, here is my most recent "musing"...

As my own training has continued over the past month, I feel that I have gained a greater understanding of our horses every day. Their personalities appear to develop more, their likes and dislikes becoming more apparent. I feel as if we are becoming more of a partnership in mind as well as body. The "art" of dressage is coming to the fore.

This is wonderful but also poses its challenges. We often have horses in for training and here in lies the main challenge. When you are working to create a bond, a partnership a certain amount of time must be spent with the horse for both of us to gain trust and understanding of one another. For personalities to emerge and confidence to grow. If a horse is left with us for a week or two it is nigh on impossible to gain this "deep" understanding. It often requires two or more solid weeks of work to start the process, but at least a month to six weeks to begin to achieve it. I must stress that this is only the takes much much longer to achieve than even this. I find that it requires that length of time for the horse to have gained a good understanding of what is required, and to have gained confidence in his abilities and body for the exercises. For me, not only is this a wonderful, special thing to have with a horse but it is also integral to getting the most out of the partnership.

Herein lies the issue. To train successfully we need these things to fall into place, but often this is not doable. To this end we do prefer to take in horses who's rider's we are already working with so that we are all on the same journey. For those horses, that we have in that are not going along this path we have a different plan. We try to make them as comfortable in their bodies and minds as possible and that is our main goal for that period of time. That can be done through our management of the horse, through his work, whether it is hacking, long reining, in-hand training, riding or lunging. And, it can also be through specialist proprioceptive work (this entirely depends on the individual horse).

Liz Frayling a lot of time on developing a deep bond with her horses

To return to the "art". I remember when I was young spending so much time just hanging out with my ponies, playing games and just having fun. As an adult with competitive goals and from a place where the equestrian business must make us a living, it is very hard to keep that sense of fun and connection that you inherently have as a child, with your horse. It has to become a whole way of thinking and being so that you don't stray off of that track. That is another point of importance. It is easy to stray, especially when competitions come into the picture. However, those who train only for the summer competitions, I feel are really missing so much of the love and art of horses and equestrianism. It is hard to have an animal 100% be with you and for you if you ignore them for the winter season. These are my opinions only and I know many people do have successful careers training in this way, it's just not for me.

With that I will leave you to consider my musings and hopefully have some of your own. As always if you have any questions please do get in touch. Or maybe consider joining the Toorala Academy where you will have access to lots of training ideas and a whole community of like-minded people!

Over and out!


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