Dressage or modern-day Stressage?

I’ve been able to watch the Olympic Equestrian sports via live-stream on the fabulous (and to me previously unknown) European Broadcasting Union!

The advantage is that you just get the live broadcast with the camera man/men following the action, and the mics picking up the noise from the crowd and from the horses!

No talking heads, no studio discussions. Just me, my computer and enough ironing to keep me going for the duration of the Olympic Equestrian disciplines. Bliss!

I cheered the eventing teams – well done to all who competed and completed all phases. Whew!

I missed the first day of the dressage, but managed to see some of day 2 … and hear it too.

Wow. Some of these dressage horses sound like tennis players grunting their way through their serves!

This raises the question Dressage or Stressage?

We’ve all seen the recent photos doing the rounds of certain Olympic riders bending not only their horses’ necks during their warm-up, but also the rules laid down by the FEI.

Horses get spun from jumping for being hypersensitive and the rider or team has no possibility of having the decision over-ruled, despite there being no obvious stress to the horse, yet some Olympic dressage riders warm-up and enter the dressage arena riding in a way which has supposedly been banned by the FEI, and go on to receive the second-best score of the day!

A sad day for modern-day Stressage.

It seems to me modern – day dressage riding in general has become completely fixated on the horse’s head carriage – up, down, round, not round etc., and the horse as a whole has been forgotten. The horse’s head carriage should, in my mind, reflect the stage of affairs starting from the hind quarters and working forward to the head.

Were dressage judges and their ruling body to start looking at what the rest of the horse’s body was doing during a test, (lengthening of frame in a gait, rise and fall of the legs and hand of the rider, matching diagonals, how the rider is sitting (!) etc.) then maybe dressage would once again become Dressage and not Stressage!

Bravo to all those riders who really are aiming to ride poll-high, do show changes of frame within a gait, manage to ride with the curb bit in the vertical, not horizontal and are an example to all of us choosing to improve our skills.

The FEI judges might not give you high marks, but I, for one, do!



Always wear appropriate safety items of clothing, gloves, shoes and head protection when handling or riding your horse. There is always some risk involved in horse training for both you and the horse. Be sensible and stay within your level of training. This information illustrates the training methods and techniques I and my colleagues use. It is your responsibility to use it wisely. It is not intended to replace personal instruction from a professional instructor. Keep yourself and your horse out of trouble. If you wish to learn more about these methods contact us at: elizabeth@horsetrainingsolutions.com www.horsetrainingsolutions.com

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