Coming out of a local restaurant tonite, I noticed the front plate on a truck. “Oklahoma Dressage Association”.
Dressage (I was told, something like “training” in French) is about riding a horse. Riding in a standard-sized arena. Riding standard test patterns.
The competition test might include various gaits – the walk, the trot, the canter. Maybe a variation on speed – a relaxed trot, a working trot, an extended trot. Maybe a change of direction – and accompanying change of “lead” – which leg moves forward first, on the horse, in the given gait. It matters, in circles, in corners, etc. The horse is much less likely to stumble over its feet or miss a stride if on the correct lead – which is the rider’s responsibility to train for and command.
But – Transition? This “rich people” exercise of buying expensive horses, buying expensive feed, hiring teachers and trainers, renting stable and practice space? Learning to work with livestock, understand “what goes in, must come out”, understanding that nutrition and practice are essential to get the expected results when you climb aboard?
To learn about finding feed, dealing with people that know hay from supplements from complete feeds, to meet people that understand large animals as livestock, as companions, and as competitors.
You might never use a horse as transportation. But being able to raise, train, and work horses takes a lifetime’s experience – and learning can start in a couple of months. Working horse farms depended on the adults knowing how to care for their horses and other livestock, and we are sadly poor in this tradition. By learning the discipline and precision of dressage, we prepare our children, and ourselves, for thinking “outside the car”. If and when the need comes.
At the least, dressage teaches the rider precision, respect, consistency, caring for the horse and learning they are dependent on the comfort and communication to and from the horse. By striving to achieve, riders learn to apply effort, overcome problems – and meet their test.