Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Dressage Explained in Basic Math

math face v similar to dressage face
I'm not a math nerd and never have been, but I'm also used to say I wasn't a dressage queen and now I'm turning into one. Oops.

While I was talking to JenJ about a solid dressage ride the other day (srsly everyone needs horse friends to nerd out with), I realized that a lot of dressage can be explained with math. 

For example, I started a dressage ride with a horse camped behind my leg, stuck all through his back and neck, and braced against the bit. My first inclination was to kick him forward, but on a sticky thoroughbred, the following equation ALWAYS applies. 

inversion + speed = inversion + speed AND tension

all the trotting
So that was a bad idea. Conventional wisdom says to add leg, but Courage was basically a solid turd of NOPE at this point. That brings us to the next relevant equation.

leg (a log) = tired legs 

There is no change in the log. In case you were wondering. It's brutal. 

At this point, I was a couple of fails in and still sitting on a camped-two-miles-behind-me horse. Obviously we needed a new plan. I remember reading Karen's post the other day about her struggles on her own greenie and where they got her.

So we tried that. 

A Log + (leg + contact) + chain saw to break up log = shoulders moving


plus yay clinic this weekend!
Add time to both sides of the equation... 

And somehow I ended up riding butter. It was amazing. Once I was able to break Courage loose, he started swinging everywhere. Moving forward. All of a sudden, we had contact. Bend. Transitions. 

Honestly, Courage is really starting to "get" dressage, and moments like that are just so damn cool. Even if we have to do a lot of math to get there. 


  1. I can and will do this kind of math. Screw all other math. Yay clinic!

  2. Excellent math principles in action!

  3. Yeah! Awesome! Tucker gets locked up through his rib cage and lower back, so his front end is going everywhere while his back end is going nowhere, and it feels really, really awful. So we do lots of sideways stuff until he remembers he has four legs.

    1. Four is really the best number of legs for a quadruped.

  4. That might be "basic" math but I have no idea what you're talking about.

    Dr Clawson

    1. Haha sorry. Not my best writing ever.

      Basically, I applied Karen's concept of moving the horse's shoulder to create through-ness. So instead of futile-y trying to get him to stretch and bend, I held a steady contact (with whatever he gave me) and moved him off my leg both directions until I felt like he had some moving pieces in there somewhere.

  5. I need a more definitive explanation!!! Please!! How did you make the shoulders move?
    Carol in Washington

  6. I second, Dr. Clawson.

    I guess this means I shouldn't do dressage?

  7. What a cool way to look at it! Sounds like a great ride.

  8. "Buttery" is always my favorite way to describe a really relaxed and supple horse. You can just smear them over and around with your leg and seat!

  9. Thanks for the shout out. :0)

    Just today I saw the most interesting thing in Dressage Today. The back page is always a drawing of a concept. In the July issue (I am REALLY behind in my reading), the suggestion was "to create throughness with correct bend when your horse is crooked ... Imagine your crooked horse as a kinked hose. You need to straighten him to get the kinks out and get the water (his energy) flowing. Then you can bend him correctly" The drawing that accompanies the text is a picture of a horse with a water horse drawn on top of the horse. His haunches are falling out and the hose is kinked right between his shoulders.

    This is a great visual. If the shoulders are locked and tight and the haunches are in or out, the energy can't flow through. By moving the shoulders around, you can get the kink out and get the energy flowing. Genius!

  10. Last lesson the fat pony and I were having a tense conversation about flexion. We had ten minutes left and I asked if we could do some shoulder in. Ha, the shoulders were the problem. In the end we moved to leg yelled with head to the wall, aka ?crooked side pass. Five minutes later the flexion us due was resolved. My thought....I can't fix what's not working by doing what is not working. Or find another door.

    1. Grr iPad....leg yield. also issue, not us due!

  11. the feeling of a horse camped out behind my leg is maybe my least favorite feeling EVER. interesting that moving the shoulders around really helped tho. must try!


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