Measuring degrees of dressage collection

Dressage Today did an absolutely fantastic article about Measuring Degrees of Dressage Collection. I highly recommend reading it for every rider, not just for those riders interested in dressage. The article is full of great quotes, but there's also a lot of general good sense which you don't have to be into dressage to appreciate.
"Think like a horse and you will understand."

Although this will not come as a surprise for anyone, when your horse reacts in a negative way towards something, then think like him to try to understand why. This is something that my mum made me realized a couple of weeks ago after our awful hack out (you can read my moaning post here!) Because it was windy, Vallu could have been hearing things that I couldn't hear, and then his fight or flight instinct kicked in. After a lot of crying and freaking out, mum made me think like him, and understand Vallu's reaction. This is just one specific example, but it shows that being human does sometimes makes it difficult to understand our horse's actions.
"With a proper connection, you ride the whole horse, not part of the horse. The rider with a correct connection controls the hindquarters and, therefore, controls the whole horse."

How many times have you heard a trainer talk about the connection? I'm sure that I've heard it many thousands of times, and I'm only 20! But even though you're repeatedly told about the connection, and told to try find the connection between you and your horse, it simply isn't that easy. I've been riding Vallu for well over a year and only now have I had a lightbulb moment where it has all made sense, and I actually understand what everyone has been talking about all these years. Achieving the proper, true connection has made me one step closer to being a good rider, and now I can try to start riding the whole horse, instead of just the front end.
 "The horse is not a machine. I always feel that when I take one step back I can then, as a result, take two steps forward."

The above quote is now going to be my motto for the next year. I freely admit that my biggest weakness is to constantly push forwards, and then to be utterly heartbroken and disappointed when things don't go perfectly. I don't think that there is a horse in the world that will always take you forwards every time you ride, so then there is absolutely no reason for me to expect that Vallu and I will constantly progress forwards? When you do get two steps forward, it's great, but even those steps back should be appreciated since they'll teach you the most. 

Using Vallu and me as an example, the most recent one big step back was last Sunday when I decided to try to push us out of our comfort zone (hoping to make a step forward) and ride in the outdoor arena whilst there was a dressage competition going on. Needless to say, it was a near catastrophe, and I lost a huge amount of confidence in our ability to cope in a more stressful atmosphere, and basically came to the conclusion we will never ever go to a competition. The horses going in and out of the indoor arena for their tests and the horse lorries coming and going was just too much, and Vallu spent most of the time spooking, running off, and rearing up. Ok, so we took a major step back. But now, after that fiasco, I can ride Vallu outside when it's quiet no problem, and we've taken two steps forwards. Who knew that thinking like this would make a seemingly disastrous ride actually feel less hideous, when looked at from a different point of view?!

"There are many roads to Rome, and each rider has to develop his own feel and style so he can find the right road for himself."

Just because one dressage star has made their way to the top of their game using a specific road, doesn't mean that you have to use the same road to try and get there. This is one of the most important things that my brother has ever taught me. You do not have to put up with a person who tries to force you to do things their way, or using their road. A trainer/teacher/friend does not have the right to force you to take their road, they are just meant to show you a way of riding, and you can use it if it works for you. As a rider, I feel like it is your duty as a rider to stick to your guns, and to develop to ride in your own way and find your own road to Rome.
"The key to success in dressage is to make it look easy and beautiful."

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