The Art of Natural Dressage

How to start over with riding?
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Author:  horsenducks [ Sat Dec 22, 2012 3:33 am ]
Post subject:  How to start over with riding?

With winter upon us over here (but still no snow) the ground is too hard to do much riding, and it's really motivated me to finally take the plunge and "start over". But I have some questions...

I know that I should probably start with the exercises to prepare for the Cordeo, right?

At what point would it be... appropriate to hop on and start riding (with a bitless bridle/cavesson, not just the cordeo) at the walk? I have ridden my mare in a halter with reins clipped on the sides many times, but while I did have plenty of control, it certainly wasn't very refined. I'm going to need a lot of moral support because I don't want to get too excited and rush things!

Is it ok to ride in between groundwork sessions even before my horse is completely familiar to the cues from the cordeo, or should we "master" the use of that first?

Author:  Romy [ Sat Dec 22, 2012 8:50 am ]
Post subject:  Re: AND Newbie - I have some questions...

Here is a link to our FAQ, which also includes a link to a collection of different discussions. I guess you will find a lot of information over there already.

Concerning the riding, I think there are many different opinions and probably you will get completely different replies by other people. This is because AND is not a method but a study group, with people sharing what works best for them, instead of promoting a "One Best Way".

Personally, I do not start by introducing cordeo cues because I do not use a cordeo for cueing. Instead, I usually work on the horse's reaction to my bodylanguage as a first step (a description is here: Encouraging politeness). Concerning the riding, I would not ride a horse that is younger than four, but if he is old enough, I am less of a perfectionist than many people would advise. Actually for me, all there needs to be before I start is:

- a basic willingness of the horse to attend to my cues
- an understanding that he is being rewarded for doing what I am asking
- an unambigous stop sign (for us that's me breathing out loudly, or blowing air)
- a basic level fitness (which your horse can reach with the groundwork exercises described here in the forum, but in other ways as well. My own favourite fitness program is going for long walks in the hills)

Once I am on my horse, the second thing I would do (the first is giving a treat ;)) is to make sure the stop cue works from up there as well, check that frequently, and reward very much each time he stops so that this becomes his default response. This is our way of keeping me safe when riding even when we have not worked out a perfect and orderly set of cues yet. Other than that, I would - just like in groundwork - simply experiment with my moves and reward the horse for his reactions to them, whatever that might be. In that way he is teaching me the correct cues. After the first (about three) sessions in an enclosed area, I would start riding out in the forest, where the horse has a path to go, so that on one hand there is a purpose of walking forwards (many young horses seem to find that difficult in an arena), but at the same time no decisions about direction have to be made yet because the path clearly defines that.

Good luck, and if you have further questions, just ask! :)

Author:  Barbara [ Sat Dec 22, 2012 11:01 am ]
Post subject:  Re: AND Newbie - I have some questions...


I'm not good at writing here because of a lack of time to get everything done, but I wanted to respond to what is being said here. I thought I would have different ideas than those of Romy, just because I do ride a lot more than she does, or so I understood from our previous talks, but I really have to agree :).
I don't use the cordeo either, it does not fit me, but I use a bitless bridle, a simple cavesson with which I am getting very good responses. I did teach him where I like his head from the ground, so that it translates to being on top of him, it's actually the same as with a bit, he just needs to understand what I like and then he tries to do that. I do all the ground exercises and use my body a lot, but also try to imagine what it needs to look like, just seeing it happen works for us, because Beau really wants to do it right. Then when I get on I do the same as Romy, give a treat before leaving and then test if our breaks work. Stopping is a very important exercise, certainly if you want to ride without a bridle from time to time. And then I try doing something and see what happens, trying to get my body to know what to do for the exercise I want to ride. Getting refinement comes from practice and understanding each other, giving a treat helps a lot with my horse, this way he doesn't mind riding in an arena, as long as good things happen when he tries... Doing sideways movements and getting control over your and his body (because he will try to follow your posture) will lead to refined communication. He gets stronger and so do you. If you can find a good instructor who can just help you feel what you are doing in your body that can help, it depends on how well you are familiar with your own body and what is straight and what is not.

And above all enjoy the journey...
big hug

Author:  horsenducks [ Sat Dec 22, 2012 3:46 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: AND Newbie - I have some questions...

Thank you both for the helpful replies. Barbara, I know you posted in my other thread once you learned my horse's age and previous training, but for anyone else who reads this thread I suppose it would be helful if I mention that she is 7 1/2 years old and has been trained W/T/C in a mix of basic Dressage and Huntseat methods. But what has been posted so far seems like it can certainly apply to any horse... Especially since I would like to completely restart her. I figure there's no use worrying about keeping her fit or being able to show or ride at faster gaits if she's not having fun (which means I'm not having fun either). Besides, I'd rather start over now than wait another three years.

She has never really "liked" a bit, but tolerates a Nathe or rubber one and will work into the contact, however for her it's a fine line between that and pulling down like crazy on the bit. I'm basically unsure of whether or not anyone thinks it's ok to work on basic sidepull riding (mostly/all walking this time of year) while groundwork training is still in progress, or how much groundwork should be done before getting back on. At least part of that has alaready been answered for me. :)

I'm not sure if I will like a cordeo either, but I will give it a good try. I have tried to use a stirrup leather as a neck strap before and didn't like it because Crayon has a rather low natural headset and the stirrup leather was probably too short. Maybe I will prefer something longer.

Sometimes I think, "Man, my horse was started too early" and "When I got her I did so many things 'wrong'" and "Sometimes I wish I could go back in time and start over, or start over with a new horse." But of course I would never do that. It's just the frustration thinking for me and it's a terrible thing to think. I would never trade my horse for anything. And it's never too late to change things. I'm excited to get started with some groundwork today!

Author:  Barbara [ Sat Dec 22, 2012 6:09 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: AND Newbie - I have some questions...


don't worry, I did a lot of things wrong when starting horses, I only got here after Beau wouldn't even come near me any more, that is when I wanted to change things, and over the last few years, although I'm getting better, I still lost my temper a few times or wanted to have another horse or wished I could do things over again, but I did learn a lot from him and still do. He is the best teacher, he is what I needed and still need... If it wasn't for him, I would be a totally different person, he shows me what I do 'wrong' and helps me to change.

And about the riding, get on from a chair or any other thing so she needs to park herself next to it in order for you to get on, you can ask her to stand there, show her how, and if she doesn't let you on, you 2 are not ready yet. If she does park, you can get on and see if the walk and stop works, if she works with you it's ok, if not go slower, go back to groundwork and get you communication better. That for me was the easiest way to know when to get on, if Beau does not park, I'm not getting on and so he can decide whether or not it's ok... If she does not want you to get on, parking next to the chair can be an exercise in itself preparing for riding. And then one day maybe she parks and says ok.

And above all, have fun, watch your horse and listen to her and you'll be amazed how clear they can talk if you listen!


Author:  horsenducks [ Sat Dec 22, 2012 11:27 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: AND Newbie - I have some questions...

I'm glad I'm not the only one! It's nice knowing that others are having the same issues as me sometimes.

That seems like a really good rule of thumb for getting on. Crayon actually hardly ever parks for me to get on, or she'll park and let me stand on the mounting block and move off when I start to lift my leg to get on. So I guess we need some more groundwork. It will be exciting when she parks for me to get on when we're ready.

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