Hilary Moore Hebert: Dressage Training Notes

When I write a blog post or article, I spend a lot of time thinking about the overall message. What is the life lesson, underlying theme, etc. Today I have decided to throw that all away and simply write about dressage as I think about it in the saddle. I have spent many years trying not to overanalyze my riding and just do it. If my extension feels sluggish behind, ride quick transitions to engage the hind and repeat the extension. Only if that quick answer doesn’t work do I pause to think about the problem before approaching it another way. Just as I need to shut up and ride, sometimes I just need to stop thinking and write.?So here I go….


This weekend was really cold and I had my horse at a new facility. He was HOT and bucking into the canter departs before leaping sideways towards the fence. I worked on the trot more, getting him relaxed, before gently asking for the canter. I insisted on the canter because avoiding these high-pressure situations will only make him more crazy. The next day he was better and I felt that he was still wired but not out of control the way he was the day before. I practiced some harder canter work to reinforce that he do a relaxed line of tempis, even when he wanted to leap from his skin. The hotness made for some amazing collected canter–I had enough energy in the reserves that when I collected him and asked him to step under and engage, he truly felt like he was recharging like a pinball machine. The uncoiling of each stride felt like he was pushing off with 110 percent of his strength. Goodbye old man doing squats in aerobics class, hello Olympic weightlifter lifting hundreds of pounds with ease. Note to self: warm-up just enough to gain control at shows, but not enough to lose the extra energy and the canter will be his strongest gait.

One thing I did appreciate on the second day was having been smart enough to rub a glycerine bar on the flaps and seat of my saddle. I usually don’t need sit-tight or anything, but with the cold wind the day before I felt like I was sitting on a saddle made of nylon. I was fine, but would have appreciated a little extra stick when my horse was doing airs above the ground. By having the stick on day two, I felt locked into my saddle and could focus on riding completely.

It also helps that I have been using my iGallop to warm up before I get on my first horse of the day at the farm. If you haven’t heard about this, check it out online. It seems completely bizarre and mildly R-rated, but I promise you that it loosens your hips unlike any unmounted exercise I have done before and all you have to do is sit there, turn it on and you are ready to ride in 10 minutes. Since the seat is pretty flat, I put a small pillow on it to make a more saddle-like shape that I can sit on without having to bring my knees too far forward. It also helps if your breeches were in the dryer too long and need a bit of stretching. I really hate getting on a horse and realizing that part of my walk warm-up has to revolve around pulling my breeches higher, adjusting some sock wrinkle along my calf or wishing I had worn a different top. With my iGallop, I can tell if everything feels OK before I start to use up precious time in the saddle.


So there is my post. No underlying theme. Just notes from my riding. I sometimes forget to share my notes as a dressage trainer and get too professional. I hope that these small anecdotes and tips will help you with your own dressage progress. I try to share them with my students and hope you appreciate them as well. Happy riding!

Calculating dressage scores from a test that day. I believe it was a 72 percent!






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