So, next I was going to dive into things learned from The DN Results in Harmony DVD set, but I had a huge breakthrough with something else that I want to share. As I have said multiple times before, I am a big fan of the Dressage Naturally Video Classroom, which you can explore HERE. A recent discussion video titled Know the Purpose of the Exercise, has led to a very bright lightbulb moment.
Basically, by understanding the purpose of every exercise, being able to execute it at least roughly, AND knowing what success looks like for the exercise, the upward spiral of gymnastic success becomes much easier. Just doing the exercise is not enough, the intention, purpose, and qualities matter just as much. For example, let’s take shoulder-in. The purposes of SI are increased engagement, improved bend, and lightness of the forehand leading to improved straightness over time. So let’s say you do SI before your lengthens to improve the quality of the lengthens. But you sort of put the horse in SI thinking more about bend and not focusing on engaging that hind leg and lightening the shoulders. You go to lengthen and nothing is really there. The fault wasn’t using SI, it was not defining success(in this case increasing that inside hind engagement) for SI that would lead to improvement in the lengthens. Just doing the exercise is the starting point, but the true building blocks come from intention and linking the exercises and work.
I’ve taken this idea and used it to great effect in even the simplest warmup exercises. That first turn of the hindquarters in motion I’m picky about inside leg to outside rein connection and a feeling of being able to go forward into trot at any time. Linked with a couple of other exercises that I am equally picky about and after a 5 minute warmup I have the best working gaits I have ever had. Balanced, engaged, forward. By focusing on having certain qualities in a given exercise and then linking to something it will really improve, everything becomes SO much easier.
The implications of this go further though. What about ground work? What about using harder things like half steps before slightly collected trot? I feel like this has opened a whole new way of thinking about training. Understanding the purpose of the exercises has been there for a while for me, but I didn’t get that I need to emphasize certain qualities within the exercise to effectively link the work and get so much more in outcome. The intention and purpose of the exercise matters so much. In any exercise the trainer can focus on certain qualities that will help the next thing so much more than just doing a “sort of” version. Who knew? Your thoughts?