Phryso@home Dressage: keep working on the basic principles

Foto: Digishots

Because of the Corona guidelines training of the Friesian horses is predominantly done at home. Judith Pietersen and Peter Spahn provide tips to get the best out of this period.

Improve suppleness

Judith dots the i’s and crosses the t’s. ‘Because if you improve your horse it hopefully helps to achieve even higher scores. The basis plays an important role and I always incorporate it in my training, even more so now. That part, improve your horse’s suppleness, keep on athleticizing him is the key to advance to a higher level.’ By now Judith has started taking weekly lessons again. ‘That’s good for working on specific aspects.’ She has noticed that her pupils are becoming more creative. ‘The most important however is to enjoy working with your horse. Why not go on hacks more often, especially now that the pressure is off.’
During this period, though online, Peter Spahn has also kept in touch with his pupils within and outside our borders. This is a time well-suited for focusing more on the basics and less on your main objective. Take for instance the canter changes. ‘If these are not completely established yet it’s a good thing to ignore them for a while and instead work on straightness of your horse and the quality of the canter. As soon as that has improved you will find that the exercise itself also runs much more smoothly. Putting the pressure on by way of competitions is definitely not always a recipe for progress. Sometimes it can even be counterproductive.’

Direction, speed and posture

He always aims to keep his riding and teaching as simple as possible. ‘I work with a system that divides every exercise into three parts: direction, speed and posture. That is the basis. With every exercise I ride I check if the direction is correct and, for example, if the horse moves on the right tracks in lateral work. The horse is not allowed to start moving faster or slower, that is speed. Next, things can also go wrong in terms of posture: is head carriage too high or too low? When an exercise or training doesn’t go as planned the rider has to work out what exactly goes wrong. By working on that aspect you will make progress, not by endlessly repeating the same exercise.’ Working on one aspect is working on the basics. ‘You always need to be able to go back to the basics. Experience has taught me that Friesian horses find it quite difficult to keep their balance when being asked for bend through the body. They are real body builders, when you ask for bend and they lose their balance they will tighten up in all their muscles. If you don’t know how to correctly isolate the muscle tension in their body that muscle power gets in the way and they tighten in their body. That’s why I prioritise working on bend from the moment a young Friesian horse has learned to move forward with straightness. I do that by continuously asking a bit more from them. You could call it balancing exercises. Because only when a horse knows how to keep his balance, irrespective of the bend you ask from him, he can keep moving with the same direction, speed and posture. And that’s what you need to be able to carry out all the other exercises later on.’