It’s good to mix things up sometimes. This dressage exercise from Katy Groesbeck will either make you a better rider or send you into a mental breakdown.
Riding always presents new challenges, whether you’re a beginner or the most decorated veteran. As we go through learning curves, many instructors and teachers like to introduce new exercises to push us to progress, move us beyond our current abilities, or even just to shake us of our silly bad habits.
Some of your more common “this will make you a better rider, I swear!” tortures challenges include trot work without stirrups, posting the trot bareback, crisscrossing your reins, or riding without reins (for higher Degree of Difficulty, remove lungeline hehehe). I was once made to hold one small rock in each of my hands while I rode, and I was warned that every time I dropped a pebble, I owed my coach a dollar. That cured me of my “drop my right rein” phase–at least temporarily! I’ve even had to get off and do push-ups for a coach, though admittedly I don’t remember why, so I guess that one was a little less effective in the long one.
But, if you think you’re getting a little bored with your day-to-day riding and need a push to the next step, or if you’re just a sadist and think dressage should be a little tougher, here’s a fun recipe that’s right up your alley!:
1) Ride in a court that is missing one short side, both of those corners, and 40% of one long side.
2) Only put letters down the intact long side. And C. Without C, it’s not really a dressage court.
3) Take away most of those letters, leaving only M, B, and an ambiguous white marker. And C. Definitely leave C.
4) Arrange the remaining letters to mark the meters for a short-court.
5) Now ride upside down and backwards in the court, so that C is A and A is C. Except remember that A isn’t really there. Or, A is there but is now represented by the letter C (even Sesame Street doesn’t prepare you for this). This is not a required step unless the only shady spot in the arena for your coach is at A – errr, C.
6) Bake at 105oF, until brain is fully melted (if it wasn’t already).
7) Finally, have your coach run you through the Intermediare-1 test for the first time ever. For added mayhem difficulty, make sure you’ve NEVER read over the test before. I promise it’s more fun that way.
I tried out this recipe today, and I have to say it wasn’t so bad!!! To add to our geometric handicap in the court, my coach’s headsets also decided to not work quite right, so in the end I could hear her but she couldn’t hear me talking back. So every time she got confused about why I was at M instead of K, etc. etc., and I would try to remind her about the A-C switcheroo, all I would get in response was “WHAT!?” I did end up taking a few detours and walk breaks while we tried to get our GPS working – the little electronic voice, “Recalculating,” kept running through my head – but my coach and I laughed nearly the whole way through the ride at how absurd we were being. Dressage is all about relaxation and harmony, after all, right? Considering my horse was at his 110% best despite the lunacy challenges, I’d say lesson learned!