Flat work versus dressage.......

Discussion in 'Horse Training' started by mooselady, Apr 18, 2018.

  1. mooselady

    mooselady Senior Member

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    Where do they diverge?

    I often see people dismissing the idea of 'dressage' because it is "poncing about in arena with the head cranked in"

    Sadly there are those who actually do ride like that....and many many more who believe that is what dressage is....but now I'm wondering where it starts and stops...

    I never took dressage lessons as a kid, BUT we rode on bridle paths that had gates, and you soon learned how to open and close a gate on horse back, save all the mounting and dismounting...so were doing some amount of moving away from the leg to maneuver. I was chatting to a friend at the barn yesterday, and she thinks that as soon as you pick up any contact, rather than a loose rein, then you are into dressage rather than flatwork.

    When I watch the jumpers having a flatwork lesson, then it is different to watching a dressage lesson "Sit forward, get out of the tack, two point for two laps" we are all, sit down, get your butt in the tack" etc.

    I'm not sure....dressage is just training...Dressage is dancing....but I have no idea how to classify the difference between flatwork, dressage and Dressage!!!
     
  2. bellalou

    bellalou Senior Member

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    Flatwork should be small-d dressage. As you note, dressage is "training." It is a means of working with the horse to ensure he is using his body properly and you are doing the same with yours. Whether you are riding western on a trail, or working over crossrails, or doing arena work, you are using elements of dressage. It doesn't have to involve contact in the meaning of English-style contact - that kind of contact is part of large-D Dressage.

    But it does mean encouraging the horse to use its hind end rather than working on the forehand, using leg cues to initiate lateral movement, being able to move the shoulders and hips of the horse, working over the back, etc. Riding should involve all of that no matter what you're doing.

    Large-D Dressage in my mind is working the patterns and movements that are tested, in the manner in which they are scored, whether you are doing them in a dressage arena or in competition or not. It is still training but it is training by doing specific movements.

    That's my opinion. YMMV. :p
     
  3. mooselady

    mooselady Senior Member

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    I agree that this is important, not sure if everyone does though?
     
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  4. slc

    slc Senior Member

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    You asked, lol.

    "Flatwork" is either for hunters or jumpers(or both in some barns). It's basically an American thing. It's schooling the horses to be better hunters or jumpers.

    There isn't a big hunter thing over in Europe to compare to, USA style 'flatwork' for hunters is really unique to the USA.

    Most of the European jumper riders don't do USA style flatwork. They do dressage on the horse's non jumping days, and in warmups prior to jumping, because they generally have a background in actual dressage, that's how they're taught over there. It's modified a little, but it's not as different from dressage as USA-style hunter flatwork is.
    ,
    What most people do for flatwork here in the US, is rather highly modified and specialized for their own riding sport and diverges away from dressage and dressage goals, the aids that are used, position, bitting, everything.

    USA jumpers are a mixed bag. Some are kind of dressagey, some are kind of Rodney Jenkins-ish. Some are really doing European style dressage on the jumpers.

    But the hunters, and many jumpers, yes, very different from dressage. For a specific example, the work on the changes is quite a bit different between USA style flatwork and dressage. The horse is in a different posture and alignment and degree of collection than when changes are done in dressage, and the aids are different, and the rider position is different.

    It's done at a different point in the progression of the schooling, related work on the counter canter is a lot different than in dressage, and the counter canter is also done at a different point in the schooling than in dressage. What they are shooting for is very different. And the aids are different and in general the expectations are different for how the change will look, the contact, degree of straightness(that's EXTREMELY different).

    A lot of USA style hunter flatwork uses the aids and exercises that George Morris has promoted and taught over the years. He has his own way of doing things, it's similar to dressage, but not the same. The contact, aids, position, even the goals, are somewhat different from dressage.

    What he teaches, and flat work for hunters is more divergent from dressage, than what the European jumper riders do.

    I didn't realize how different hunter style flat work and dressage really were until I really took a lot of time, sat and watched a lot of hunters and jumpers schooling, rode some of the horses(and that felt EXTREMELY different), plus, saw people from the hunters convert over to dressage and listened very carefully to what was easy for them, what was hard, what they liked and didn't like, how they wanted to do things.

    But the real eye opener was taking lessons from a woman who was basically a really nice hunter rider(had done some lower level eventing, but did it like a hunter, not an eventer), and decided to teach dressage some time ago, without ever really getting any lessons or learning it.

    That was just mind boggling. And a TON of people took lower level dressage lessons from her. But they all did it her way. They couldn't progress their horses up the levels, and they didn't do well in competition. They just simply had a whole different way of doing everything.

    She had a WHOLE different way of using the aids and a totally, totally different point of view about having a SYSTEM of aids in the first place. And the way she trained horses was different from anything I'd ever seen in dressage. She would kind of copy things I'm sure she saw in clinics and other peoples' lessons, but she didn't really GET it.

    She had me doing stuff that really didn't help move the horse up. It caused a lot of problems.

    So yes, flatwork is very, very different from dressage. They had very, very different expectations and goals, even down to the feel they wanted from the contact and how they wanted the horse to respond to leg aids, than there are in dressage.

    The ultimate goal is to be a better hunter or jumper, not move the horse up the levels of dressage, so the two different things (USA hunter style flatwork vs dressage) actually diverge very sharply.
     
  5. mooselady

    mooselady Senior Member

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    All that seems to refer to Dressage comparisons though, not dressage...everything is not down to the discipline that you compete in.....it might come as a shock to find that there are many people never compete, they ride, and that is the distinction I am more interested in....of course there is a world of difference between flat and Dressage, but there is a whole layer of dressage in between.
     
  6. slc

    slc Senior Member

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    It has nothing to do with competing, you must not have read what I wrote. Though I most definitely would not do USA style hunter flatwork if I wanted to compete at any level of dressage.

    But the difference is there whether a person is competing or not. The end result is totally different, how they get there is totally different. It's different. You asked, LOL, so I told you. I've ridden both - I rode hunters for a long, long time before dressage, so I can say for a fact, DANG it's different.

    Before I rode hunt seat I rode Balanced Seat, that's also rather different from dressage and from USA hunter style flat work.

    It is a huge difference in how the horses are intended to go, the aids, the position of the rider, the contact, the bitting, the whole look and feel is different, the horses's BACKS feel extremely different, their MOUTHS feel different, their polls feel extremely different, hind quarters feel different, the whole horse feels different. The exercises they do are different, even exercises that look similar, they do them differently. And I've switched back and forth between my horses and theirs on the same days, too, and felt the differences. For years. Decades. There is a huge difference. The exercises aren't done the same way, even when they look similar.
     
  7. slc

    slc Senior Member

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    Example, Traurig calls this a half halt, but then says it's nothing like a classical dressage half halt. Then calls it a 'nip up.'(what my old up down instructor had us do on the 11 hand Welsh ponies when we were 7).

    It's not a dressage style half halt. He isn't using his legs or seat, he's just using the reins. So that is very different from a half halt. This is what we used to call a rein check or just a check. What Gordon Wright in his book on hunters and jumpers derisively called 'a bump on the mouth from the bit.' They taught this in the cavalry. Littaur taught it, though he was allergic to the reins...

    That is what I mean. That is not an actual half halt. In general, flatwork for USA hunters, that style of work, has no half halts with seat/leg/rein as used as in dressage.

     
    Last edited: Apr 18, 2018
  8. Alsosusieq2

    Alsosusieq2 Senior Member

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    ^. This. Dressage, the definition basically is just training.
     
  9. mooselady

    mooselady Senior Member

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    I think you did not read what I asked....
     
  10. bsaz

    bsaz Senior Member

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    From a "horse hiking" or trail riding perspective...my goals have almost nothing to do with big or little "dressage". I reject the idea that horses are better balanced if they carry more weight on their rear end. After all, the FRONT end has a built-in shock absorber - the sling of muscle that supports the back. And since horses normally carry 55-60% of their weight on the front, then...maybe they have evolved to do so?

    A horse who turns "straight" is working harder than one who turns naturally. Get on all fours and try turning while keeping your knees in the same track as your hands, bending in a curve with your body. It is both hard work and slow. Now turn like a rear-wheel drive car - power forward with the rear and shift with your hands. Now turning becomes easy. So...what is wrong with a horse turning the way it does when it isn't carrying a rider?

    Perhaps most important, I try to teach my horses to make many of the decisions on their own, or perhaps with a quick consultation with me. Picking our way along off trail, or going up or down a slope, or pushing thru brush - I want to say, "Let's go east" and have them largely handle the rest. I cannot imagine WANTING to give my horse a "half-halt". Why? To "re-balance" him? He handles his own balance. To let him know he needs to listen? I expect him to be listening all the time.

    And of course, my taste in riding ALLOWS this approach. No horse can understand, "I'm supposed to start cantering on a 10m circle when I reach the letter E"...but almost any horse can understand, "This slope is slippery, and I need to test my footing as we go down". Horses evolved crossing country. Get them off trail, and they quickly pick up HOW to get from A to B, with very little 'help' from the rider.

    None of this makes "dressage" or "Dressage" wrong or evil or disgusting. It just isn't particularly relevant to a guy who likes to go hiking with his horse, and whose horse seems to LIKE making many of the decisions. And I find my horses are quite good at context. For example, the mare I used to own would sometimes spook by jumping sideways. With cactus on 3 sides of us, often within inches of my leg, I'd look around, nudge her toward the open side...and she would carefully move sideways. I'm pretty sure she already KNEW what she needed to do to get us clear and was just waiting on me to catch up with her. The fact that she wouldn't consider moving sideways in an arena wasn't too relevant to our riding. When we needed to do it, she would - often with barely more than a nudge from me.

    I also find myself regularly sitting still for a moment, while my horse assesses the stuff in front of us. Then there will be a change in his back, or balance, or something, and I know he is ready to take responsibility. And when he does, he will tackle the stuff ahead with impressive determination. I've never had him spook or try to turn back once he has accepted responsibility.

    I may have had a bit of PTSD from the years I spent trying to push my spooky mare into things she wasn't ready to accept. In the nearly 3 years since I traded her for the gelding I ride now, I've come to relax on a horse because I've come to trust him. I don't feel safe trying to control my horse. Safety comes when my horse and I have reviewed the options, and are in agreement on how to proceed. But one obviously could not score well in dressage, reining, WP or most any other sport if you regularly asked your horse, "Are you ready to go do it? Do you feel like cantering now? Because we don't have to..."

    PS: The "training" I do with my horse has nothing to do with what one would find in a dressage text - or test. Training a horse to take initiative, or to assume responsibility, or to consult with his rider and come up with a plan acceptable to both - good luck finding that in a dressage text. It is disingenuous to say dressage just means training. If someone goes to a dressage clinic, and find the instructor discussing how to get maximum speed in a turn around a barrel, or how to stop riding with contact - well, I think most people would be upset. Because while those things require training, it is NOT what people mean when they discuss "dressage" - regardless of the size of the D.
     
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