Friday, June 4, 2010

Interdressage: dressage anyplace, even bitless in Ireland

Bitless, it's kind of a new thing but quickly gaining popularity. We always have people telling us "I want to ride completely bitless but I also want to compete. Competitions do not allow me to ride bitless!" We are working on changing that.

There is a solution for now.

Interdressage, the premier on line dressage competition. This is a UK biased website for dressage, jumping dressage and possibly some other classes later that people all around the world compete for real rosettes, achievement certificates and real prize money. In regular dressage you rarely see prize money. The rosettes are cool too. They encourage bitless as it shows a true connection , not forcing your horse on the vertical by pulling back with a bit and allowing him to travel strung out and on the forehand, even though people see him "in a frame".

You don't have to have a fancy, perfectly groomed horse or expensive show clothes and equipment or be rich. You just have to ride. There are even classes for horses ridden in "any tack" so you "any tack" people can join in too, not just the dressagey english riders.
Judging is mainly based upon the horses movement and how well he responds to your aids. Though it's always fun to braid up a horse in my opinion.

To enter an interdressage test you need the following:
  • Print out an appropriate class test for the month from the test download page
  • A digital camera to record your test
  • Access to a computer to a) upload the test to send them a file or URL on youtube or b) put it on a CD, DVD or memory stick and send it to them. Don't worry they return all memory sticks.
  • A level place to ride. It does not have to be a fenced arena just mark out 60 by 120 feet.
  • Someone to video your test for you.
  • Approximately £10 per test.

When I was in Ireland Karina, the creator came to meet us and hold a dressage competition at the Slieve Aughty centre. A lot of their riding students and even myself got to compete in two different classes. One was a walk trot test for the month and the other a walk trot canter.

She has some very modern, yet classical views on dressage. I believe in dressage, or any horse sport for that matter you have to have an open mind for new ideas to make it anyplace and to get along with a good majority of people and be viewed as a decent horse person. It sure shows as we talked one night and she explained some people who have been competing, switched to bitless and started to score higher. Not only that but their horses looked happier and traveled more fluently and unhindered compared to their bitted tests. I love to hear stories like that.

The cool thing about this day was every single horse did a bitless test in a nurtural bridle. How cool is that!

Here is Zoe, creator of the Nurtural bitless bridle riding Collin. Shes a wonderful lady with a lot of love for the welfare of the horse.
Zoe was our videographer for the day, taping all the tests. She has had a lot of experience with a video camera having taped dozens of bit to bitless rides with the nurtural bridle. She taped everyones test to go up for this months competition.

Karina gave a little pep talk to the riders before the classes started.
Here are some points she emphasized on when riding.
  • Keeping a rhythm. Just because your horse goes for example, from a medium walk to a loose rein walk does not mean he can stumble along. Keep a good rhythm.
  • Remember to change diagonals: Walk/trot tests may have a few loops in them, remember what diagonal you are posting on.
  • coming strait down the center line. It's very important and what the judge will see especially before your halt salute.
  • Memorize the test. I can tell you because my test I screwed up. Merel was reading it and the direction I was facing the wind was lightly blowing over my ear. I have a hard time hearing when there is a little other noise. I thought she said something completely different than what I had remembered so I kept on going. I should have memorized my test better and knew what was next. I still got a pretty purple 10th place anyway.
  • Transitions: If a test says working trot between E and K do it between E and K, not the second you hit E, between the two. A lot of people tend to rush tests. Try to be accurate without being too fast.
  • Be thinking about the next movement before you ask the horse of it. You will be mentally ready to ask this of your horse on the right spot.
Some video tips she taked about were:
  • Always video with the sun at your back
  • If your horse is dark and there are a lot of shadows try contrasting with a light coloured saddle pad or wraps/polo's on it's legs.
  • Do not video in dark light or with a lot of shadows. Moves are going to be hard to judge if the horse goes from being visible to not in a shadow.
  • Stand at C facing A in the arena to video.
  • Use zoom thoughtfully: A lot of people cannot zoom. Zooming in and out can create a kind of seasick effect on the person viewing it. If you are not good at zooming it's best to just leave the camera be.
  • Keep videoing after the halt salute. The judge wants to see the way you exit the arena (back at A)
  • Try not to compress the video too much. Compression hurts the quality and will make it difficult to judge.
  • Try and have the horse in the center of the picture.
  • Keep file size down by turning the volume off.
Bridie did a demonstration of the walk/trot test for everyone to see what Karina was looking for. She pointed out things move for move of what could be improved in the ride.

Dressage is a ton of fun. I took a couple lessons with a great instructor and through my whole hour plus lesson I did not move my hands once. Every movement the horse did came through my back, seat and legs. A lot of people see dressage as boring so they go on to other things like jumping or barrel racing. They miss out on important things like rhythm, suppleness, responsiveness and the true feeling of you and your horse being one.

I rode Portus in the dressage competition. He was a good boy and doesn't get ridden by a lot of the people who come to the centre. He was not spoiled by new riders like the other horses and it showed. He was responsive and reminded me a lot of Indigo, minus the Indi-tude she is prone to at times.I think I have the longest legs ever in my breeches and tall boots. I look like an amazon on a pretty tall horse too! Ok so 16 something hands is a lot tall compared to my little barely breaking 15 hands back home.

We had one rider trailer in that rode in a bit that day, everyone else was bitless. Regina's horse was trained pretty well. However you could see the stress in his face, especially the eyes and lips every other stride he would lift his lips and you could see his teeth and jaw clenched like so.

Merel aided her after her bitted test and switched from bitted to bitless bridle to amuse everyone.

Gerry helped fit the nurtural bridle properly. Notice the horse starting to relax totally with the droopy lip. The Nutrual bridle seems to have this effect before the rider is even using it.

They had a few minutes practice.

Then proceeded to do the test again bitless.

Since interdressage tests (the ones we were doing anyway) are based upon how the horse goes she scored higher on her bitless test. Every picture I took of them bitless her horses ears were forward or slightly to the side, listening and alert, not back and annoyed when bitted. The tension was gone out of the horses face as well. As many bit to bitless rides before that I have seen it never stops amazing me at how big a difference removing a little piece of metal can make.

I talked with Karina afterwards and we want to put in some reinsmanship classes. Reinsmanship is like dressage for a driving horse. I have been working today on a few tests I will do as examples once the alfalfa field is cut so I have a large, level place to drive.

With an innovative mind and the drive all around the world for riders to discipline themselves Interdressage has and will have no trouble spreading. It's a ton of fun no matter your discipline dressage can teach you and your horses something. So go ahead and give it a try, what have you got to lose? Oh and if you do a test please do link me to the video. Bitless or not I would love to see my fellow bloggers riding.

NOTE: I have been trying to do this post for three days now but the internet is being a PITA. It took me about 3 hours to upload all the images for this post. I don't think my next post will be until Sunday stills though I really want to get to some science VS tradition.


Meghan said...

That's awesome, what a great idea for people who can't afford to haul out to shows or don't want to subject their horse to the stress of traveling/competing. And the bitless option is great, too. I think it's pretty stupid to require a bit in dressage competition when self carriage and riding back to front should be the goal.

I'll have to see if Sofie and I can do a respectable walk/trot test. Could be something to work toward!

Golden the Pony Girl said...

I just linked to this on my blog. Hope you don't mind... I think this is so cool! Thanks for sharing!

Beth said...

Wow, that is really a neat idea. I love the difference between the bitted and bitless horse. It is an amazing difference.

Fantastyk Voyager said...

Very nice! I am really leaning towards trying Annie out bitless. I ride her in a halter a lot. When I bit her up she tenses and throws her head around.

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

You looked great on Portus..not Amazon at all. I often feel like that with my horse because I'm so tall, but it just feel so great to be able to mount from the ground now when I want to or need to.

I've been wanting to try out my Dr. Cook's Bitless Bridle on Apache, but I worry that I'll have the same issues I had with it on Baby Doll....the bridle tightening on the noseband, no release, and the reins becoming uneven.

We have been very busy working on our obstacle course every day, though. Another week and I'll be competing in two ACTHA rides in a row!


Desert Rose said...

Thanks for all your hard woork and patience to post this...
one of thses days I may try it on Jesse is some one has one handy when riding1

Hannah said...

This would be a great way to promote bitless and bridleless dressage! I might look into this with the bridleless dressage work I do. Thank you so much!


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