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Retraining a Racehorse – Preparation For First Dressage Show
 By Polo the Weirdo   •   4th Aug 2011   •   11,498 views   •   18 comments
On 5 March 2011, I caught my Moon-horse, and tossed him into the horsebox beside my tank of a Bronze-horse for his first dressage competition.

Preparation For First Dressage ShowBoth horses traveled well, as they always do – good boys. Thus, we arrived in good time for our dressage – early for once – and all relaxed and happy. I unloaded my horses in a half-asleep state (The Polo is not fond of early mornings) and half-held them while my instructor began to plait them. Thankfully, both of them were being perfectly behaved, and had absolutely no intention of trying to get away from me.

Moony - who had never been plaited before - was very ticklish, and threw his head around a bit. My instructor and I were firm and patient with him – reprimanding any head-tossing, then praising him when he stood quietly. By the end of the plaiting session he had settled considerably, and even began to doze a little.

If nobody minds my biased opinion, I must say that Moony looked simply smashing in his plaits. I’ve never seen a racehorse with a neck quite like that one – and after a good spot of grooming, he was gleaming like a copper coin soaked in coke. (If you’ve never soaked a copper coin in coke to see it become shiny, you’ve missed out on an important part of your childhood. I suggest you try it before you resume reading.)

Now that everybody has a good idea of how wonderfully shiny my little ex-racehorse looked (Even if you just cheated and looked at the photos) I shall continue. We got Moony tacked up in my Wintect dressage saddle, white numnah, his usual rubber straightbar snaffle and a simple black bridle – leaving looking extremely ‘dressagey’.

Preparation For First Dressage Show

I mounted up, all fancied up in white gloves and jodhpurs (No, they did not stay clean for long) and set to work warming up my fancy steed.

Since Moo is still young, I spent a very long time just riding about on a loose rein – trotting and cantering on the buckle, and letting him take in all the sights and sounds of the show venue, and get used to the new ‘dressagey’ atmosphere. He was a little excited at first, swishing his tail about incessantly, and throwing a couple of bucks here and there. He was also a little tuggy, but since I had no contact for him to tug against, he soon gave up on that.

Once I felt him settle into a rhythm and start moving about calmly of his own accord, I gathered my reins slowly, and subtly coaxed him into a frame. He was still a little tense and excited – fighting the contact at times and throwing his head, but I just kept working him through it.

We warmed up for a full hour – the majority of which was spent loosening him, and flexing him.

For those of you who missed the articles where I explained my neck-flex exercises, I’ll offer a brief description.

While riding the horse down the long side of the arena, open your outside rein, and apply gentle pressure with your outside leg. The idea is to keep his body straight while his head bends to the side. You want him to stay round during these exercises, and loose through his back – so it is often a good idea to try them on a slightly longer rein than usual, or at least a softer contact. You don’t want to pull your horse’s neck around – you want to guide and encourage him. Think about trying to get him to bend his nose right around to your knee (You don’t actually need this degree of flexion – the mindset just helps you to get the correct feeling).

Repeat this exercise to the inside – then co-ordinate between inside and outside – flexing his neck from side to side. Your horse will be able to change his bend quicker and quicker as he becomes looser and suppler, and it will also become easier to bend him.

I use this exercise every time I ride on every horse as the beginning of my warm-up. It helps them to loosen their neck and back, and it teaches them to bend. I personally believe that if you haven’t loosened your horse’s neck, it isn’t fair to ask him to perform dressage at his best – especially a young horse.

Could you do the splits without stretching first?
If you can, I salute you – but now let’s move on.

Once I had Moony loose and supple, I rode him forward from my leg, trying to convince him to drop his nose and relax into my hands, which he did.

I practiced individual movements in the test that I thought he might have trouble with – the halts, some lengthened trots, and canter circles – trying to keep him balanced.

He improved more and more the longer I rode him – and when I ran through a vague representation of the test just before my turn, he felt well ready to go.
Horse News More In This Category:  Dressage      Horse News More From This Author:  Polo the Weirdo
FreeRein  
Wonderful article. Great pictures!!
  Aug 4, 2011  •  8,899 views
 
SunlightRider  
Very nice! :)
  Aug 5, 2011  •  8,941 views
 
ImaCoolCowgirl  
I always love your articles!! Great writting!!
  Aug 5, 2011  •  8,903 views
 
Splodge  
Wow, you looked so professional! Actually, if you want your copper coin REALLY shiny, dip it in a mix of lemon juice and vinigar, it works so much better than coke :P
  Aug 5, 2011  •  8,922 views
 
Soul Horse  
Love your horse he does look very dressagey!
  Aug 5, 2011  •  8,934 views
 
Prarie Rose  
Great article! He is very stunning, and shiny! :) lol. Beautiful horse.
  Aug 5, 2011  •  8,908 views
 
Que Sara  
In the second photo, do you find the poles behind you on top of the horse help keep your back in position? :P Great photos and lovely turned out horse! I love the way you are so patient in everything you do, it shows in the partnerships you have. With a bit of photoshopping, (the mentioned poles and the ground stake under your horse), photo two would look fantastic in a frame. Lovely conformation.
  Aug 5, 2011  •  8,922 views
 
Simplicity  
Beautiful pictures, loved the article
  Aug 6, 2011  •  8,900 views
 
lovehorse  
Nice (: (:
  Aug 6, 2011  •  8,899 views
 
Arialr  
Wow!! Your horse looks amazing.
  Aug 7, 2011  •  8,932 views
 
MoMoz  
Great article! I love following your Moony articles!!! :P So wait, how did you do in the actual show??
  Aug 8, 2011  •  8,934 views
 
Untamed Heart  
Great Artical! You and Moony sound like a pair!
  Aug 8, 2011  •  9,203 views
 
Dreamer100  
Sounds great. Wonderful article and pics. You are good!
  Aug 10, 2011  •  9,273 views
 
Heaven Sent Creatures  MOD 
great article, how did you guys do?
  Aug 11, 2011  •  8,941 views
 
All That Jazz  
Great article!
  Aug 27, 2011  •  8,907 views
 
BarrelRacer1300  
great article very nice
  Aug 27, 2011  •  8,909 views
 
RoyalCrownEstates  MOD 
Great Article, thank you for sharing :)
  Sep 1, 2011  •  8,929 views
 
Phyxius  MOD 
You are very good at sharing information while keeping it interesteing to read.
  Sep 3, 2011  •  9,078 views
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