The Youth Dressage program ran by Simone has the focus on creating a structure where each and every child is encouraged to develop with advancement and responsibility through a correct horsemanship.
Horses are great teachers and friends. Horses can be a wonderful resource to help develop a solid and correct foundation to children at an early age. There is more to horses than riding and winning shows. It’s a life experience, a life lesson. It will give them tools and qualities that will prepare them to their future.
Here are some of the qualities that our youth program focuses on:
|A young child on the lunge just shines with happiness for just being on a horse. The feel of actually being on one and controlling it, gives them a great deal of self confidence.|
|Children have to learn how to focus when learning how to ride, or handle a horse. They are getting instant feedback not only from the instructor but from the horse as well.|
|Learning how to overcome the fear of being around such powerful animals will help them to work through their other fears in life.|
|The world these days is full of instant gratifications, everything comes and goes really fast. Horses don’t work like that. Children are encouraged to look at a long term goal and stick with it, fight for it, work hard towards it.|
|To develop the right partnership with a horse, the child will have to be assertive. This skill is very important for their future. They find a balance between being firm, consistent and rewarding correct behavior. These are the basic management and supervision skills.|
|Lunge lessons where children are encouraged by exercises to find their balance, center and steadiness are given to achieve this goal. The rider needs to be balanced, coordinated and supple.|
|Children have an animal that they learn how to be responsible for. Children will learn all about correct horse care.|
|Compassion is a very important quality. First towards the horse and then once the child gets older and starts helping to teach the younger children, compassion is required towards others.|
|A correct dressage training requires the rider to be sensitive physically and emotionally. Riders have to feel their horses movements and sense how their horses feel as well. This will help the child to be in touch with themselves and the world around them.|
|The child is encouraged to adjust their own behavior to solve every day problems since horses are creatures that act and feel different from one day to the other.|
|Communication with a horse takes many forms. Communicating with a human is in some ways more complicated. When advanced students learn how to teach less experienced riders, they develop the skills of analyzing the situation, being alert to danger, reading the emotions of both horse and rider; projecting one’s voice; dissolving fear, frustration and anger; working as a team; and explaining things in many ways – through voice, touch and demonstration.|
Encouraging the development of these qualities in our students, we teach them safe horse handling and care. Children are always required to wear ATSM approved helmets and appropriate attire. We teach how to safely handle, groom, tack, mount and ride a horse.
Knowing how to handle properly a horse is the starting point to creating a good long-term relationship with the horse.
Our philosophy applied to teaching youth
Dressage requires more from the rider than any other equestrian discipline. It requires the rider to be physically and emotionally balanced. When training dressage, one is looking for rhythm, suppleness, contact, impulsion, straightness and collection. These are the stages of the “Training Pyramid” originated by the German cavalry in 1800’s, widely used nowadays.
Dressage has nine distinct levels, each of which roughly represents a year of training. Each level has its own expectations of achievement. Each level, like each step of the training pyramid, builds upon the last.
Dressage is a slow training discipline that requires a bond between horse and rider. The horse’s body is developed through the levels and movements executed need to be in accordance to what the horse can handle bodywise and mental wise at that point of training. “Artificial” devices are commonly used to accomplish training, e.g. draw reins, tie downs. Such shortcuts may result in the desired “look” but it will be at the expense of suppleness, elasticity and natural expressiveness. These are the hallmarks of a correctly trained dressage horse. The first work written on what is considered to be classical dressage was Xenophon’s On Horsemanship (350BC) . It is believed that Xenophon introduced the deep seat, long legs, and forward moving seat to riding, as well as emphasizing training the horse through kindness and reward. Our training program teaches riders to read their horses, to listen to them instead of forcing them into submission. A horse that is forced into submission can go 2 ways depending on its temperament. It can “fire back” creating a fight and broken bond with the horse or create a horse with broken spirit. Learning how to read your horse and adapt to it is a key element to success in dressage. The art of dressage is a horse that responds without hesitation to the rider’s seemingly invisible aids. It is like horse and rider are one and all the rider has to do is think, and the horse executes it.
By learning Dressage, youth will be intellectually and emotionally challenged. Our program teaches youth to be trainers, not only “push the right buttons” riders. Dressage takes time, commitment, consistency, understanding and responsibility. These are very important human qualities. Dressage teaches one to be humble and accept your own limitations as no human can possibly learn about dressage in one lifetime!
Dressage is the correct foundation for all disciplines. If a student moves on to another discipline later on, he/ she will have the foundation for a successful and joyfull life beside horses.
“For what the horse does under compulsion, as Simon also observes, is done without understanding; and there is no beauty in it either, any more than if one should whip and spur a dancer. “
Xenophon – The Art of Horsemanship
Text resource/ research: http://www.centaurrising.org