Check out this outstanding video of Anne Kursinski demonstrating flat work techniques for the 2013 George H. Morris Horsemastership Training Session (click on 2013 video on demand, scroll down on the right until the video "Day 1 - Anne Kursinski Flat Work" and click on it).
As I've said on this blog before, Anne is an all around great horseman and four-time Olympian. She's been at the highest levels of show jumping, and understands how to put solid flat work on a horse and why that is necessary. This Horsemastership program was started a few years ago to bring some of the top young riders together for a week to learn from some of the best in not only riding/training techniques, but horse care and sportsmanship as well. This flat work piece is a lovely demonstration of practical dressage.
Some key points on the importance of flat work:
- Flat work is a foundation for the horse's rideability
- It's like "going to the gym," and serves the same purpose as yoga, pilates, etc do for people: fitness and flexibility
- It makes them stronger, sounder, more athletic, and responsive
- A horse well schooled on the flat and truly on the aids is much easier to jump
- Leg to hand
- Horse should move off/bend around the inside leg and be on the outside rein
- Always focus on the hind legs and what they're doing, not the position of the head
- Form follows function - be an effective rider, and you will ride well and be pretty at the same time
- Have a passion for learning
- Get inside the horse's head, understand behavior, understand training, and appreciate flat work
- She has ridden with some seriously awesome horsemen
- I share her opinion on draw reins...probably not a "key point" but nice to know. Draw reins create a false frame and tension. Leg to hand and focus on the horse's whole body being soft. Head position will come eventually when the horse is truly engaged and connected through its back. Draw reins do not accomplish that
- Don't use emotion in training. Stay calm, stay focused, stay steady. Keep emotion out of it
- Details, details, details! Mind even the smallest detail, and the big picture will come together
Dressage fascinates me, much like Anne said it fascinates her. Flat work should be productive and fun. I have just as much excitement from a great flat school as I do a good jumping round or day out hunting. This was a real joy to watch and absolutely has a lot to offer anyone. Check it out!