In 2018, there are countless opportunities for free learning on the internet. It can be difficult to find them, and it can also can be challenging to find the time to watch them. While I will always recommend checking out live streams for yourself, I thought I’d write a SparkNotes version for our readers. This is not a comprehensive summary. At the very least, it makes me feel a bit more productive about my vegging-out-on-livestreams habit. 

On Day 1 of the USEF George H. Morris Horsemastership Training Session Anne Kursinski gave a flatwork demonstration. I love to watch riders from other disciplines give lessons on the flat. I find jumper (and event) riders talk about dressage like it’s a totally separate from what they do on a daily basis or at competition. The sport of dressage does have it’s own peculiarities that can seem both foreign and unrelatable. But, in order for us all to progress as equestrians, regardless of discipline, I think we need to accept dressage, in a classical sense, is the basis of every horse sport. Call it whatever you want: flatwork, hacking, flatting – the principles should be the same. I cringe when someone says they’ll want to try dressage, but they’ve got to buy a saddle first.

Kursinski beautifully demonstrates in her session about how a jumper should be worked through classical dressage movements to improve the quality of their work. She shows that simply doing the movements isn’t enough. It’s about riding the horse underneath you and using the exercises to improve the overall sense of fluidity, rhythm, and relaxation.

The movements aren’t an island in themselves or a series motions that you must get through to achieve a better horse. It’s important that the movements are a tool that functions within the ecosystem of the horse. The positions are a reaction to the responses and problems that you’re having in that specific moment. A lot of upper level riders are so good at this they may not even realize that’s what they’re doing, so they jump to simply teaching technicality without the fundamental theoretical basis. In this demonstration you can see her using the movements for improvement, not just to show off a certain positioning or exercise. My favorite quote: “Feel the horse feel you.”