Consistency. What is it?

 In Claire Marie Senior, Dressage, Training

Now, I am sure that we have all heard this word before, especially if you have had the chance to compete but what does it mean?  


If you are able to maintain the rhythm, balance, suppleness of the horse while maintaining a good accepting contact going from marker to marker where nothing changes then you’ve cracked it. Is that really possible? Of course the likes of superb dressage riders such as Carl Hester and Charlotte Dujardin make this look so easy, but how can you achieve this?


Well, I’m going to tell you…but you’re not going to like the answer!


Practice, Practice Practice!  


I would really like to tell you that there is some short miracle version where I can wave my horsey magic wand and tell your horse to go round the 6-7 minute dressage test walking, trotting and cantering in all the right places and make everything look ‘easy’ but sadly I would only be lying to you!  However, there is hope


Consistency is built by strength, and by that I mean a repetition of exercises that help strengthen the horses body to be able to carry himself in such a way that eventually makes everything look flowing and easy.  This also applies to us in our riding.  


Now I would say that hardly none of us are born with perfect conformation, well apart from the likes of Chris Hemsworth 😉  (but I don’t think he rides horses.)  And then again neither are our horses born with perfect conformation, so do we give up? NO! This means we need a plan of action to work on the strengths and improve the weaknesses!


For years the ‘German’ way of training has always focused on the ‘Scales of Training Pyramid’ which is used in all Dressage Training and Judging worldwide today.  There are actually 6 scales focusing on:

  • Rhythm
  • Suppleness
  • Contact
  • Straightness
  • Impulsion & eventually,
  • Collection.  


No matter what your horse is like, whether you train for fun or compete on a regular basis this scale is always used at all levels, whether you knew this or not this is all connected to consistency amongst other things. 


Now we are just going to focus on the Rhythm, Suppleness, Contact, Straightness & Impulsion for now.


Yes, just the 5 out of 6 things on the scale of training, so not a lot to focus on!  


Of course, I’m kidding!!! It’s IMMENSE!  


To try and maintain all those things is hard work, I’m not going to kid you, it is hard work, so OK how do we do it?  


Ask yourself these questions…


  1. Am I able to maintain a clear Rhythm in all 3 paces?
  2. Can I keep my horse supple enough to bend through his body equally in both directions on all turns, circles and through transitions? 
  3. Does my horse accept the contact in a nice soft way and works into the bridle with as little direction from me as possible? 
  4. Do I have enough impulsion and energy and feel the horse respond to my aids working forward into the contact? 
  5. Can I maintain the straightness so my horse is working on 2 tracks but while keeping him looking into the direction he is going? 


If your answer is YES to all the above then congratulations you’ve made it and you are riding consistently! However, if the answer is NO to any of the above then this is helpful and you now know what you need to work on and tells you what you need help with.  


In reality, consistency doesn’t always happen for various reasons but if you try then that’s all anyone can ask!  I would always give satisfactory to fairly good marks to a rider if they were trying to maintain everything, so 6’s-7’s out of 10.  The art of the craft is not to lose what you have already gained and here are a few scenarios:


  • If someone who was trying TOO hard in order to ‘get the horse more forward and stay in front of the leg’’ to a point they ended up rushing round causing the tempo to quicken and the strides to shorten.  
  • If another rider who was trying to ‘bend the neck too much instead of the body’.
  • Being too ‘forceful on the hands to keep the horse round’.


By doing any of these scenarios this would have a negative impact on the ‘way of going’ and therefore you would be sacrificing the horses rhythm, balance, suppleness, have contact & straightness issues and would affect fluency and therefore you would be marked accordingly so a mark of 6 or lower.


The secret is to always try to maintain what you have to achieve consistency.  There’s always another time and with a bit more training you can turn those 6’s into 7’s and then 7’s into 8’s and so on.  In your efforts to try hard to get a 10 you do need to take a risk and be brave, I agree, but it should be a calculated risk.  In other words, be prepared to take the risk but make sure you can pull it off without sacrificing any elements in the ‘Scales of Training’.  


Well I’m prepared to help you…let’s see if we can get a 10? 


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