Basics for everyone… Part 2

Anky van Grunsven, Robert Dover, Michael Poulin, they all have to do their basics, too. And the list of top riders doing transitions and "boring" circles goes on and on. "I guarantee you that the horse that gets 76% in the Grand Prix also does the best basics," Barisone added. "Nobody ever got a 76% because the horse wasn't on the bit or because the horse ...Anky van Grunsven, Robert Dover, Michael Poulin, they all have to do their basics, too. And the list of top riders doing transitions and "boring" circles goes on and on. "I guarantee you that the horse that gets 76% in the Grand Prix also does the best basics," Barisone added. "Nobody ever got a 76% because the horse wasn't on the bit or because the horse ...

Story originally posted by: Catherine Roberts

Anky van Grunsven, Robert Dover, Michael Poulin, they all have to do their basics, too. And the list of top riders doing transitions and "boring" circles goes on and on.

"I guarantee you that the horse that gets 76% in the Grand Prix also does the best basics," Barisone added. "Nobody ever got a 76% because the horse wasn’t on the bit or because the horse had its mouth open or its tongue over the bit or the horse was kicking at the leg or wouldn’t go forward or the horse wasn’t through. That’s not possible. "Every ride on a good Training Level horse starts with stretching and flexion and forward. Every ride on a Grand Prix winner starts with stretching and flexion. You don’t pick them up and crank them together. You have to work into those ideas. Good riders come out and work on getting the horse through its neck, deeper and round and accepting the bit and stretching to the bit. A good rider gets the horse using its back and pushing with its hind legs. From there, you start to bring the horse a little more together and make sure its back is up. You use transitions to pick the horse up a little more and that’s how you work your way up into having a top performance.

But don’t worry. It’s not all dull basics. Barisone said that riders must mix in the fun stuff along the way as well. "You can beat the basics to death to the point that they’re all you work on. Suddenly you wake up and your horse is 15 years old and he’s still First Level. There are days when you have to come out and say, ‘Ok, now I do need to start this idea or start that idea,’ but the important thing is you don’t replace good, solid basics with movements. You add pieces to the horse’s program along with making sure that all the basic stuff exists. Nobody’s ever going to ruin a horse making sure that he’s forward, round and supple, but you do have to teach the horse more along the line. Unfortunately, they don’t have the USDF Basics Class. At every level, the one that’s the winner is the one that’s the best trained.

"Horses have gotten to the top levels of dressage without good basics but it never lasts. I know people that have horses that are absolutely dreadfully trained … they’re not through and not supple and yeah, sometimes they get to Grand Prix. Usually, it’s a disaster, and they break down. You will never see a horse trained that way that makes it into the final group selected for the Olympics," he insisted. "Everyone of those horses has good basics and is well-ridden and is well-through, nobody’s struggling at anything. It’s all basics. Sure, it’s piaffe and passage and one tempes but the reason you get a good piaffe or passage, a good extended trot, a good canter pirouette is because your horse possesses all the qualities to make that happen. A canter pirouette once he’s educated is no problem. If he’s behind my leg and he’s tense and he hops up and down, then I’m going to have a bad canter pirouette. It’s not because the pirouette is bad. It’s because the horse is not accepting my aides.

Barisone provided a few tips for riders to know when their horse is well-trained or just going through the motions. "If everytime you ask your horse to do something different he raises his neck and comes off the bit, then you’re lacking basics. If you’re doing something and the rythym’s changing or the connection’s changing or the balance is changing, go back and work on the reason why that happened."

Read part 1: Bringing up baby with basics.