Say What?! Teach Dressage to My Cow Horse?!

You bet. Absolutely. Do not pass go. Train your horse in dressage. No matter what breed or how he’s built.


Because — in case you ever doubted it, or just didn’t know this particular bit of trivia — dressage constitutes the basics of everything good that can happen with your horse when you’re talking about training. In fact, you are probably including it in your work with your horse without even realizing it or knowing about it.

(And you don’t ever have to look like this picture . . . or wear those clothes.)

Here is the United States Dressage Federation’s beautifully simple definition of this ancient equine art:

Dressage is a French term meaning “training” and its purpose is to develop the horse’s natural athletic ability and willingness to work, making him calm, supple, and attentive to his rider.

Now I ask you? Does that capture what you want in your horse or not? If you own a horse — no matter what breed or what discipline you are involved in — you know that these attributes and talents are what you strive for above all else. They can be summed up as:

  • natural athletic ability
  • willingness to work
  • calmness
  • suppleness
  • attentiveness

I mean, what more could you want?

Most of us who have horses, if we’re totally honest and unless we are world-class competitors, would say that our horses are at least a tiny bit deficient in one or more of these categories. Right?

So get with the dressage training and fill in those blanks!

There are NINE (whew!) levels in competitive dressage. But forget about that. You do not have to be striving to compete in any of those levels or even on Level One. Just learn the basics of what dressage is all about and use it in your every day training, whether that be in the arena or at feeding time*.

You might have to learn, or at least play with, a few new skills, with your seat or legs or groundwork, but be willing to experiment. If you and your horse have a bond, he or she will forgive you if you aren’t perfect.

Basically, what you are teaching your horse in dressage work is:

  1. Number One: to listen to you (and what equine discipline doesn’t require that?), so you will become one, a team, a partnership — don’t all the schools of  “natural horsemanship” stress this above all else?
  2. Number Two: to tune into his or her own body and learn to use it in such a way that it is comfortable, efficient, and responsive (you’d be surprised at how many horses don’t even know they have back feet!)
  3. Number Three: to be confident (which follows naturally once your horse is attuned to you and his or her own body)

Voila! Your cow horse — now trained in a few basic dressage techniques — has added a whole new dimension to his personality and performance, not to mention his relationship with you.

Is it really worth it? Teaching your horse a few of these basics that date back to waaaaaaaaay before any of us can even imagine? I’d say definitely YES, from personal experience. (And if you’d like to read a little more about the history of dressage, dating back to Xenophon, go HERE.)

In any case, and no matter what your chosen equine discipline, give dressage some consideration. Certainly if you are experiencing  problems. I think those early masters and military leaders have a lot to offer us when it comes to training our horses.

Oh, and by the way, dressage techniques go with and don’t interfere with any other kind of training you may be engaged in. Keep that in mind! Dressage is really nothing more than BASIC TRAINING.


* Feeding Time: Oh yeah. What goes on then is a topic for a whole nother blog post! One can DEFINITELY engage in training activities at feeding time! Stay tuned.

2 Responses so far »

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    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Stephanie Yeh, Crazy Bobbi Jones. Crazy Bobbi Jones said: RT @gozencowgirl: Say What?! Teach Dressage to My Cow Horse?! […]

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