Taking Time in Your Training Pays Off

Take time in your dressage training to allow you and your horse to progress toward a goal.
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Take time in your dressage training to allow you and your horse to progress toward a goal.

In every step of my dressage career, I've learned quite a bit. But, along the way, one thing I wish I'd learned earlier is to take more time in my horses' training. Before I learned that, I would just get stressed--I wanted to have things move along much faster than was possible, and I took that stress into the arena and the training of my horses.

I learned to look at the progression of my training from a different viewpoint from my trainer, Ernst Hoyos. His whole message is, "You have to take time." He spent 30 years at the Spanish Riding School, where they are famous for developing long-term relationships with their horses. A couple of those horses are 22 years old, and they still perform in the SRS quadrille. SRS riders build a solid relationship with their horses, which is accomplished over time.

I've learned to see that taking more time is positive. I think we get it in our heads that we have to get on a team at some point. There's nothing wrong in making that your goal, but you must give yourself and your horses enough time to get there. Taking time to train is the healthiest thing that we, as riders, can do for our horses.

I was never able to think that way before. America is a 24-hour place--gotta go, gotta go, gotta go! That tempo will kill you, and it will kill your horses, too. A fast pace affects their bodies and brains.

Look at it this way: How much time did you need to get to the university? We cannot eliminate kindergarten, and we can't take out the first grade, the second grade or third grade, etc. Learning isn't any different for a 10- or 11-year-old horse than it is for children in school. We spend a lot of years in school developing our minds. Same for horses. Without taking the time to teach them the basics, we're not going to be able to teach them the pirouettes and everything they need at Grand Prix. Taking time to train has taught me how to preserve my horses.

Lisa Wilcox was a member of the U.S. bronze medal team at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece, and the U.S. silver medal team at the 2002 World Equestrian Games in Jerez, Spain. She was also the first non-European to enter the top 10 on the BCM/FEI World Dressage Rankings. Lisa currently teaches and trains in the United States. Her website is www.lisa-wilcox.com.