Jec A. Ballou

Get in the habit of performing a fitness test every six to eight weeks. This will be your check-up and time to assess which cross-training exercises to utilize over the next several weeks.

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As an equine fitness enthusiast, I occasionally end up helping students develop rehabilitation programs for their horses after injury or prolonged layup. This is never a bright time. Faced with wasted muscles or lower legs mottled with inflammation or hooves with sections missing, owners look at their steeds warily. How will they ever perform normally again?

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In the physical training of a dressage horse, the greatest gains to be made are in the areas of strength. Being a low aerobic sport with limited endurance or speed components, dressage relies on the acquisition of strength and flexibility more than other fitness markers to improve performance.

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By Jec A. Ballou

When I rode in Germany, my instructor was almost militant about the fact that I should be able to carry a whip equally well with each hand. By well, he meant that I should not tighten my wrist, yank on the rein, or get disorganized when changing directions and switching the whip over to my other hand. And, maybe most importantly, he meant that I should USE the whip. 

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Cavalletti schooling became popular when the late Dr. Reiner Klimke used them to train his dressage Olympians. His daughter, Ingrid, has continued to use cavalletti to develop her international dressage and eventing horses.

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Our barn visitor offered her comments good-naturedly, but still I bristled. She had chuckled at one or another of Corazon’s antics and then called him a male diva. A what? I didn’t share her chuckle, puzzled as I was that anyone could see this leggy Andalusian as anything but majestic and regal, maybe even brawny.

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Dressage magazines often surprise me. Flipping through their pages, a reader would assume that the vast majority of students spend most of their time preparing for and attending dressage shows. Page after page offers articles about fine-tuning your performance at the next competition, tips for higher scores, and interviews with celebrity trainers gearing up for the Olympics.

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