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Dressage refers to the training of a riding or carriage horse in order to
make it respond to its rider or driver
Current methods of dressage were developed in the 18th
century, from which grew the "haute école" equitation in which the horse
learns intricate steps and movements. In this form of equestrian art, both
horsemanship and equestrianism must be mastered before attempting a dressage
competition. Both classical (doma clasica) and country dressage (doma
vaquera) are characteristic of the Spanish school.
Doma vaquera, the traditional Andalusian dressage, during which you will
admire and more deeply comprehend the importance of horse-handling and the
co-ordination of horse and rider as they go through their paces, typical of
the daily work with fighting bulls.
Doma Vaquera is one of the styles of equitation in
Spain, another being Doma Clasica (classical equitation). Doma Vaquera is a
style of horse riding which enables the rider to carry out daily duties on
horseback on a working cattle ranch and grew out of decades of daily work
with cattle in the open countryside. The style of riding, tack, dress and
discipline of the working horses evolved into what we see today. It is still
being used on working ranches, in Doma Vaquera competition and more
recently, Doma de Trabajo (working equitation).
The Doma Vaquera is the discipline paying the utmost
attention to tradition. Riders and horses have to follow a strict tradition
in their outfit and grooming. The Doma Vaquera has only recently been
'standardised' to allow Doma Vaquera riders to compete and keep the
traditions of cattle herding alive in a stylised form. Doma Vaquera enjoys
great popularity in Spain today. Horses are ridden in a curb bit, all
exercises are performed in either walk or canter, and the movements may
remind us a little bit of the discipline of reining. Especially the Doma
Vaquera and the traditions that go along with it influence the equipment
used to present horses in shows or contests. The Serreta is traditionally
used to present horses in shows. It is a halter resembling a cavesson, with
a leather covered metal noseband and metal ring coming out of the noseband.
If used with knowledge and caution it educates stallions to answer their
handler. Serretas are also used with 2 rings on either side, which the reins
are clipped into when first breaking in a young horse, so as to avoid having
to use a bit in the delicate mouth of a young horse in its early stages of
training. Later on, the horse is accustomed to the curb bit, always in black
iron. The Doma Vaquera rider then rides with the curb bit and reins in one
hand (left), in a Doma Vaquera saddle with big triangular stirrup irons, and
himself wears the traditional costume of the cattle worker in the field. The
same "traje corto" costumes are used by grooms when showing horses in the
ring, and the horses are shown unembelished in any way; merely clean and
shining in good health.
THE FUNCTIONALITY TEST IN THE PURE SPANISH HORSE
During the official Spanish Horse competitions, once
the judges have analysed the different morphological parts of the stallions,
they are shown individually under saddle to be qualified. The training of
the stallion, even if elementary, should be sufficient enough for the rider
to easily get him to execute the different basic movements that are asked
for in the test. The actual rules state that the judges judge the quality of
the natural gaits of the horse, without having to look at the rider's
position in the saddle.
THE WALK: It is asked for
medium and extended. The horse should advance to the maximum without
changing the rhythm of the steps. But, in the medium walk, he must
advance less, although more than in the collected walk (which is not
asked for in these tests). This gait should be regular and frank (one
should be able to clearly hear four distinct hoof beats). The horse
should always reach over the track of the front hoof with the back hoof,
and with a bigger overtrack in the extension. The position of head and
neck is low and stretched forwards, to facilitate the forward going.
THE TROT: It is asked for
working and extended trot. In the extended, the horse must advance to
the maximum, without changing the rhythm of the hoof beats. In the
working trot, the horse advances less, although more than in the
collected trot, and less then in the medium trot. The horse ought to
show a good balance, and the strides should be even (one should hear
every hoof beat), regular, frank and with suspension. In the extended
trot, there must be a clear overtracking , and the head and the neck
should be low and stretched to help the correct forwards movement.
Always, in this gait, the Andalusian should show one of the principal
traits that distinguishes it from other breeds, which is the elevation.
THE CANTER: It is asked for
working and extended canter. The horse should go forwards, more in the
extended than in the medium, but without changing the rhythm, the head
and neck should be low and stretched. And in the working canter, the
horse should advance less, less than in the medium, but more than in the
collected (one should hear three clear hoof beats). In this gait, the
stallion should show a good balance, the strides should be regular,
frank and keeping a good suspension.