Friday, December 6, 2013

Eventing dressage leg, or classical dressage leg?

Did you know there is a difference? Is there really a difference?

GOD, how I loved this horse!

A couple statements that I recently heard were:
“In dressage, your leg is practically straight down, but in Eventing dressage, they want your leg more forward than that.”
“In dressage, your heel is supposed to be level” (as opposed to below the ball of your foot)

Both of these statements bother me a little bit.
I’ve studied equitation since I was a teen. The conclusion that I have ultimately come to is this:
Good position contributes to effective riding.

I buy into the ideal of the straight line from ear to shoulder to hip to heel, straight line from elbow to bit, and heels down – head up. However, assuming this position and holding it by sheer muscle force detracts from the effectiveness of your riding. Ask me how I know… On the other hand, assuming “trainer’s hunch” and classical position be hanged may not be effective either.

I find that my position may differ depending on the shape of the horse I ride. Or it may be effected by the saddle I’m riding. For example, in my western saddle, my lower leg sits slightly more forward than in my dressage saddle. My heel is still under my hip, but the stirrups are a tad more forward, so my entire leg is slightly more forward. As I get stronger in my core, I’ve been slowly lengthening my dressage leathers. Some days, I bring them back up a hole, other days I drop them again. My goal is to effectively apply my legs without disturbing the rest of my body. If I have to reach with my toes to maintain my stirrups, I’ve lost my secure base and effective leg.

I strive to sit tall in the saddle. In my jumping saddle, with my shorter stirrup, my upper body tilts slightly forward, but I still seek the feeling of stretching up and tall. So, I buy into the ideal, but in my mind, there is some room for flexibility. In my jumping saddle, if I sit super vertical, I feel as if I am digging my seat bones into my horse’s back, and she is less responsive to my requests for round. So, I accept the slight forward tilt of my upper body and adopt a slightly lighter seat and away we go, ready for the gymnastic line or course that may lie ahead of us.

I admire a long, vertical dressage thigh, but it bothers me to see toes lower than the heel. I don’t judge a level foot, but I feel a lower heel offers a better opportunity for shock absorption. I can’t imagine an eventing judge docking points because an eventer’s leg resembles the longer leg of classical dressage in their dressage test.



  1. I'm not quite sure I understand your question here. Your jumping position and your dressage position are going to be very different, because they are accomplishing very different things. If you're doing dressage in your jumping saddle, you're going to be less effective because that isn't what your jump saddle is meant to accommodate.

    No judge is going to dock you points in dressage for being "too dressagy". I'm sure you'll be docked points if in an attempt to emulate a classical position, you make your stirrups longer than your leg strength can support and become ineffective.

    1. Most specifically, I suppose I am asking, "Why would a judge prefer your leg to be less dressage-y in your dressage saddle during a dressage test just because you are an eventer being judged by an eventing dressage judge?" along with, "Why would a dressage judge prefer your foot to be level rather than your heels down?" and in both cases, "Why would the judge care either way if your riding is effective?"
      Both statements really bothered me, but the individuals stating them took them as gospel.

  2. When I told my BO that her dressage saddle didn't fit my leg, her comment was, "Oh, it must be because I rode Classical dressage with a longer stirrup because our legs are the same length and it never bothered me." Well, whatevs, BO. I'm not going to force my hips backwards and point my toes down just so my knee doesn't jut over the flap of your saddle.

    I think that if you feel secure with a shorter stirrup, or a more forward knee, or hell--even with a longer stirrup and horizontal foot, go for it. I'm more effective when I feel comfortable.

    1. Yes. This is exactly what I'm getting at. Forcing a position for the sake of a position seems ludicrous to me. Seeking a position for the sake of more effective riding makes more sense. Comfort and effectiveness first.
      It also bothers me that some people view eventing dressage and classical dressage as different styles of riding. I suppose my entire point is "Good riding is effective riding, regardless of saddle or discipline."



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