The Dressage Pyramid of Training

It’s 9:10pm and I’ve got limited minutes of usefulness left.  I’m also very TIRED from today’s lesson, which is a good thing, but does not change the fact that I’d like to go to sleep now.  Let’s get to it.

Yesterday was Leah’s turn to ride while I observed. She was warming up Sebastian at a walk, checking to make sure they had a good phone connection (read last post for clarification), when she asked me if I could recite the levels in the dressage pyramid of training.  For those of you non-dressagy people, the pyramid of training is building blocks of sorts.  When studying dressage or teaching a horse dressage, one starts with the concepts at the bottom to build a proper foundation, working their way up to the top through the levels. The top cannot be achieved without the bottom (although horses do bounce between areas of the pyramid at times, it’s important to always start at the base and work your way up to be correct in training.)

Ok I might have botched that explanation a little bit, but hopefully you get what I mean.

Usually this pyramid of training is presented in, you guessed it, an actual pyramid.  I thought showing you some pictures might help to clarify, so I looked the pyramid up tonight.


First, here is the ole classic that I’m used to:

In this straight forward pyramid (which I got from the USDF website), one can clearly see the different levels, with some helpful hints in the parentheses.


Because we are Dressage People, I found this other, super fancy, pyramid:

fancy pyramidPretty nice, eh?  And you can see that the concept has not changed.


I also found this one, which I call “The Unattainable Mystery,” which shows a secret, un-named level ABOVE collection! Ooooooooo!

mystery top pyramid(If you have an idea what the secret level could be, leave it in the comments!)



But then I found my favorite one:

My Perfered PyramidI mean, it starts with Galloping and ends in Hard Liquor.  What’s not to love?

Getting back to the training session, when Leah asked me if I could recite these levels…  Well, I knew that Collection was at the “tippy-top” as I so eloquently put it.  I knew straightness was right under that.  I knew Rhythm was at the bottom. I got Relaxation after a little hint.  And I eventually got Connection and Impulsion, but it was clear that I hadn’t been studying it recently.

So we talked about why the training pyramid is important (each of the levels build on the one below it, you cannot achieve Hard Liquor……Collection without maintaining rhythm, relaxation, and so on.) And she helped me to remember that when I’m challenged in other areas of the pyramid, my first step should be to check in and see if I’ve got the lower foundations.  This can be tricky because just because you have rhythm and relaxation one day does not mean you’ll have it the next. And one day you might be working on laterals and straightness, but the next day be stuck on connection (as we’ve been working on.)  The key is not to jump on and demand collection when you don’t have relaxation, because it won’t be proper collection anyway.

Did I get anyone’s head spinning? Mine is, but I think it’s just my contacts bothering me…or maybe it’s the wine…or maybe I’ve finally reached “Hard Liquor!”  Haazah!

But, seriously, the training pyramid is so important I could spend a blog post on each section – and maybe I will!  But for now, I think I’ve got to go to sleep and save it for another time.

At the very least, let it be known that we had a great discussion, followed by work on the travers, counter canter, and trot.  Tonight I  worked on travers again (which is coming along!), counter canter, and sitting trot (which is why I will have a hard time getting out of bed tomorrow morning.)  It all went really well and I’m so lucky to have such a wonderful pony partner! 🙂

Time to click the big blue button!  Thanks for reading and as always, please excuse the typos.  Until next time….


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