Tuesday 14 August 2018

Floppy Ears and Fun

The recent Cochrane Dressage Show was a turning point for me in a few ways. I have a full show recap in the works but still waiting for photos from the pro photographer.

A small but interesting development for me was seeing Kachina develop floppy ears. I've often found the floppy ears of top dressage horses intriguing. On some level I thought it was a warmblood feature more than one of dressage training. During my warmup on Sunday at the show I suddenly noticed that Kachina's ears were doing that relaxed flop as we were trotting around. I've never seen that from the saddle before. It's a fairly superficial thing but it was cool to me and said we were doing something right. Does anyone actually know the physiological reason behind "floppy ears"?

The other turning point was finally getting the contact piece that I was missing before as I talked about in my last post. We still need to improve the consistency a lot but we finally had some really good moments during the show, especially in my last 2 tests of the weekend.

As Megan at A Enter Spooking recently posted about, "You Don't Win Dressage". That is a true statement, dressage really is all about the journey and you have to enjoy the journey. I do enjoy the journey overall, however I think it is fair to enjoy certain parts of the journey more than others. Now that I finally have the contact piece that I was missing on Kachina, I am in the part of the dressage journey that I find the most fun.

As I wait for new media, lets take a look back at some less fun moments in our journey to date...
Here is massive ducking behind the vertical from February 2016

Hollow giraffe running (aka a canter transition) from June 2016

I was first introduced to dressage on my last horse Ellie. While I didn't know anything about the sport of dressage specifically, I had already ridden Ellie for several years and we had the basics to a number of disciplines. That meant that I had a lot of the basics needed for dressage as well and it didn't take us too long to be able to really focus on things like connection and impulsion, and even collection and lateral movements. That didn't mean we progressed quickly, my own lack of knowledge held us back, as well as pesky external factors like university, work, and lameness. However I loved the type of work we were doing and it's what made me fall in love with dressage. It was an addicting experience the first time I felt the preliminary versions of collection and throughness. I was happy to spend time working to slow down lengthens, adjust our shoulder-in angle etc, because I loved that feeling of having my horse between my aids and everything else felt possible (except flying changes, those alluded me despite the best efforts of several people).

Long before Ellie and I did dressage we did English Pleasure,...

... jumping, ...

... Western Pleasure, and more English performance classes 

I have so few photos from my dressage time with Ellie but this is circa 2007.
At that time we were getting reasonably good scores at First Level but more importantly,
I could consistently ride my horse between the aids and that felt amazing

When I got Kachina I thought that I would be able to get back to that point fairly quickly, after all I had already been there once before. Unfortunately that was far from the truth. For starters, Kachina was a very different type of horse and it seemed like very little that I thought I knew was transferable. Additionally, both Kachina and I had a lot of holes in our basic foundation, more than I expected, and it took a long time to fill those holes. I don't think I appreciated enough the level of training Ellie had had before we started dressage. It didn't help that I was a different body type and had to relearn my position from scratch, or that we didn't have a regular instructor to work with. It's been 4 years to the week since I bought Kachina now. I hardly resemble the rider I was 6 years ago when I last competed in First and Second Level dressage. I've forgotten so much but also learned so much. The one thing I didn't forget though is how great it feels to have a horse truly between the aids. At the show I finally felt that with Kachina for the first time and I'm so excited to be back in this part of the dressage journey that I love so much =D


  1. Aw I love the old photos and memories ! And that’s awesome about the floppy ears. I think it’s a sign of relaxation - or in other words a sign of the absence of tension.

    1. I still feel a little weird that my blog started with Kachina so there is so much less documentation about Ellie who was such a big part of my life for so long, I like to include her when I can!

  2. I agree with Emma, I think it's a sign of relaxation and lack of jaw tension. As a fun tidbit I can wiggle my ears but I can't wiggle them if I'm clenching my jaw... so my very scientific conclusions is that Kachina must be relaxed through her poll and jaw :P

  3. Floppy ears are a sign of relaxation.

    1. That does make sense. Ellie never ever had floppy ears but then again she was also a hot anglo-arab so even during our best dressage work she was probably on guard enough to keep a look out for stuff to spook at =P

  4. I don't pay too much attention to my horses ears (probably because of jumping) unless I'm hacking around the property or on a trail. Always been good tells of a spook lol.