I like this article, considering the balance between the subjective (art) of riding and the objective (science).
As a riding coach, I always hope to convey the beauty, even musical quality of the horse –human dynamic. But to do it in a clear, evidence based, no- jargon way!
Speaking in terms of pounds of pressure, inches, metres or geometry can be more helpful than “More”, “Look up”, “Rounder” or “Hands still” in answering the Questions:
“What should I do with my body?” and “What,exactly, should it look like?”
Here’s the gist of the article:
What do dressage trainers, riders, riding coaches and judges look for in the ideal dressage horse? One who has supple and relaxed movements, with a pronounced beat. He’s free from resistance and works under light, even, and elastic contact from the rider, with a level of “thoroughness” with the horse functioning in one piece. His steps give the impression that he springs off the ground, and he has energy that is created and contained, but without resistance.
But as artistic as this might sound, this definition lacks objectivity, say equine biomechanics experts. Although the art of dressage merits full respect and should be maintained, it’s also important to have scientifically sound measurements to help bring a solid, objective view to what makes good dressage, said Sarah Jane Hobbs, PhD.
To form scientific explanations for what we see and appreciate in the dressage ring, Hobbs and a team of researchers have been investigating dressage from a biomechanical point of view, partly funded by the FEI.
…Scientists have objectively measured the kinematics and accelerometer readings of various gaits, transitions, strides, and dressage movements, such as piaffe and passage, various joint and limb angles and measurements of impulsion and movements of the horse’s trunk.
[Describing] skill from a different perspective, may be helpful to riders, riding coaches, and/or judges,” she explained.
That different perspective is—specifically—a scientific one, said Hobbs. By describing skills from a biomechanical point of view, rather than a subjective description of what to do with their bodies, riders can improve their technique…
Art and Beauty: Holding on to the Subjective
While these scientific views of dressage are helpful and useful in both practice and research, they can’t replace the art of the sport itself, Hobbs said. “The skill and experience of human judges is of course extremely important,” she explained. “We do not want to take away from the ‘art’ at all…
The biomechanical measurements of performance will also help provide evidence-based information to support the existing classification systems used by the International Paralympic Committee, Hobbs said.