Local equestrian brings home top finish in Western dressage
According to Merriam-Webster, dressage is “the execution by a trained horse of precision movements in response to barely perceptible signals from its rider.”
But for local equestrian Roxanna Shores, who teaches centered riding at her business, Equine Education and Instruction: Creating Confident Riders and Horses through Relaxation and Balance,” Western dressage — an offshoot of classical dressage — involves much more than an animal simply performing tricks it’s learned through rote memorization.
“What it (Western dressage) does is it takes classical dressage, which is in the Olympics … and puts it into the world of the traditional Western horse … Our tests sometimes come from when you’re out riding and your moving cattle …
“When a cow moves this way, I’ve got to be able to signal to the horse, ‘We’re moving that way.’ So the tests take some of that cowboy heritage and put it into the arena.”
Accomplishing that, she said — establishing a seamless, collaborative flow of information between a rider and a 1,200-pound animal — requires clear communication in both directions.
“It’s really all about communication,” she said. “It’s almost like a conversation. Western dressage is a concept that promotes the relationship between the rider and the horse … The concepts are that you’re able to communicate all of the various movements to the animal in such a way that the audience really can’t see what the heck you’re doing.”
And clearly, Shores has mastered this form of communication with her 17-year-old Tennessee Walker, Radar O’Reilly.
On Sept. 24 and 25 in Castle Rock, she and Radar won their division test at the Western Dressage Association of Colorado’s Fall Final Show, garnering a score of 77.581 percent. The test required Shores to guide Radar through a series of predetermined maneuvers and gaits using this little more than subtle shifts of her weight.
Impressive, to be sure.
But for Shores, her sterling results in Castle Rock are not the end goal of Western dressage or of centered riding. Instead, she said, the idea is to develop a relationship between horse and rider that works to ensure clear communication in possibly hazardous situations.
“It’s the relationship; it’s the journey,” she said. “It was great — it was super — that I got a first, but it’s really complementing the journey where you take an animal … and go through life with them. With a horse, you’ve got a living, breathing animal underneath you — not a pair of skis … I’ve got a 1,200 pound animal I have to communicate with.”
Out of her business, Shores both teaches and practices the six philosophies of centered riding: breathing, balance, center, clear intent, grounding and soft eyes.
When used in chorus, Shores said, these philosophies allow the rider to “partner up” with the horse in a collaborative, relaxed endeavor. She also said the philosophies are translatable to life, in general.
“You can take all these principles in your horse training and apply them to almost every aspect of your life,” she said, “because if you do that … you’re not just training a horse; you’re training yourself.”
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