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View Full Version : How 'intense' is dressage for you? And, can you ever go back?



pintopiaffe
Oct. 1, 2009, 04:07 AM
For me, dressage is very, very intense. It's art and athletic and spiritual/soul all at the same time.

The higher we've gone, the more consuming it's gotten.

And sometimes, when there are other 'big' things going on in my life, it's like I just don't have... what it takes... to ride. Things like a new job that is both physically (good!) and mentally demanding, family stuff, vet stuff... Sometimes it's just like I don't have anything 'left' to ride.

Does that mean I don't want it enough?

I think sometimes it's partly because riding is NOT easy or natural for me. Nothing althetic is. So mentally it's even harder.

But can you go back?

I mean, can you 'just get on' or 'just ride?'

I had a lovely ride on one of the young'uns tonight and was musing on it... because I couldn't even go around the outside of the arena without trying to even up the hind legs stepping, to do a little shoulder fore, to adjust the gait with just seat...

Is it the forbidden fruit--that once you've had a bite, you'll never be happy with less?

I find with this batch of youngsters I'm incredibly demanding of myself. If it's done RIGHT it goes so much faster, and the horse is so much more correct, and it's all easy.

I won't say that takes the joy out of it--because to be getting LY and then SI, halts entirely off the seat, etc. in the first dozen or two rides is pretty darn rapturous. ;)

But how do you get around being *so* demanding of correctness that you require too much steam to get going?

The irony in this, (I was thinking while riding this evening) is my web time is down by a LOT. I'm only online right now at work, during down time. So that should give me another hour a day or so (that I used to enjoy in the morning with my cuppa... :sigh: )

Cat - OnceUponADressageDream
Oct. 1, 2009, 07:31 AM
Pretty intense for me, I think! Some people I know call it an addiction...but an addiction can be beaten. I think of Dressage-Queen-ism as more of an incurable disease!

I can't go on a trail or hoon around a showjumping course without at least TRYING to have a nice straight horse with correct bend/flexion when it applies, I live for the one minute in a 45 minute ride where something you've been working on truly comes together, and I think if you checked my web history, you'd find that at least 95% would apply to horses, and most of that being dressage related.

I have been trying to just relax and ride for fun lately as I think being so focussed on dressage has diminished my confidence in the other riding areas a bit - but even when I do I'm constantly thinking of the quality of the work.

Sometimes I find it helpful to hop on a nice, quiet boring horse to JUST go for a trail ride, or JUST pop over a few jumps - I find it easier on a pleasure horse to have fun myself, instead of being worried about progressing and correcting everything on my dressage horse all the time.

But (and I've just started a thread on cross-training in regards to this) I think it is also important to remember that if you are feeling a bit worn out because dressage requires so much focus and hard physical and mental work for both you and the horse...that the horse may well be feeling the same. So, do the fun stuff. Sure, go ahead and make it correct, but add a bit of variety. Have one ride a week that is a relaxation and fun ride for both of you.

I suppose it is the same in any obsessive sport, career, university course...it is good to be focussed and driven, but there needs to be time out because otherwise you will BURN out.

I don't think you can ever go back once you truly get the dressage bug, but finding new ways of making it fun means you can progress while still enjoying your training time with your horse.

And hey, if it all gets too much sometimes....don't bother riding! Give yourself and your horse a few days off and just have some fun - lead them out for a walk along a trail, give them some beauty treatment, play with them in the field or a roundyard...whatever works for you :)

This quote says it all, I suppose (and definitely applys to your forbidden fruit theory!)
"Dressage: the passionate pursuit of perfection by the obsessively imperfect!"

I guess the trick is to figure out how to keep the obsession fun for you when it all gets a bit wearing :)

slc2
Oct. 1, 2009, 07:39 AM
The OP has garnered extensive support here for her approach for many years, and will continue to do so. She has a way of wording things that guarantees her a great deal of validation here. If she wanted another point of view, she would speak to someone who brings along lots of young horses to the FEI levels. They would say long periods of time off are not safe or productive for the advancing horse.

No one likes to hear that, they want to believe it doesn't take that. The simple fact is, it does. It takes a regular program, a commitment. Fitness protects the horse from injury, makes his work easier, and makes his work higher quality. Not every horse that is worked irregularly at the more advanced levels will become unsound immediately, but the odds are very, very much against one.

What I have been told, what I have heard trainers say, many, many, many times, in different ways, is, 'If you love your horse, you will work your horse regularly'. If you love your horse, and you wish to advance, you will have your horse in a program. Or as a cruder trainer often said, LOL, 'every g** da** day, you come out and you do it, that's it'.

Everyone struggles with making a commitment and continuing to make a commitment to dressage, that is certainly true.

The people who advance correctly, safely, fairly, stay in a program. There is no getting around that. People try, everyone fights that commitment. A few people step up to the plate.

Most people quit dressage. They get to a point, and they make a decision. Usually that's second or third level. It's too hard, it requires too much effort. So they quit.

Because advanced levels are a forbidden fruit they can't do without? No, I don't think so. I think they quit to save face, and to not be riding perenially at a lower level, which for some is embarrassing. Sometimes people simply lose interest. But those who try to advance and then quit because they are afraid failing, don't want to commit more effort and time, or find it too hard, it's more complicated.

The ones who advance? They make riding a habit. They brush away all the other commitments and the worries and things that keep them from riding, and they simply do it.

They have one hour a day that they devote to a goal that they see down the road. Nothing deters them. They give up other activities. They make the time. They ride in the winter as well as rest of year. The more time and effort they put into it, the better the results, the sounder the horse, the less resistant the horse, the better quality the work.

It is really that simple. Making a commitment. Giving up other things. Ignoring the negative thoughts. It doesn't matter what the negative thoughts are. They are simply negative thoughts. Everyone throws up barriers to a goal, rationalizations, justifications, the key is removing the barriers, not in adoring them.

DressageGeek "Ribbon Ho"
Oct. 1, 2009, 09:37 AM
pintopiaffe, Cat - your posts made me laugh but they are SO true! Even if I am just hacking around, fingers on the buckle, I am thinking about the quality of the walk and my seat.

What a Geek!!

Cat - OnceUponADressageDream
Oct. 1, 2009, 09:48 AM
Glad we're not alone! ;)

ToN Farm
Oct. 1, 2009, 10:28 AM
It takes a regular program, a commitment. Fitness protects the horse from injury, makes his work easier, and makes his work higher quality. Not every horse that is worked irregularly at the more advanced levels will become unsound immediately, but the odds are very, very much against one. Absolutely.

WBLover
Oct. 1, 2009, 11:01 AM
Absolutely it takes a regular program, but for some of us we just do what we can. I have nothing but an outdoor grassy area to ride in, so obviously that isn't going to work for me all year round. Maybe one day when we win the lottery I can have an indoor built, or even a sand outdoor, but for now that just ain't happenin'.

In the next few months I'm going to have to start busting my a** after I get home from work at 5:45pm (and by next month it will be DARK on top if it!) to get my trailer hitched up, horse loaded, unloaded at my friend's indoor which is right down the street (but I just can't see myself handwalking him down there--too scary), tacked up, ridden, cooled down, untacked, loaded up, go back home, unload, and clean out the trailer. And do that 4x per week at a minimum just to keep him going. Between daughter having homework, house needing to be kept up, etc., it's probably going to be too much. Luckily I have a supportive hubby who is VERY good with taking care of DD and the house stuff, but I don't like to take advantage of his good nature too much. He will get cranky if he feels like he's pulling ALL the weight.

But I know if I want to keep progressing with him, I'm gonna have to. He's now 4, and there's no excuse to give him the winter off like last year when he was still growing and needed it!

Yes, dressage is intense, but I will tell you it's a lot less intense with a horse that this stuff comes naturally to!! So I'm really lucky in that respect! :)

merrygoround
Oct. 1, 2009, 11:26 AM
Like any ongoing project, dressage is some days a chore, sometimes, getting the breeches on and the boots and the rest of it, then grooming, and tacking up seems like such a nuisance. On those days,I treat it like a trip to the dentist. You don't think about it. You just do it. Unlike that trip to the dentist, ;) once you hit that saddle and start your warm up, everything flows into place. You've come home again.

Of course, if you're riding more than one horse, you need a pair of long spurs, to keep kicking yourself on. :lol:

horsephotolady
Oct. 1, 2009, 11:30 AM
Dressage is pretty intense for me--I work at it almost every day, but I'm lucky that my job is not usually very intense, so I'm usually mentally able to deal w/the dressage. I do trail ride or jump once a week, and find that I just can't resist asking for some dressage on the trail, whether it be a little shoulder-in, or a trot extension, or SOMETHING. I just can't quite leave it alone. I think my horse wishes I would lay off the dressage sometimes.

That said, I think SLC was a bit harsh in her response. My riding schedule tends to be 5-6 days a week--my 7-year-old is schooling 3rd level. I know many FEI level riders, and I don't know any one of them who rides "every g** da** day." True, they all ride regularly--usually 5-6 times a week, and they ride all year, but 365 days a year??? No one I know does this. Everyone has families, work, school, other life obligations. I personally know at least 3 riders who are riding anywhere from Prix St Georges to Grand Prix who also have demanding careers for which they must travel. When these people need to go to a conference or something for a week, their horses get turned out to pasture and that is all the exercise they get.

I know of another person riding at Intermediaire who actually DOES take 2-3 months off in the winter (GASP!). And she has done all the training and riding of her horse since it was a yearling. And yes, she actually does WELL at the Intermediare level.

So, while I do definitely agree that moving up the levels takes a strong level commitment, I disagree with those who say you need to do it "every g** da** day" !

merrygoround
Oct. 1, 2009, 01:06 PM
Oh dear ! I missed that line. But then I scarcely read some posts.

I ride every day, in the sense that there are no scheduled days off in the week. That way when I need to take time off--I do! No guilt.

But having gotten older, I find taking too long a time off is perilous. My muscles cry, whine and moan after I start again. :lol:

suzier444
Oct. 1, 2009, 01:43 PM
I get very obsessive and intense about it, which leads to inconsistency because I don't have enough time or money to pursue it the way I'd like (I'm in my 20s, single and self-supporting, extremely intense and erratic job, no horse, owe parents $$ for VERY expensive education so being a working student is so not an option) plus I have no talent for it whatsoever -- I am the opposite of a "natural". I get all kinds of emotional and frustrated, and then I stop riding for a few months, then I start again, on and on. I'm actually working REALLY hard on myself to learn to just chill out and ride for the pure fun of riding (rather than obsessing about whether I'm improving fast enough) and enjoy what I can when I can and be patient and accept that there is a time for everything. Now isn't the time in my life for dressage to be a big part of it, but I believe that my focus elsewhere will pay off in years to come and that there will be a time when dressage will be a bigger part of my life in some way. That may never mean FEI-level competing for me, but that's okay.

I'm so thankful that dressage can be done until you're about a billion years old.

I'm also thankful that I also love to run, which can be done on the cheap at pretty much any hour of the day -- running shoes don't eat anything, and they travel well!!

mbm
Oct. 1, 2009, 01:57 PM
hmmm i agree having a program and sticking to it is important.

but the times i have had to take time off (broken ribs, horse injured, etc) the horse was BETTER for the time off. sure maybe out of shape, but what was hard is now easy etc.

so i think time off is beneficial - and we should not beat ourselves up it we are unable to ride for things out of our control (ie broken ribs, horse off etc)

Speedy
Oct. 1, 2009, 02:05 PM
If you are tired and bored of the endless routine, your horses probably are as well. Hacking out, doing dressage in your hay field instead of in your arena, hill work and gallop sets, cavaletti...just to name a few things that immediately come to mind...should all be a regular part of your program and will go a long way to improving your horse's and your own physcial fitness and mental outlook on life. Ingrid Klimke does not spend 7 days a week in an arena.

IdahoRider
Oct. 1, 2009, 02:08 PM
I often try to figure out how I can be so consumed by something, dressage in this instance, and yet still feel as if I am not as committed as I could be or should be.

I also feel as if my life interferes with my riding. I can tell myself that I am going to ride X number of times in the coming week, and then have that just fall apart when I end up sitting in a vet's office with a cat on one day, a 5th grade classroom for "Back To School" night the next evening and a car playing driver for "Mom's Taxi Service" the next afternoon.

If I were truly committed to riding I would be out at the barn at 6:30 a.m. if that was the only time I could find in a busy day. But I am generally always in bed and sleeping at 6:30 a.m. and I don't see myself ever being driven enough to not be sleeping at 6:30 a.m.

I am not athletic at all. I was the girl in P.E. who ALWAYS closed her eyes when swinging at the soft ball. I love to ride, and I love everything about my life with horses (except the bills), but nothing about my riding comes naturally at this point. I am fighting a disability, age related stiffness in general and years of bad habits that need to be undone. Sometimes riding correctly is a huge pain in the ass and really difficult for me, even at the very low level I ride at. But now, almost 2 years after starting dressage lessons, I know how much I don't know how to do and the few glimpses I have felt of correctly riding have made me want to ALWAYS be correct. I want that, but maybe not enough to be a really dedicated rider.
Sheilah

Gloria
Oct. 1, 2009, 02:58 PM
pintopiaffe,

What you are describing and experiencing is only normal. Every living beings need rest and time away so they can recharge and absorbe what they already knew (and that include horses). That is why corporation offers paid vacations. Researchers have found that employees who take regular vacation are actually more productive. Some corporations even punish employees who don't take vacations.

In normal days, I ride every day, two horses a day on some weekends. Riding is my addiction and obsession. However, from time to time, I know I need time off and that includes not seeing or touching my horses for days. And guess what, every time when I come back, "both" my horses and I are better, more productive, and enjoy each other more. We both were able to see problems from a new perspective so something that once was struggling became non issue. So, if you are tired, don't be afraid to take time off. Remember, riding is supposed to be fun, not work.

Now if you take two weeks off every other week, you know your horse cannot progress like this. So what? who is to judge you to which level you are to achive? That is your own decision. As long as you are happy with your decisions, what is wrong with that?

And no, once you experience the feeling of a balanced horse moving underneath you, there is no going back. That feeling is simply too addictive. We all spend our life time to try to relive that moment over and over. It does not mean we will get it all the time. Nobody can. It is just a goal we all try to achive. That is all.

rugbygirl
Oct. 1, 2009, 03:49 PM
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

I get very obsessive and intense about it, which leads to inconsistency because I don't have enough time or money to pursue it the way I'd like (I'm in my 20s, single and self-supporting, extremely intense and erratic job, no horse, owe parents $$ for VERY expensive education so being a working student is so not an option) plus I have no talent for it whatsoever -- I am the opposite of a "natural". I get all kinds of emotional and frustrated, and then I stop riding for a few months, then I start again, on and on. I'm actually working REALLY hard on myself to learn to just chill out and ride for the pure fun of riding (rather than obsessing about whether I'm improving fast enough) and enjoy what I can when I can and be patient and accept that there is a time for everything. Now isn't the time in my life for dressage to be a big part of it, but I believe that my focus elsewhere will pay off in years to come and that there will be a time when dressage will be a bigger part of my life in some way. That may never mean FEI-level competing for me, but that's okay.

Are you me? Minus the owing the $$ since education is relatively cheap in my country. I HAVE a horse at home now, but no access to instructors beyond the once a month that I haul 6 hours each way for a lesson with my coach.

What you said just really resonated with me. I like Dressage, and I love to ride...but sometimes the external pressures make me hate it. I even like to show...I wish that you didn't get attitude from all sides of the equestrian world about how you're not doing enough for your horse or your riding.

In a world where an Adult Amateur can be a jobless wonder who rides 10 horses today in a professional trainer's barn...sometimes I just feel lost. Isn't it okay for me to progress slowly? My horse doesn't really give a crap, provided the hay keeps coming.

ambar
Oct. 1, 2009, 03:58 PM
If you are tired and bored of the endless routine, your horses probably are as well. Hacking out, doing dressage in your hay field instead of in your arena, hill work and gallop sets, cavaletti...just to name a few things that immediately come to mind...should all be a regular part of your program and will go a long way to improving your horse's and your own physcial fitness and mental outlook on life. Ingrid Klimke does not spend 7 days a week in an arena.

What you said. It's worth repeating. A regular program does not mean that you have to be in the arena, working intensely, .every. .single. .day. I think treating dressage as an end in itself is to miss the point.

pintopiaffe
Oct. 1, 2009, 06:06 PM
Hm... some of you are getting there... I don't think I worded it quite right.

Not bored--NEVER bored. Almost the opposite. If I never got to ride outside an arena again I'd be happy, but I DO It because it's good for the horse. Probably good for me too, but I used to guide overnight pack trips and 'dude' rides for a living. If I never trail ride again, I'll be fine with it... :p

No, I'm still probably not qoing to quite be able to explain... it's like the emotional/mental stuff in life can get in the way sometimes.

And I'm wondering if I went back to western pleasure, or hunters... or... I dunno, team penning... if it would be less intense? I think I doubt it. I guhttp://www.chronicleforums.com/Forum/editpost.php?do=editpost&p=4413022ess that's part of it--once you've gone from passenger to RIDER... can you ever go back, regardless of the discipline?

Or is it a personality type that truly sees and is inspired by the 'art', and lives in that manic sort of artistic fugue state... ? NOT that *I* am an artist (yet) but I am SO deeply moved and inspired by dressage at times... beyond 'riding a horse.' Perhaps too much? If you've read Horses & the Mystical Path, you'll get an idea about what I'm trying to get at?

(and wow... disclaimer/tangent: slc has decided I don't ride... there was some comment in my show post that I hadn't ridden-- I had a wonderful summer once the monsoons ended, with more time off (without travelling) than I've ever had in my LIFE. I think that riding 4-6x/week with the exception of one ten day period since the end of June (and managed to still *work* horses)crosstraining hillwork/cardio sets, LSD and dressage schooles is probably consistent enough. Maybe not. ;) I've even had a clinic post-show, where the work was confirmed as correct... we've since found out there are other issues, but that's not the point. The point is I probably only post when I've got questions or want to commisserate... Poor Jack Sprats Mom gets the same treatment. If we all just posted "I rode today and it was good"... well, that's what a blog is for. Rather, we tend to post the hills or the valleys. The steady trail is rather boring fodder for public abuse... ):uhoh: :winkgrin: </tangent>

Anyway. I guess I don't know how to ask the question. I just wonder how--or if--you tone down the demanding mental/spiritual/energy (NOT physical work--chores still happen!) or where you find the resources to 'just do it' when other 'big' things outside of Equus seem to want priority?

And I'm the first to admit, and I've asked several times this past year... Do I want it enough? Maybe the fact that I'm doubting this means I don't! That's ok too. Being able to ride the stuff and train the stuff is two different Universes. I used to be blissfully happy going down for lessons on schoolmasters and playing at the fun stuff. Maybe that's what I need to go back to. Hack around on mine, and pretend I do dressage once a month... <shrugs> Perhaps some of it is the pressure I feel from my teacher. His expectation/belief that I can do it... maybe he's wrong?

I dunno.

I'm pretty sure I'm enjoying my second midlife crisis. I ADORE my new job. My interaction with people in crisis is INCREDIBLY fulfilling, joyful, and DEMANDING. I'm new enough at it that it's still also exhausting. Used to be riding was refreshing. These days riding is exhausting too. ;) FULFILLING, but exhausting. I begin yet another facet tomorrow. I'm achieving something I wanted when I was 7. But it's also HARD after a certain age to learn everything over again. (and I keep asking--do you get your brain back after mentalpause? :uhoh: :lol: :uhoh: )

Last week I had one day off, and The Heir Apparent wore a saddle for the first time (sshhh--it appeared to fit. I think if he outgrows it, I'll trade HIM for a horse the SADDLE fits... :winkgrin: :lol: ) The silly filly worked super well, and let me trim her feet ALONE for the first time in her life. (which is a big deal for her.) The Young Master Irrenaeus never fails to make me smile, it's annoying at times that he learns far, far faster than I do. :p (disclaimer: yes, I rode/trained other days, that was an example.)

Thanks for the input. Thanks for reading my ramble. Perhaps I just need hormones. :lol: :lol:

Gloria
Oct. 1, 2009, 06:34 PM
Anyway. I guess I don't know how to ask the question. I just wonder how--or if--you tone down the demanding mental/spiritual/energy (NOT physical work--chores still happen!) or where you find the resources to 'just do it' when other 'big' things outside of Equus seem to want priority?

Dear, the mental/spiritual/energy is something that will find you, not something you will find. It is something you experience, not something you seek. Relax.... If what you experience is so strong and overpowering, I suggest you to seek a quiet place to sit down, have a good cry (don't need to have a good reason) till you get rid of all the energy that is trying to accumulate on you and weight you down. Then stay away from your horses for a few days. Horses reflect what you have and amplify it and in a "weighted" state, they are not the best media. Nobody say you need to see them every single day. When you come back, you may feel, umm, lighter?

Trevelyan96
Oct. 1, 2009, 06:41 PM
I have to admit, I'm among the 'lazy' crowd who is content at the lower levels, because I learned in my competitive days in the hutners that at some point the pressure to 'move up' takes the fun and joy out of riding for me.

There are just times when the horse or rider (or both) hit a plateau and then suddenly you get the head shaking trainer, the self doubt, the guilt, and you start drilling. And suddenly it its 'taking too long' to get this or that, and it becomes more about the 'advancement' and less about the 'improvement', and more about getting it done, and less about doing it.

So, call me lazy, not committed, whatever. All I know is that now when I ride its becaue I choose to ride and I enjoy it whether its a hack on trail, a long and low walk, a good canter transition or just a nice round circle. I may not do it constantly, but I'm very happy trying to do it correctly. And to me, that's the magic of dressage.

slc2
Oct. 1, 2009, 07:05 PM
You've been riding the last couple months, but in the past, have said you frequently go for long periods of time without riding for many months.

dkcbr
Oct. 3, 2009, 12:34 PM
I've found that once I removed the "musts" and "shoulds" as far as levels, I became re-energized. I now focus on small, attainable goals and that is enough to keep me going and enjoying and not questioning my commitment, degree of seriousness, or what have you. I guess it's "Just Do It - lite." :)

I also remind myself every day that at least a minimum amount of work is required to maintain any fitness at all and avoid injury (for the horse, but I guess also for myself now that I think about it). I am riding enough days per week for the horse's sake - not because the horse cares about it, but because any fitness program involves consistency. When you're maintaining consistency, it doesn't matter one iota why you're riding - just that you get out there and MOVE. That helps me fit riding into the massive list of priorities that is Life. (Well, that and the couple of shows I've entered. :lol: )

But no, we can't have it both ways. We can't say to ourselves that we are intense and striving for continuous improvement and aiming for the upper levels (whatever they are in your world) AND also say "life got in the way." I believe you get one or two passes a year due to life, but not multiple passes per week. If "Life is happening" multiple times a week and interfering with a riding schedule, it means you are not able to be committed to the degree you say you want to be right now. This is not a good thing or a bad thing - it is reality!

The good news is that there's a perfectly satisfying happy medium; it's up to each of us to find the one that fits us, our horses, and our real goals.

butlerfamilyzoo
Oct. 3, 2009, 02:19 PM
PP- We need to live closer so we can have pity parties together. :) Well, maybe not pity parties, but confusion parties... Does that work?

I'm right there with you. When i get to ride, it all floods back, the joy, the want, the intensity, followed by the frustration the next day of not being able to ride, then the next day, then the next day, then 2 weeks later, a month... I WANT IT BAD, but life is getting in the way.

And funny you say maybe trying something else would be different... I was just telling my husband i want a western saddle (i know, right after buying a new dressage saddle that the saddle fairy finally blessed me with) and go cut cattle with the guy down the street on the weekends for fun. Nothing wacko insane cutting, more like shuffling the cows from one pasture to another type of work.

Its not that i dont want to put in the time either, there are plenty of days that i could have gotten out there, but just couldnt bring myself to it. I think its a combo of mental/physical pooped out, or maybe the fear of the frustration after the ride that i'm not where i want to be and never going to get there like this.

Like right now! I could be out there. But thus far, i've bred a dog, cleaned my house, did dog pens, stalls, and been chasing around an 11 month old the whole time... ALl that after being pooped out from a dog match last night. I'm just not in the right frame or mind, or body, lol, to get my rear out there and really pursue it today. I would be tempted to load up a pony and go trail riding if there were someone else to go with, but even that gets frustrating, as, like you, i'm tweaking no matter how/where i ride. So does it help? I dont know. lol.

I sure feel your pain though. At one point in time i was a working student for some of the best in the country riding 3rd level, committed 7 days a week to riding/training and preparing for a bright future in dressage... Now... I'm just a used to be wannabe in Intro! ;)

I havent figured out how to come to terms with the "middle ground" yet as another poster mentioned. If you figure out how to do that, let me know. :)

slc2
Oct. 3, 2009, 02:58 PM
It's just as hard for me as for everyone else, but I think the key is in just making it a priority. It just has to be the choice one makes.

Sometimes it is that the horse the person has isn't a good match, there's a problem, and he's practically forcing himself to ride. Maybe he should get another horse, and make riding more fun.

I think that if it is a big effort to get on and school the horse when a lot of other things are going on, the key might be changing that, that might mean working with someone who teaches you to be more independent, or gives you different tools to work with so riding doesn't seem like such an effort.

The ideal is that when it comes time to ride, you start waving your arms and screaming, 'THIS IS MY TIME! THIS IS MY TIME!', everyone draws back in absolute terror and says, 'Well SURE...why of COURSE!' and you go and do it, LOL.

No matter what else is going on in life one always feels better if one can get away from it for an hour and think about nothing but riding. If there are changes in schooling and training that help to make that more do-able, that's good.

cyndi
Oct. 3, 2009, 03:24 PM
If you mean, "can you go back" to a different riding sport, for me, that's a resounding no. I've been doing dressage since the late 80s, but for the first ten years could really only 'dabble.' I have been pretty much consumed by it the last ten years or so. I think what really 'hooked' me was when I finally got to the point where I KNEW what 'connection' was and could achieve it on a regular basis with all of my horses. Before I felt that feeling, I could have probably done something else, and, in fact, did do a little bit of endurance (25mile rides) for a few years in there. But that feeling of riding a horse who's in perfect self carriage - with its back UP - and you feel like all you have to do there is sit like the Queen of England - that is what we refer to as 'dressage crack.'

Once I sat on a horse whose back was up, and was totally in self-carriage - that was it. My husband does endurance and often wants me to ride one of his with me. Nope. Can't STAND it. Can't STAND to ride a horse with a dropped back, who's crooked, etc. etc. etc. Heck, I can barely stand to watch OTHER people ride horses like that. It makes me cringe.

I ride every single day. I have three horses, and often ride all three on Sat and Sun. It helps that the horses are in the backyard. But I am also very driven. Face it - if you are not driven a bit, you are not going to get anywhere unless you are supremely naturally talented. I am not. Quite the opposite. My first trainer, who is now an S judge, told me (years after the fact) that if she could teach ME to sit the trot, she could teach anyone! LOL! I've trained all my horses - my oldest now is schooling third - has gone to one schooling show - and would have shown recognized this year except she fractured her coffin bone. She is sound now, but has lost a lot of strenth in canter. So, next year.

Dressage is NOT easy. It, to me, is the hardest horse sport possible. And I've done barrel racing, western pleasure, endurance, dabbled in hunters.... You cannot be a twice a week rider and get anywhere in dressage. You AND the horse need to ride 5-6 times a week to develop the skills and the MUSCLE to move up the levels. My 3rd level horse looks like a little bodybulder - not an ounce of fat on her - very muscled. She's been in consistent 3-5 days a week dressage work for SIX years. Yet, she still lacks strength in canter just from having 2 months off - and she was even turned out on 10 acres for those 2 months. (Vet had us put bar shoes on her and said if she came sound with shoes, lay her off, but turn her out.) I've been riding her about 2 months since her layoff and at canter, she's STILL not quite back to where she was before.

My old trainer (one mentioned above) told me a funny story about when she went to the Grand Canyon. She took one of those mule/donkey trips down into the canyon...the fact that her mount was crooked drove her crazy...she said she kept working at getting it straight...and then realized she might just be in danger of 'dressaging' them both off the side of the cliff! LOL! So she stopped and just sat there and let it go crooked, but it drove her nuts!

That would definitely be me!

merrygoround
Oct. 3, 2009, 03:40 PM
Me too!

It's case of once you know what a straight round, connected horse feels like, you have difficulty in settling for less. ;)

JackSprats Mom
Oct. 5, 2009, 10:25 PM
PP- No I don't think you CAN go back. Once you have the knowledge and feel for whats correct and beautiful its hard to just sit and let something feel 'wrong'. I think even at a subconcious level you can't do it even if you just try.

That said, I do think you can 'just go for a ride' and enjoy the scenery every once in a while:yes:


I ADORE my new job. My interaction with people in crisis is INCREDIBLY fulfilling, joyful, and DEMANDING. I'm new enough at it that it's still also exhausting. Used to be riding was refreshing. These days riding is exhausting too. ;) FULFILLING, but exhausting. I begin yet another facet tomorrow. I'm achieving something I wanted when I was 7. But it's also HARD after a certain age to learn everything over again. (and I keep asking--do you get your brain back after mentalpause? :uhoh: :lol: :uhoh: )

My thought is, even though you are into a new job (which is always stressful but more so when dealing with poeple in crisis) you need to carry on with your dressage....with dressage (IMO) there are times you love it (most days for me it is like meditation, with the need to be absolutly present) and times when its not so fun but neccessary- which sounds like now for you. Only you know though how your horse will be with time off, some are fine, some go back a few steps and some, like mine, go back several steps.

Equa
Oct. 5, 2009, 10:48 PM
I can't "go back". But I find it is very beneficial to ride outside my comfort zone - it improves my dressage riding enormously (eventing, showjumping, polo). However, even getting older, because I usually ride several dressage horses each day, and have done for years, if I take a month or two off (as we had to when we had an EI epidemic, or last summer, when I went o/s and had my daughter riding my horses), I can get straight back on and it feels as though nothing has changed. And if I stretch first, it doesn't even hurt the next day! Having ridden and trained several horses to FEI level, I have no great screaming rush to get back "there" (wherever that is!) and very much enjoy competing and training at lower levels (currently 2nd/3rd).

Leena
Oct. 6, 2009, 12:01 AM
WOW !!! A nice thread...

I join the obsessive path I am sure...

No I can't go back because I feel if I develop the right reflex in my body, I get so much response from the horse and believe me good ones.

I found recently to loosen my elbows and FINALLY relax my hole body.. Wheewww !!!

I am feeling good these days so enjoying training..even in the rain !!


http://i63.photobucket.com/albums/h148/Leena_photos/010.jpg
http://i63.photobucket.com/albums/h148/Leena_photos/026.jpg
http://i63.photobucket.com/albums/h148/Leena_photos/008.jpg
http://i63.photobucket.com/albums/h148/Leena_photos/Lancer15sept2009.jpg

Sabine
Oct. 6, 2009, 12:14 AM
a couple of thoughts...
it took me about 5 years to sort out my life in a way that I was able to ride one horse effectively- 5 days a week.
being a career person - it is hard to keep the career hours in check- keep the kids coming along well and still put in a meaningful training ride on the horse.
A lot is mental- it's the attitude and pressure one puts on him/herself. If you have a husband, kids a house and a job- it's borderline unrealistic to have a meaningful training time as well- unless you have no commute and the covered right next to your house.
I think we are putting a lot of pressure on ourselves to achieve and this can sour the way we are going about doing it.
I eliminated a lot of other things in my life, my kids are just about grown- my horse and facility is close by- so barely a commute and I have forced myself to add a regular gym workout to the schedule....which amazingly has taken the mental tenseness out of my training rides and made them much more fluid and effortless- being really fit helps a ton...and doesn't make you worry so much about the quality- because a fit body can be relaxed and still do the job- with much less effort. This has helped me a lot.

Cat - OnceUponADressageDream
Oct. 6, 2009, 07:58 AM
I think "pressure" is a key word to remember here! My coach is always telling me, even via random text message, to "just relax and stop putting so much pressure on yourself!" When I remove the pressure and just ride to enjoy myself, I feel so much better. But when I don't, it becomes an absolute chore - especially when I work full time with horses, ride two (often tricky) horses at work amongst the other, physically demanding jobs, and then have to try and find the energy to work one or two, sometimes three after work...AND usually teach a lesson or two as well! Immersing yourself is great, but sometimes you need to figure out when to remove the pressure and just take a big breath and relax a little.

slc2
Oct. 6, 2009, 08:16 AM
Many posts seem to be saying that the solution is to just not have goals. I don't think so. I think that for some, riding casually is fine. But what about the person whose goal it is to go to the regional or national championship, or move up the levels before rigor mortis sets in?

Is it possible to work very hard, have ambitious and specific goals, and still keep the pressure off enough that one can focus and improve, and enjoy oneself?

I know people who do this. Whatever they have, they should bottle and sell to us. But I think the bottom line is that our best competitors simply are mentally tough. They have a bad ride, a tough lesson, they hit a barrier, and they just keep chipping away at it with grim determination.

I think a lot of people feel pressure because they don't realize that problems are part of the process. I've read so many posts here where people are absolutely panicked that horsey won't do such and such, or horsey was difficult the other day, or that they couldn't do something. Either because the usual peanut gallery is embarrassing them or because they just think they shouldn't have any problems.

If they think that, it's due to lack of experience. Everyone has problems. Every horse has weaknesses.

A lot of people simply cannot stand having a problem. They just aren't made that way. They get so upset if they get a poor score or have a problem with their lessons that they don't ride for MONTHS or they even quit. I know quite a few people who withdrew from dressage rather than really knuckle down at third level. They couldn't figure out collection or lead changes so they quit.

I also think people feel pressure purely and simply because they don't get help. Most of the people I know who are really frustrated and upset don't get enough help. They just don't. With those folks I think much of the reason they get upset is that they don't know what they're supposed to be doing.

Often they have never had consistent, good quality help, or have read books and attended occasional clinics so they have bits and pieces and slogans, rather than a solid foundation, to the point where they really are just not doing the right things in training their horses.

In this situation a lot of people get very stubborn and cling even harder to the wrong methods, and get really mad at every trainer they work with (work with briefly).

There are also people who just don't respect any instructor. No one's good enough for them to work with, and if the results don't meet their expectations, they get angry at the trainer.

A lot of this is just plain old inexperience, not knowing what to do.

People often have coping styles that just don't go well with progressing in a technical sport. If they have to take a couple months off every time something gets frustrating, they won't get too far. That's just how it is.

Many people pick bad instructors. The person is nearby, cheap or convenient or accessible. After a while they realize it's a bad instructor, but then they very often think ALL instructors are bad, and trust no one.

If they blow up at every instructor or can't work with anyone for any length of time, much the same. If they're easily frightened, sensitive, are uncomfortable accepting that there will always be people who are better, and who have something of merit to teach them, they will have a long, long row to hoe.

This is a very, very hard sport to be really good at. It requires a persistence that is not affected by frustration, failure or the 'embarrassment' of being a student. Not solely 'patience', but patience AND persistence.

I watched a lesson years ago in which one of the riders could not counter canter in one direction. She was really upset. She was practically in tears, at one point I think the floodgates did open. To be honest, and she admitted later, she hadn't really practiced it enough before that lesson, and the result was predictable. So she made a mistake. So what. She spent the next week before her next lesson, flubbing it up some more, making mistakes and working her ass off. She was absolutely determined she was going to be much better the next lesson. Next lesson, much better. Perfect? No. But she kept at it. I often think of that lesson whenever I face any problem. Cry, laugh or whatever, but then it's time to work. I think that's how the people who succeed do it.

Cat - OnceUponADressageDream
Oct. 6, 2009, 08:35 AM
Hmm. I love both my trainers (both FEI rider/trainers, I see one more regularly as she is closer). They both give me heaps of new ideas and help me progress lots each lesson, both encourage but still push just hard enough, and are always fair in their feedback - they tell me when I'm doing well, but they tell me when I'm not, too.

I don't think removing pressure has anything to do with goals. I have goals. Huge goals. Not Olympic goals, but make dressage, young horse training and rider trianing a full time career sort of goals. I have immersed myself into the horse world and while I have had difficulty due to lack of funds, I have done the best I can and have managed to set my self up reasonably well by now. I read dressage. I watch dressage. I listen dressage. Guys think about sex every 60 seconds. I think about dressage every 30. (ok so maybe that is exaggerating, but you get the idea!)

I do struggle, as I've said, to keep my own horse in regular work when my job gets full on - but as I ride at work, I still make the commitment to working very hard to improve when riding there.

My problem, more than anything, is that I am a total perfectionist and extremely critical of myself, and while this is GREAT at times - e.g., being willing to throw myself into a new challenge if I think my riding will benefit from it - it is also very discouraging at other times...you know, if I improve one thing, then I develop a hang-up about the next.

So when I talk about taking the pressure off, I try to back off and have "fun" for a bit. That might mean skipping a schooling show to mess around at home, going showjumping or just doing cavaletti or a "fun" ride at home, stepping back the flatwork for a nice, easy stretching session for the horse where I focus on me without getting worked up about what the horse is doing...whatever it takes. But in doing this, I don't forget to work on my dressage. I apply my dressage techniques to all facets of my riding, so let's say I go jumping - I'm having fun doing something a bit different, but I'm working on the quality and adjustability of the canter between jumps. Maybe instead of riding, I'll do some groundwork/in-hand work with my horse - it's not like they won't benefit from it, quite the opposite in fact as this stuff usually gets ignored a bit with all the dressage focus.

So when I say take the pressure off, I'm telling myself to stop being so silly and getting worked up over little things, and back off and do something different that is still a step in the right direction, but gives me a mental break for a day or two, or a week if need be.



And as far as problems go...especially if they have been the source of my self-imploding-pressure situation, backing off for a breath of fresh air gives me the opportunity to chill out, think outside the square and come up with a solution I may not have considered before.

Cat - OnceUponADressageDream
Oct. 6, 2009, 08:37 AM
And thinking of my other thread...riders need cross training just as much as horses do, and just as much for the mental reasons!

Hilary
Oct. 7, 2009, 04:31 PM
That's why I event! I don't have do the difficult dressage progress every day.

However, I have just finished my competitive season which started in April - I had a serious goal this year, which I accomplished and my horse improved by leaps and bounds. But today was the first day in 7 months that I lay in bed at 5:30 listening to it pour rain and told myself "yes, it is OK to not ride this morning because it's cold and wet". Every other cold wet day this summer (and there were enough that my bridle crown stretched out a full 2 inches) I have gotten my butt out of bed and onto the horse. Did we have a good ride every day? Hell no. But did I have a goal for THAT DAY that I tried to achieve? Absolutely. And it was tied to my "Big Goal". And every time I felt like not doing the longer gallop or not working on her left hind leg issue I reminded myself of my "big goal". And that what I was doing was good for me and for her, and I needed to get the job done.

I take a big break every winter - I let her grow her coat and pull her shoes and ride when I can - we try to have fun, but I do have an eye to next year - I ride because I like it, but I try to make sure something counts - we did some hills, or made sure we were out for at least 45 minutes. I also know that perfecting the 10m circle in January when it's -5 is not really necessary for a good dressage test next May. But I will have to put that effort in at some point and know when I need to get back to work to achieve whatever it is I set out to do.