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View Full Version : How do you make the transition to dressage--from H/J?



Calvincrowe
Sep. 20, 2010, 01:40 PM
I am in the process of trying to figure out if I want to continue riding over fences. I had a very bad accident, and am still not able to ride 8 months later--hopefully, I get to start back this week, on the flat. I am beginning to realize that jumping may just be too dangerous to my continued use of my arm. I still want to ride, and dressage is calling my name...loudly!

I've ridden both hunters and jumpers for nearly 25 years, and have dabbled in dressage a few times along the way. I am a pretty good rider, not an expert ;), but can put in a decent training level test (I've shown my current jumper twice in dressage schooling shows--scores in the 60's).

I just don't know how to transition. Current horse is NOT a dressage candidate--horrific trot to sit, quite hot (packs over fences :)). I would love to have some advice on making the change:

How much on my own training should I expect?....remember, hunters do lessons in groups with a trainer pretty much weekly. Do dressage folks do the same? Should I sell Mr. Jumper and look for a trainer, then buy a lower level dressage packer to "teach me the ropes"?

I guess I'm just looking for some guidance or advice on making the switch. FWIW, we have some excellent dressage instruction in my area, and a super clinician comes to my area on a regular basis, and my H/J trainer lessons with her...so my flat work is quite dressage based.

Melissa.Van Doren
Sep. 20, 2010, 01:43 PM
What you said...

Find the not-for-dressage horse a good home, then find a suitable horse for you. Pick your trainer first, ideally, to get some help with the horse search. Take some time to audit/take lessons from those in your area to see who matches best with your personality and goals.

Good luck!

SillyHorse
Sep. 20, 2010, 01:54 PM
In my experience, most dressage lessons are private. No standing around watching the other ones jump the course so you can rest! :lol:

You can certainly learn the basics on your current horse, and if you decide to sell him, the dressage training he'll have gotten will only have made him better. It can improve the trot, and even make him less reactive and more of a "listener."

meupatdoes
Sep. 20, 2010, 02:28 PM
Use the horse you got.
Worry about FEI levels later.

I waited around EONS to "get a dressage horse" that I could learn dressage on. It was the dumbest thing ever and I kick myself for the time I wasted.

Finally I realized, DUH, I already have three nice horses...
and just got started with my then 3yo oldenburg, an ottb, and a 14.3 appQH.

As for training schedule, I am currently doing one half hour lesson a week, working on my own the rest of the week, and supplementing with clinics when someone cool comes to town.

Equibrit
Sep. 20, 2010, 02:34 PM
Forget that you ever knew how to ride and approach it with new eyes. Dressage will improve what you view as an unsuitable horse. Concentrate on improving that horse for now; it will make you a better rider. There is a mound to learn BEFORE you need to sit the trot.

Calvincrowe
Sep. 20, 2010, 02:48 PM
I guess I should have also added that I've had a previous back surgery, which makes sitting the trot more difficult, pain-wise, on a bouncy/stiff trotting horse. My paint jumper has a, hmm....how shall I put this, AWFUL trot to sit!! My dressage-riding, eventer friends despise his trot--it is hard, suspenseless, and jolting no matter what frame he's in. He's a lovely horse, and I'll definitely consider using him.

I didn't mean "buy an FEI packer", I meant, buy an older, school-master type horse to start on. I'm too old and broken to start a youngster again, and I want to have fun and learn something new. I think Mr. Jumperhorse would frustrate me terribly.

joiedevie99
Sep. 20, 2010, 02:51 PM
Lease! Put your jumper up for sale and start talking to your local dressage trainers about a lease or half lease. You will be much more prepared to make a purchase after a few months getting into the swing of things and loosening up muscles that you don't use much right now (and teaching other muscles, like the inner thighs, to let go).

tidy rabbit
Sep. 20, 2010, 02:55 PM
CalvinCrowe,

I think you should find a horse that you can learn on. You will have so much more fun on a schoolmaster type horse.

Life is short, get a horse you would really enjoy riding and let your jumper go teach someone to jump. Who knows, maybe you could find someone who wants to trade? :)

LShipley
Sep. 20, 2010, 03:10 PM
How seriously do you want to compete right now? If you are not looking to compete right now, I would work with your horse. A forward "hot" horse can do well in dressage because you don't have to work to create that energy as you do in a quieter horse.

I understand your point about sitting the trot when you have a bad back, and long term, selling your horse may be something to consider. But most dressage riders I know post the trot during lessons and save the sitting trot for competitions. So I would not sell your horse just yet because the trot is so hard to sit ...

I can tell from my own experience that dressage has really changed how my former trail horse, now h/j and maybe dressage horse moves. My trainer used to say at shows ... ok, don't worry if you don't win the hack since you're competing against some really fancy horses today, to saying in lessons, wow, she would have won the hack today. She uses her back and does have suspension at the trot and canter...So your horse's trot in particularly may gain some suspension.

And I honestly thought that she did not have the build or ability to do any dressage, but she does quite well with this too - I am now hoping to train her to second level.

CHT
Sep. 20, 2010, 03:16 PM
I agree with the advice to consider leasing a decent dressage horse. If your horse has that rough a trot, you will have trouble learning to feel the horse's movement, and I think it is very important to be able to tie your leg aids into your horses step as soon as possible...harder to do if your body is busy trying to protect itself!

You could always lease your gelding out though, as you may find that as you develope your dressage seat and skills, that your gelding isn't as bad as you thought.

As someone that shifted from hunters to dressage, I understand that there are muscles you must loose and new ones you must develope to acheive a good seat and feel...and this is easiest done on a smooth horse that you don't feel you have to work to balance on or protect yourself from. Developing the seat, core and legs as early as possible will make everything else so much easier!

I also recommend finding a coach that does lunge line lessons. Easiest way to let go of old habits and recreate new ones.

Good luck

Karen

2tempe
Sep. 20, 2010, 11:00 PM
A convert here, changed in my late 40's. You've gotten some excellent advice here. My thoughts are to lump it all together.
1. Find a trainer. Lesson once a week minimum and dont try to teach yourself.
2. Start w/ your current horse; you dont need to sit in the early stuff anyway. All training level has posting...and did I hear that some of first will soon be posting allowed? You can still make progress on changing your seat, lengthening your leg, rhythm, tempo and all that.
3. Depending on whether you can afford to buy or want to lease, look around at some horses over the winter, just to get a feel for what you might want.
4. Put the word out re current horse
The point of the above is don't rush into the next horse, take your time and find one that's right.

IF you can find a nice horse that has been trained up a few levels, it will make the learning experience MUCH better.
If you are getting over back issues, I'd wait a bit on the lunge line lessons, but they are - in the end - a GREAT idea.

Dressage is HARD, be prepared for that. It is also rewarding in a far different way than jumping fences.

Perfect Pony
Sep. 21, 2010, 10:19 AM
My #1 piece of advice

GET A GOOD SADDLE THAT FITS!!

I struggled with the transition for well over a year, and dressage riders just loved to tell me how hard it is to find a good position and ride correctly. Everyone had me believing that my struggle was normal (I just could not seem to get my leg under me correctly, or sit tall enough). It was finally Steffen Peters assistant that confided in me, in dressage your saddle is everything! She listened to my issues, recommended some saddles, and I had the fitter out the next week.

My position changed instantly, and sitting in a correct dressage seat became so much easier. My leg became inches longer. So seriously, don't make the mistake I did and torture yourself. Spend the time to find the right saddle, one that you sit in and automatically sit correctly and that fits perfectly, it will make riding dressage so much more fun and effortless.

Good luck!

whicker
Sep. 21, 2010, 11:21 AM
Perfect Pony has an important point. You can't do it if your saddle won't let you feel like you are balanced over your feet and your feet are close enough width-wise to stand comfortably. If your hips are stretched wide too far out, you will lock up the joint, and can tear the ligaments that hold the pelvic gridle in place.You should feel like you could be dancing on your own feet, if you were lifted by an imaginary string off the horse.

The saddle has got to be level or your back will kill you, and your horse will be evading to put you in the center of gravity. If the saddle is right, that trot may change all on it's own.

P.M. me! I'm glad you are back in the country.

Pocket Pony
Sep. 21, 2010, 09:57 PM
I understand your point about sitting the trot when you have a bad back, and long term, selling your horse may be something to consider. But most dressage riders I know post the trot during lessons and save the sitting trot for competitions. So I would not sell your horse just yet because the trot is so hard to sit ...

I can tell from my own experience that dressage has really changed how my former trail horse, now h/j and maybe dressage horse moves. My trainer used to say at shows ... ok, don't worry if you don't win the hack since you're competing against some really fancy horses today, to saying in lessons, wow, she would have won the hack today. She uses her back and does have suspension at the trot and canter...So your horse's trot in particularly may gain some suspension.


Ditto this. Paddy has a bit of a bouncy trot...or had, rather, until I started working with my dressage coach. When he's forward and in self-carriage his trot is amazingly dreamy and it is so easy to sit to. So it may be that right now your horse isn't carrying itself properly, but with correct training that may change.

Also, at training level you don't need to sit the trot and I think that starting next year you won't have to sit at first level, either (is this correct?). Honestly, making the switch there is so so so so so so so much to learn that even the basics will be totally different and you will/should spend most of your time there, anyway.

Pocket Pony
Sep. 21, 2010, 10:06 PM
My #1 piece of advice

GET A GOOD SADDLE THAT FITS!!

Spend the time to find the right saddle, one that you sit in and automatically sit correctly and that fits perfectly, it will make riding dressage so much more fun and effortless.

Good luck!

This, also. I've been through a few dressage saddles and finally have one that made me say, "oh my gosh, this is so easy!" Ok, not so easy but it made me realize why my friend (from whom I bought the saddle) always made it look so effortless. When you have a saddle that puts you in the right position then you can focus on riding, not fighting your tack.

I kept one of my old dressage saddles to use for a trail saddle every now and then. I had sent my current dressage saddle in for some repair work last week and so got on Paddy with my old dressage saddle. Mind you, this is a saddle that I competed him in so it wasn't like it felt like an inappropriate saddle at the time. OMG, I COULD NOT RIDE!!!! I felt so out of balance, I just couldn't get my leg in the right spot, I couldn't find my seat, it was horrible! I actually had to end the ride, it was so bad.

I still have my jump saddle and ride in it from time to time but I must say that the more time I spend in my dressage saddle the less time I want to spend in any other type of saddle. Once you get hooked and get the feeling of a balanced seat and a long leg, it is hard to go back! :D

JRG
Sep. 21, 2010, 10:10 PM
This is what I did:

Find a coach that has walked the walk and has students doing the same thing. You want to spend money in this area. I took lessons once a week, and sometimes two when I got myself all twisted up.

Use the horse you have now, which will be fine at this point but remember you will need to evaluate later on everyone does.

Find access to horses that know more then you do. They are a wealth of knowledge and take lessons on them.

Don't beat yourself up...you have been riding..but you haven't been doing dressage (if it were easy everyone would be doing it) It is hard, you will be fighting muscle memory for a while, it is ok!

Good luck, you will love it.

Dappled Grey
Sep. 21, 2010, 11:13 PM
Forget that you ever knew how to ride and approach it with new eyes. Dressage will improve what you view as an unsuitable horse. Concentrate on improving that horse for now; it will make you a better rider. There is a mound to learn BEFORE you need to sit the trot.

Having gone through the described transition over the last year, I think this is really wise. Let it be a humbling and exciting opportunity to become a better rider. Even though you may feel like a worse rider at first :)

carolprudm
Sep. 22, 2010, 09:47 AM
I made the transition a loong time ago, through eventing and now no longer jump.

As others have said, a saddle that fits you and your horse is vital. You might find a County Eventer is a good choice for now. They can often be found used at a reasonable price. I STILL feel constrained in a deep dressage saddle with huge blocks though I now ride in a County Connection. OTOH I can now no longer ride in a flat close contact saddle.

Posting trot on a dressage horse is different than a hunter. At least when I was a kid (a loooong time ago) we barely rose out of the saddle and tended to lead with our shoulders. Dressage riders post higher and it comes from your core. You want to think of your pubic bone going toward your horse's ears.

You might find that these two changes make the trot easier to sit in the long run, but sitting isn't important at this point.

You might also make the unwelcome discovery that you need to strengthen your core and that includes your back and quads as well as your abs, bra line to knees.

Don't make the mistake of thinking that dressage means long stirrups. If you lengthen the leathers to much you will tend to stiffen your leg and pop yourself up out of the saddle.

As disasterous as I found Mary Wanless's clinics her books are good, particularly Ride With Your Mind Essentials. I recently read Betsy Steiner's book Mind Body and Spirit (thank you Continental Airlines for the 5 hour wait in Cleveland). Someday I would love to benefit from one of her clinics.

Jane Savoie offers a wealth of information starting at Janesavoie.com and I am really looking foreward to seeing what she is introducing at WEG, though I won't be there. She has some freebees that will disappear in a few days so ckeck her out on Facebook.

And ENJOY!

hoopoe
Sep. 22, 2010, 10:32 AM
CC I transitioned from hunter to dressage

I found that I had to learn how to ride all over, that was part of the "joy"

What everyone says about the saddle is true. Do get a good fitter ( I recommend John Meriwether, he comes down your way) and make sure the saddle fits you and your horse. You may find learning to sit the trot is much easier than you think and much kinder to your back.

You will have to overcome the concept that your legs cannot move, that you need some rigid , fixed "seat" The seat of dressage is a living breathing thing. Legs hang from the hip sockets. You will feel like you are sitting backward when actually you will be sitting upright or almost upright.

stability comes from the torso core, not the hips or legs. You may actually find your back improving with extra strength. Finding someone who can teach you , particularly on the lunge, will be very beneficial. I think most trainers in this area are familiar with the wrecked backs of their (on average) older clients.

eventually you will want to show and you are in for a treat. No post entries, private ride times . YOu fill out your entry and send in a sheet of photocopied membership forms. You pick up you nember and never enter the office until you stop by to say thanks and goodby. You can actually plan your ride to the second and know exactly when to start grooming. And you will get feedback and understand why you got the score you did. :yes:

Keep an open mind about your horse, the training might improve some of that shambolic trot. If not , 6 or so months of serious flat training might actually improve the jump and sale potential next Spring

It is an excellent journy and you will be always learning

JRG
Sep. 22, 2010, 11:49 AM
CC
eventually you will want to show and you are in for a treat. No post entries, private ride times . YOu fill out your entry and send in a sheet of photocopied membership forms. You pick up you nember and never enter the office until you stop by to say thanks and goodby. You can actually plan your ride to the second and know exactly when to start grooming. And you will get feedback and understand why you got the score you did. :yes:


This is my favorite part!!!!! Love it!!!!!

Heinz 57
Sep. 22, 2010, 12:06 PM
Hey Calvincrowe!

Just wanted to add my support and say that if you DO make the switch, I'd love to see you out there.

If you're still considering using your current horse, maybe you can have either the clinician or another of the more talented instructors near you put a ride or two on him to see about whether or not his trot can be improved enough for you to be comfortable. No sense in trying to learn to sit him if he's always going to be a jarring ride, and if that's the case you can more than likely sell him and buy a more suited horse. There are quite a few nice quality mid-level packers in this area right now, and many of them at affordable asking prices.

serendipityhunter
Sep. 22, 2010, 01:54 PM
How am I transitioning?? Very slowly!!!! I started working with a dressage trainer last year when I realized there were large holes in my horse's flat work and it was affecting the jumping. I wouldn't say that my horse is well suited for dressage, but I feel like dressage will improve his gaits overall. Financially, I can't just go out and replace him or my tack. I am making do with what I have and I am overjoyed with the new things I am learning. Good luck to you...I haven't wanted to jump since I started, there are so many other things to focus on!!!!

coco21
Sep. 22, 2010, 05:07 PM
I'm curious, what are the saddles you're talking about? I have just had a similar experience. I also have switched back to dressage from hunters after many years. I have realized how important the dressage saddle is! In the hunter world it's really more about the current trend in saddles not the actual saddle. I think there are many decent close contact saddles out there that will work just as well as the trendy expensive "saddle of the day". But this is not true with dressage. Your saddle really is extremely important!
I was borrowing a friend's Stubben Scandia. It was a comfortable saddle but I was not getting the correct position in it. I was so frustrated, my BNT was telling me that my position was blocking my horses movement but everytime I tried to sit "correctly" I was hitting the pommel with my crouch... it just wasn't working. I tried a Neidersuss and VOILA! what a difference!! Horse is moving so much better, and I am sitting correctly and I'm comfortable!

coco21
Sep. 22, 2010, 05:15 PM
I also switched from hunters to dressage recently mainly because of previous injuries and my more "mature" sense of self preservation. I am enjoying riding so much more now. I also have to add that I feel much more secure in a dressage saddle than a close contact saddle. My dressage instructor told me during my first lesson that when a horse spooks and you're riding in a close contact saddle you're body is thrown forward (shorter stirrups and leaning forward to begin with) but when a horse spooks and you're in a dressage saddle you are much more likely to be pushed deeper into your saddle. I found this very comforting and very true! I am enjoying riding much more these days.
Good luck to you. I would find a dressage horse to lease or a schoolmaster to lesson on. If your jumper is that uncomfortable I'd consider selling him if you are sure you want to pursue a dressage career.

Perfect Pony
Sep. 22, 2010, 05:40 PM
I'm curious, what are the saddles you're talking about? I have just had a similar experience.

I was riding in a County Warmblood with a very wide twist, and any saddle with a wide twist just destroys my position. I simply could not open up my hips wide enough to allow my legs hang down under me. The width of the twist would push my but back and my legs would then shoot forward, then I would struggle to get my seat forward and my legs back.

I tried loads of saddles, Bates, other County's, a couple Reactor Panels, a couple Mike Corcoran Saddles (better). Steffen Peter's assistant recommended a Trilogy for my particular problem, and I bought a Trilogy Verago. It's just wonderful for me, I feel like a different rider :)

I don't think any one saddle works for everybody, but you have to find the right saddle for you. And it's really amazing how much more enjoyable dressage is!

quietann
Sep. 22, 2010, 07:11 PM
Welcome to the crowd! I got started in my re-riding career with the goal of eventing, but a bad accident put an end to that as I am no longer allowed to jump. My horse (a sport-bred Morgan) was in dressage training at the time, so I just stuck with it. And now her jumping days are over too, due to an injury, but luckily she's quite a nice lower-level dressage horse.

It's very, very different than the "forward seat" or "balanced seat" or whatever modes. I am still, 2 years later, learning the real basics of dressage position. The saddle does make a difference; I bought my beloved, comfy Albion Style when I was still rehabbing from the accident, and now find it lacking. The horse I take lessons on (see below) has a custom Hennig, built for the horse and the rider who is short and curvy like I am, and it really, really makes a difference. I can sit the trot in the Hennig, while it's a struggle in the Albion. Not that I'll be buying a Hennig anytime soon; they are seriously expensive saddles. But I can dream that maybe by the time my horse is sound, I'll find a way to afford a really nice, high end saddle.

On horses: yes, you will need to sit eventually, but for Training and (next year) First Level, you can post, and should, if you can't sit without hurting yourself. As your build up your core, sitting the trot will become easier. Your current horse might not be as unsuitable as you think.

BUT, if you possibly can, find a good horse "who knows more than you do" to take lessons on. I am lucky enough to have stumbled upon such a horse; Miss Hennig is a small WB mare who trained to 4th level, but excels at being a lesson horse for Training and First Level riders (and it doesn't ruin her, either.)

welcome :) And glad to hear you're nearly ready to ride again!

Mozart
Sep. 23, 2010, 12:33 PM
:cool: Welcome to the dark side. I think you will find the "DQs " are not what you have possibly been led to believe.

I planned to work on dressage and jumping with my current horse but have found the dressage to be very addictive. Especially when you start to see physical changes in your horse and in the way he moves and carries himself.

I still occasionally ride in my close contact saddle but I find I have a really hard time switching between a hunt seat and a dressage seat. Learning the dressage seat is still a work in progress but when I want to ride in my close contact and maybe hop over some jumps I find that my two point has...poof...vanished. I evented in my twenties and thirties and seemed to go back and forth more easily but now...ick.

No reason you can't start with your current horse and see how that goes. You might be surprised at the physical changes.

I will second the saddle comment, a correctly fitting saddle will make the transiton much better.

Trevelyan96
Sep. 23, 2010, 01:38 PM
I've been in the transition for a while, and actually still moving back and forth a bit between the two. I agree the right dressage saddle is like night and day, for both you and your horse. Since getting my new saddle, I've seen a huge improvement in both me and my horse. After my weekly lesson in my close contact saddle, hopping on my guy in my dressage saddle is like 'coming home.'

You will learn a whole new way to balance and use entirely new muscles.

Agree with the poster who said try starting on your own horse from the very bottom of the training scale to see if you can improve his gaits a bit. See if you can get a good instructor to hop on him, and also take your time and try some other horses. But no need to rush any of that, lower level work is done posting anyway.

Peggy
Sep. 24, 2010, 02:36 AM
I made the transition from HJ to dressage via eventing due largely to a horse that didn't like to jump and now have transitioned back to HJ with a horse that prefers jumping. So, perhaps I am not the best role model here.

I started dressage lessons in my HJ saddle, a somewhat flat hard saddle by today's HJ standards (Crosby Equilibrium) and finally bought a dressage saddle when I was doing training-level eventing. The horse, the one prior to the one that disliked jumping, was a fairly hot TB who tended to go around like a gazelle. Or a crab, depending on his mood. The then-boyfriend of a serial Olympian got on him during a clinic and gave up, if that gives you any idea. But, I learned a lot from that horse, like really good feel and riding forward from the leg to the hand. He wouldn't have been my first choice for straight dressage, but the point is that I learned quite a bit from a far-from-perfect horse. But at least he was fairly comfortable, even when channeling different species. And we brought our dressage scores up to the point that we were generally within on cross-country stop of the leaders after dressage.