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View Full Version : What problems do you come across starting your horse in dressage?



RLF
Dec. 23, 2010, 12:48 AM
This question is aimed more at amatuer owner/riders who have a horse, young or old, they are starting in dressage.

I'd love to hear descriptions of initial challenges you had to overcome when starting your horse in dressage. Both physical (actual riding or training obstacles) and mental (knowledge based, etc) obstacles and problems would be great! And any ongoing issues you may have had...

xQHDQ
Dec. 23, 2010, 07:33 AM
Initial challenges????? How about ongoing challenges....?

Behind the 8 Ball
Dec. 23, 2010, 08:11 AM
Biggest challenge - making the first transitions to canter without getting my arse bucked into the rafters.
Then the ongoing challenge is establishing contact without letting them curl up behind.
As I am starting a 4 yo 17+ hand baby right now, these are things I work on 3-4 times a week for the last 3 weeks. So far, so good. Those rafters are really close tho!;)

AnotherRound
Dec. 23, 2010, 08:18 AM
One early challenge I found to be at the walk and trot, to hold their shoulder up correctly and not drop it into the bend. It takes very strong outside leg and rein to hold them, and the rider must learn what this is. Turning with the outside rein is counter intuitive, but the horse finds a solid support and needs it to do lateral work correctly. Also, you have to really learn to sit back and down and keep off their shoulder. Coming from H/J where I spent most of my time in a half seat of some sort, this has been really tough, but essential for the horse so his shoulder can come up to me.

Initially, my horse, and others I've observed, are "all over the place" wiggly and hard to go straight. First because THEY are not yet strong, second because the rider isn't holding them with the lower leg strongly enough. It requires lots of time trotting circles and sprials, and asking the horse to use his back correctly, keeping his outside shoulder from bulging (with your lower legs), and keeping the inside shoulder from dropping. I've been working on this for several months and finally am having a good, steady rhythmic gait which we can begin to vary longitudinally. But it takes alot of work and time to get strong laterally.

AnotherRound
Dec. 23, 2010, 08:26 AM
Biggest challenge - making the first transitions to canter without getting my arse bucked into the rafters.
Then the ongoing challenge is establishing contact without letting them curl up behind.
As I am starting a 4 yo 17+ hand baby right now, these are things I work on 3-4 times a week for the last 3 weeks. So far, so good. Those rafters are really close tho!;)

Wow, at least it isn't just me. To the left we are grand, and he can step right into the canter from a walking half halt. To the right - I can't describe how hard it is for him. He goes well to the right on the longe and freely, so its me, alright, but we're getting it. Usually its because I tipped inside, didn't sit back enough, interfered in some way.

One thing I learned is that if they are ready for canter departs, they are easier for the horse to do from a walk than from a trot, because in the walk there is a long space of time as the ouside hind comes down for him to come up and move into the correctly lead well.

Also, be sure to ask for the depart from a correct, nice walk, and half halt just before, coming out of a circle onto the track. At the same time, be teaching him a rein back. Eventually you can ask for the canter depart from a rein back. All of this sounds more advanced than from a trot, but its not - the horse is more balanced from a walk and half halt at walk and from a rein back because his energy is gathered and under him. At a trot he is more possibly on his forehand, and there is less space and time for him to change from the trot to the one hind leg on the ground canter depart.

The reasons my gelding bucks in the canter depart are because I am not sitting far enough back off his shoulder! Most depart problems come from them not being able to get their shoulder out, because we are sitting on them, so don't lean forward, lean back, sit back and down and allow him to take his time giving you the depart.

Next trick - if you are asking from a trot, post on the wrong diagonal. Sit down, back, and ask from a half halt at the trot.

Trixie's mom
Dec. 23, 2010, 08:40 AM
When i decided to switch to dressage when my mare was 8 years old, i faced the typical physical issues but the biggest mountain to climb (and still climbing it) was the negativity of others.
Surround yourself with encouraging as well as knowledgeable folks. :)

tempichange
Dec. 23, 2010, 08:43 AM
Horse didn't come with pre-programmed anything. Lost the manual.

Trixie's mom
Dec. 23, 2010, 09:10 AM
freez,
i'm schooling changes now and i have to agree...trixie feels the need to create serious air time in her changes and boy can she launch herself straight up!!! :) hope you're wearing a helmet too!

Petstorejunkie
Dec. 23, 2010, 09:17 AM
Dressage reveals your dirty laundry. That's the beauty of it, and I really feel that's why it contributes to a better horse in any discipline.
So your dirty undies are probably different from mine, and our horse's have different dirty undies than the others on this board. The point is that you will begin to see all the short comings and be able to deal with them.

...no matter how frustrating, big, small, weird, or typical. It's your laundry

Trixie's mom
Dec. 23, 2010, 09:29 AM
Pet...i love your first sentence!!! Now my facebook status!!! hahaha

ACP
Dec. 23, 2010, 10:30 AM
Well, if I could remember my left from my right..... :))

slp2
Dec. 23, 2010, 11:47 AM
posted by PSJ:
Dressage reveals your dirty laundry. That's the beauty of it, and I really feel that's why it contributes to a better horse in any discipline.
So your dirty undies are probably different from mine, and our horse's have different dirty undies than the others on this board.This is great. And SO true. I have two horses and their "dirty undies" are completely different colors (so to speak). One has plenty of impulsion, and is forward-going with nice suspension, but pretty tough to get her to relax through her neck and back. My young horse (4) is very soft and loose in her neck and jaw--but doesn't have that consistent "push" from behind and can sometimes get behind the contact. And my riding flaws are different for both horses as well.

But the best thing is when you learn to ride in those different "undies" and how much your horses improve. When I have a big grin on my face while I'm riding (because everything is working) is when doing all the dirty laundry is worth it. :)

Nojacketrequired
Dec. 23, 2010, 06:18 PM
What problems do you come across Starting in dressage?

Knowing the diference between "fast" and "forward" and having the guts to actually ride "forward" all the time, no matter what is going on underneath you.

(Not that I've overcome this or anything!!!:lol: But at least I'm no longer in denial!)

NJR

KrazyTBMare
Dec. 23, 2010, 07:08 PM
FORWARD.

I have put 6 rides on my 3.5 yr old Oldenburg. The first 3 rides were on a lunge line and the 3rd ride had a tiny bit of trotting. Fourth ride was totally off the lunge and we trotted around the field for like 5 mins each way with breaks.

Fifth ride happened to be away at a young horse clinic and we did round pen work and the clinician (Dean Graham) was on and w/t/c with no issues.

Sixth ride (most of the rides are like honestly 2 weeks apart) was at another lesson off the farm with Dean and we were in a huge arena and he was on and within 8 mins was w/t/c and "hand galloping" to really just get him moving as he is not a forward thinking horse.

I got on after Dean and we were going around w/t/c and it was my first time cantering him outside of the round pen (and to the right). My biggest challenge is to resist the urge to grab the reins if he gets quick or I lose my balance and to quit trying to micro manage and use multiple aids at once like when you are riding a trained horse (inside leg, outside rein, left seat bone, all at once, etc).

We were actually cantering left, went across the arena at a 90 degree angle, I lost my balance a little, he did a flying change to the right, Dean starts yelling "Go right! Go right!" so we did and then we were cantering around on the right lead. lol

Rex is the easy part - I just have to remind myself to relax and do one thing at a time and make my aids very clear not overthink it so much.

Jump4victory
Dec. 23, 2010, 09:52 PM
When i decided to switch to dressage when my mare was 8 years old, i faced the typical physical issues but the biggest mountain to climb (and still climbing it) was the negativity of others.
Surround yourself with encouraging as well as knowledgeable folks. :)

I agree!!! People will try to bring you down if they see are having trouble. You and your horse know what you can do. We had obstacles with transitions and in the end he surprised me with what he could do. HANG IN THERE! ;)

netg
Dec. 23, 2010, 11:20 PM
FORWARD.


My horse was an eventer who got decent dressage scores due to natural good movement, but never had the solid dressage foundation really laid out for him, so when I got him in March we started with basics.

This is the one we STILL struggle with.

He's an OTTB who had no problems meeting time at Training events... so he knew fast, but forward/impulsion was a different story. Getting in front of the leg is still sometimes tricky, though he at least gets there every ride now. I don't think I will ever forget my trainer's excitement when she hopped on him at the end of one of my lessons for the first time in about a month and was super excited that she asked him to leg yield and he sped up -because it was the first time he showed that FORWARD tendency when she was riding him.

luchiamae
Dec. 23, 2010, 11:21 PM
Contact, if they have been taught incorrectly to start with, is the HARDEST challenge ever.

princessfluffybritches
Dec. 24, 2010, 12:46 AM
My first challange???? The perfect 20 meter round circle...............

paintlady
Dec. 24, 2010, 09:03 AM
When i decided to switch to dressage when my mare was 8 years old, i faced the typical physical issues but the biggest mountain to climb (and still climbing it) was the negativity of others.
Surround yourself with encouraging as well as knowledgeable folks. :)

Ditto. Especially true if you don't ride a "traditional" dressage breed. I like to think the best of people, but I've also had my fair share of negativity.

Hampton Bay
Dec. 24, 2010, 09:55 AM
The first couple rides? Not running into the fence!

After that, it's contact. So very foreign to the babies. I don't do a ton of lunging in side reins before I start them though. I would rather start them hacking out in a field on a big circle, lots of straight lines, than do a bunch of lunging in a small circle.

After that, it's getting the canter leads reliable. If you have one who can counter canter all day long, sometimes they just don't get the whole lead thing. Even when you try it from the leg yield, the walk, or any of the other variety of tricks that usually help to get the lead. Even worse when they would rather trot, so they start getting the wrong lead on purpose so they can come back down and try again.

Alexie
Dec. 24, 2010, 12:58 PM
Getting the right trainer was the biggest challenge. As I didn't know what I was looking for in a dressage trainer due to never having gone down this road before, I had to kiss a lot of toads before finding the right one.
And people do seem to resent you getting all fancy and taking up dressage and getting ideas above your station :) but we just ignore them!
Learning how to give the horse a forward contact, supporting the outside correctly, learning how to use the seat so that you don't hinder the horse, the difference between forward and faster as someone else said....I could go on and on :D

katie+tru
Dec. 25, 2010, 11:15 AM
I'm working on a horse right now who was started with the "frame before forward" mentality, as I now call it. You couldn't pick up the reins without him putting his nose in and arching his neck. He'd put himself into a "frame" but would not go forward... at all. He had no gas pedal to speak of. So pretty much my trainer has had me reversing that whole concept since July. I began riding him with no serious contact, just enough to steer, but absolutely no flexion. And we just worked and worked at getting him to just GO. He finally has his gas pedal now which makes getting everything else to come together a lot easier. We're working on travelling straight, especially when going to the right, and working on responsivness to inside leg.

So I guess the biggest challenge is making sure dressage horses are started right from the very first ride. And by right I mean what is truly correct, not what some judges will think is more visually attractive. Going forward and tracking up should come before putting a horse in the bridle and asking for any sort of frame.

Behind the 8 Ball
Dec. 25, 2010, 12:06 PM
I'm working on a horse right now who was started with the "frame before forward" mentality, as I now call it. You couldn't pick up the reins without him putting his nose in and arching his neck. He'd put himself into a "frame" but would not go forward... at all. He had no gas pedal to speak of. So pretty much my trainer has had me reversing that whole concept since July. I began riding him with no serious contact, just enough to steer, but absolutely no flexion. And we just worked and worked at getting him to just GO. He finally has his gas pedal now which makes getting everything else to come together a lot easier. We're working on travelling straight, especially when going to the right, and working on responsivness to inside leg.

So I guess the biggest challenge is making sure dressage horses are started right from the very first ride. And by right I mean what is truly correct, not what some judges will think is more visually attractive. Going forward and tracking up should come before putting a horse in the bridle and asking for any sort of frame.

This is the hardest part!! Working in a vacuum ( no trainer and only my 11 yo daughter as ground coach) it is hard to know what it looks like but I know the feel. And I want GO, GO, Go, seeking bit and bridle and covering ground with back in saddle and happy eyes. We only work for 20 - 30 minutes but we are building!!

Mr.GMan
Dec. 25, 2010, 05:32 PM
What problems do you come across Starting in dressage?

Knowing the diference between "fast" and "forward" and having the guts to actually ride "forward" all the time, no matter what is going on underneath you.

(Not that I've overcome this or anything!!!:lol: But at least I'm no longer in denial!)

NJR

Ditto to what NJR says as well as having an 11 yo just learning what dressage is all about and me helping him (in all my amateur glory--haha)to try and understand the subtle differences in half halts and leg cues. Thank goodness for my trainer to help us!

InsideLeg2OutsideRein
Dec. 25, 2010, 08:30 PM
Ha. Having the confidence that you're in charge even if there is no way your horse thinks you are (yet). ;)

rugbygirl
Dec. 26, 2010, 02:21 AM
Not recognizing success and rewarding the horse (and yourself) for it.

Dressage is a huge trap for perfectionists...progress is slow and there are unending sources of criticism, with widely varying topics. You need to kind of pick a course and stay it, not try to fix everything at once but at the same time be able to assess when "the course" isn't working and change the game plan. Tricky balance. I've certainly got no answers on that front, just starting to realize that it's a big problem...

Cat Tap
Dec. 26, 2010, 12:11 PM
I am trying to figure out at what point I should expect some flexion. We are finally forward, manage decent circles and serpentines at the trot but cannot get him to soften and give in the jaw/poll. Canter transitions though clean and prompt one the lunge are non existent while being ridden.

This is not my first greenie but he sure is the slowest learner I have ever had. He doesn't get flustered just carries on like he doesn't have a clue. He does not take life very seriously.

Behind the 8 Ball
Dec. 26, 2010, 12:20 PM
I am trying to figure out at what point I should expect some flexion. We are finally forward, manage decent circles and serpentines at the trot but cannot get him to soften and give in the jaw/poll. Canter transitions though clean and prompt one the lunge are non existent while being ridden.

This is not my first greenie but he sure is the slowest learner I have ever had. He doesn't get flustered just carries on like he doesn't have a clue. He does not take life very seriously.

How old is he? Maybe he is just a goofy adolescent. Be patient

Cat Tap
Dec. 26, 2010, 12:33 PM
Behind the 8 Ball he is five now but wasn't started until he was 4. Spent the summer hacking with a buddy and he was very sensible. We are now working in the indoor. We did manage some unusual canter transitions while working in the outdoor ring e.g. turn sideways, put head down, crow hop and then go. I learned how to go with that but I am sure he feel he doesn't have enough room to canter inside.

I will continue to improve our trot work hoping the canter transitions will come. I think he is one of those horses who will always have the "goofy kid" mentality. If everything else fails I think he will be a nice "old lady" trail horse.

He is registered KWPN/NA but his dam is TB.

lowroller
Dec. 30, 2010, 08:11 AM
I agree with Alexie - finding the right trainer.

Because when you are starting, you have no idea what is normal.

Better trainers are working with the end goal in mind - GP / PSG or whatever. They don't get bogged down in the little things, they just keep moving methodically forward.

Second would be - putting too much emphasis on showing in the early days. No matter how correct your training is - if you are competing on your 5 yr old, sensitive, athletic horse against a 17 yr old training level schoolmaster who could have a bomb go off beneath him without batting an eye - you will probably lose. Badly. Do not take it as a reflection on your training, your horse, your coach... the judge can only judge what is in the ring. Poorly trained but error free and totally submissive will win over essentially correct but young and a bit squirrely here/there/everywhere.

Third would be - don't listen to BB's who make it sound like 3rd level is some magic and barely obtainable goal. Just do it. Back to finding the right trainer - you will be amazed to find that most horses in the barn are playing around with bits of everything - some lateral work, trying a change here and there, half steps - it just becomes part of the daily ride and gradually morphs into really nice work as things come together.

shawneeAcres
Dec. 30, 2010, 08:47 AM
I am not sure if the OP is asking about going from another discipline to dressage or starting a young horse. So I will answer from the standpoint of starting a young horse, and not so much as "problems" but things that with nearly every horse I address:

1. straightness and forwardness - In my opinion too many people ask for TOO much forwardness in a very young horse. What I ask for is that the horse be responsive to the aids, which with a young horse the key is the proper ground work preparation. But in terms of the gaits I want the young horse to learn RHythum. I go to shows and see horses being "run off their feet" that are too young and unbalanced to be asking for so much forward momentum. Balance must come before the horse can develop impulsion and young horses suffer greaty in this department. In terms of straightness, at the very beginning I use a LOT of truly straight lines. I do NOT ride youngsters in dressage arenas, they are too unbalamced for such a small area. Circles are LARGE, larger than 20 meters to begin with, particularly at the canter. I gradually decrease the size of the circles as the horse becomes more balanced

2. giving to pressure - This again has to be taught on the ground. First as a set of exrecises done in a rope halter, then progrssing to a snaffle bit. I also utilize ground driving and side reins to help the horse to learn what giving to pressure is about. Additionally they learn to give from pressure on the side as well on the ground, learnign the basic steps of turn on the forehand and leg yielding with me working beside them. When they are mounted initially I do not ask for MUCH in terms of giving to pressure except laterally in turning. Gradually taking up contact and asking them to accept slight pressure on the mouth, but certainly not "on the aids" at that point. Also, they learn from the beginning the basics of moving away from the leg, learn a few steps of turn on the forehand, walking they learn to step sideways away from the leg, not really leg yielding but jsut giving them the 'idea' of it.

3. Balance - I utilize a lot of things to assist the young horse in balancing. I think ground poles are invaluable for blanace, developing muscle strength and rythum. I will make LARGE serpentines and other figures as well as large "squares" to help the horse to understand bending (folowing the nose at the early stages) and develop balance. Our arena is large, 250 x 140 and we hack around the farm, so the horse has plenty of room to not feel confined which can lead to balance issues and anxiety.

Trevelyan96
Dec. 30, 2010, 05:54 PM
For me, its all been about finding a trainer who will accept that I don't want to push my horse to be at 2nd level in a year. I want my horses muscles built slowly and correctly, and I want him happy in his work. To me, this means 6 moths at w/t, nothing higher than TL in the first year, and lots of trail riding and cavelitti work. I don't do dressage for ribbons at shows. I do it to build my horse's muscles and teach him to use himself well so that he'll be sound into his 20's.

Xfactor
Dec. 31, 2010, 07:38 PM
Our challenges have been many! (taking an OTSTB that raced for 6 years was our first challenge)

Second was teaching him that he was not made of wood.

Another biggie was bracing/leaning on bit, hanging on my leg.

Some new education for his rider has helped these issues immensely. =)

I find that as soon as I say "AHA!!..we fixed that!!"...a new things comes along that needs adressing.

Then again, I suppose that is what advancement is all about; always pushing to the next level, fine tuning, fixing....

It's what makes the sport so intensely addictive to the type A's.:)