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View Full Version : Riders who have switched to Dressage - what do you wish you had known?



cowgirljenn
Jan. 4, 2011, 07:19 PM
So I've ridden since I was young - saddleseat, western pleasure, hunter pleasure (flat, no real jumping). I still have a WP horse and a HP horse who I will show in open shows and maybe Arab shows.

But I have an Arab gelding who seems to like dressage. We took lessons when I lived up in MI, stopped when we moved back to TX and started back up again this year once we moved again. I LIKE that there are about a billion goals you can accomplish in dressage - I'm a goal-type person. He likes that it isn't just going around the ring but that there are things to do.

So I am excited. And terrified. :) I've always shown in pleasure classes - where there are multiple riders in the class. And I'm comfortable with that. Dressage is a whole new ballgame.

So - for those who switched over to dressage, what do you wish you had known? I don't have any aspirations of being a national competitor. My dream would be to show at Arab sport horse nationals, but unless I get a much better paying job a more realistic dream is to show closer to home. My goal this year is to get to a couple of schooling shows. I'll start small and slow..

But again, what do you wish you had known? Have any great advice?

Perfect Pony
Jan. 4, 2011, 07:22 PM
But again, what do you wish you had known? Have any great advice?

Buy a saddle the fits you. In dressage it is 80% of the battle won when it comes to being effective and having the correct position. I could murder the people that told me changing your position was supposed to be that hard - it was like I had 5 years of dressage lessons in a day when I switched saddles.

Marcella
Jan. 4, 2011, 07:28 PM
I cannot agree with the post above more. I had a terrible time with getting my horse to be responsive to bending, being soft, even just something as simple as half halts and stopping.

The saddle fit him great. The saddle put me in such an awkward position that I was fighting trying to keep myself balanced. A different saddle changed everything completely. It took a few tries to find one that fit me and I thought was comfortable, but it was worth it in the long run, and now I can sit the trot, have a soft and happy horse, do lateral work, etc.

leilatigress
Jan. 4, 2011, 07:37 PM
I did LOTS of western stuff growing up. Biggest difficulty for me has been the contact and the legs back far enough. Watching grand prix horses and riders is great but it doesn't help you get the stretchy trot. Having access to 6 dressage arabs of varying levels I can tell you bending that long lovely neck takes patience. Getting that noble carriage head to proper frame is another challenge. They all can rock the passage and piaffe but engaging the hind end for the correct trot is another battle. I also wish I had known I would have to constantly be kicking the horse to move. I am still not sure why my lower leg resembles more a twitching mess than a consistent pressure but I've only been at it for a few months.

opel
Jan. 4, 2011, 08:01 PM
Agree. I came from western, jumping, bareback, etc. Correct contact has been the biggest learning curve. I wish I would have known that it is never, ever correct to set the hands in order to get a headset. Nope, must figure out how to push the horse from behind into a soft, giving contact-in such a way that the frame then takes care of itself. Headset, in any way, is not the way to go about things. It creates tension, even when the reins are light. Detracts from the horse's beauty and suppleness.

redhorse5
Jan. 4, 2011, 08:10 PM
If I had know how long it would take me to get the basics I might have stuck to trail riding. I'm glad I stuck it out though. If I had to start again I would ride with the best instructors and clinicians that I could find right away. It would have saved me a lot of time.

cowgirljenn
Jan. 4, 2011, 08:47 PM
I wish I would have known that it is never, ever correct to set the hands in order to get a headset. Nope, must figure out how to push the horse from behind into a soft, giving contact-in such a way that the frame then takes care of itself. Headset, in any way, is not the way to go about things.

I will say this is one thing I'm having to adjust to. In the pleasure horses, I either 'jiggling' the reins (alternating rein pressure) or 'pick up the reins' to get a headset. So the instructor I'm using has had to get after me to push the horse from behind into the bit so that he comes together (I'm not sure I have the right words there, but I think we're saying the same thing). I'm going to have to work on that a lot..

ColoredHares
Jan. 4, 2011, 08:50 PM
Buy white gloves. I'm a H/J rider who added dressage last year. Didn't know that wearing black gloves told the judge I had bad hands.
Also, don't eat before showing. :eek: My first show I snarfed down 1/2 of a sandwich @ 30 min before my test. Baaaaddd idea. Dressage uses the stomach muscles. H/J doesn't use them as much. Now I don't eat until I'm done riding.:D

angel
Jan. 4, 2011, 09:09 PM
I have done a little bit of many things..western, hunter, saddleseat. Besides how to correctly use my weight aids, I really wish someone had taught me how to correctly incorporate those weight aids along with using a snaffle bit correctly. Many of us ride in a snaffle, but most of us do not learn how to use the snaffle correctly. We only find out later on if we are very lucky.

Dressage tests should be a piece of cake for you if you have done open show ring work. 20+ hunters doing a hand gallop within one arena is much more exciting than riding a little, old dressage test within the safety of being by yourself doing the work.:eek::lol:

ACP
Jan. 4, 2011, 09:10 PM
I just really wish I had started sooner. I'm 65, have ridden since I was 9, did pleasure horse stuff and then got into Arabians. I have done saddleseat, western pleasure, native costume, hunter pleasure, working hunter, side saddle, etc., but I love dressage. The judge sees everything you do, both good and not so good. the judge also sees everything the rider before you or after you does, too! And you won't loose out due to one mistake.

I agree about those long Arab necks!

Equa
Jan. 5, 2011, 12:00 AM
Don't believe that Dressage is rocket surgery. (Or Art).
Find out early on what good contact feels - and looks - like. Do not compromise in replicating this feeling on every horse you ride.
Do everything "by the book" - but don't be scared to experiment, or to analyse whether your understanding of "the book" might be flawed.
If it looks and feels wrong - it probably is.
Rhythm is your best friend.

DancingFoalFarms
Jan. 5, 2011, 12:25 AM
Don't be intimidated, and don't be buffaloed into listening to "armchair" (or ringside) critics.

I made the switch to dressage from hunters and jumpers as a teen, and can't tell you what I suffered at the hands of the clique of older, adult women where I boarded. They frequently told me I had the "wrong" breed of horse, the wrong breeches (color, type, brand ... you name it), the wrong bit, and the wrong color tack. Unfortunately, as a 14 year old kid with NO dressage experience, I felt hurt and worried that I'd never get anywhere until I righted these "wrongs" :) Now I know differently, of course, that one can ride equally well in rust colored knee patch breeches as a pair of anthracite full-seats ;) So I say -- go at your own pace: dressage is a journey not a destination!

dghunter
Jan. 5, 2011, 06:22 AM
I wish I had started sooner! Mostly I just wish I'd had a magic answer to switching my seat from h/j mode to dressage mode. I still get caught wanting to go up into a half seat every once and a while :lol:

KatherineC
Jan. 5, 2011, 07:54 AM
That you have to be very fit and have an good strong core. To sit the trot you need to be strong enough to support and balance your own body. Sounds easy, but it isn't. Especially for us middle age women who are desk jockeys during the day. You need to be able to sit the trot and half halt and not hang on the reins. It gets even harder at the medium and extended gaits.

You also need to have a very good sense of body awareness and be able isolate body parts (e.g. move your leg without disrupting your seat).

Loads of riders are stuck in their riding due to lack of strength. To progress you will need a fitness routine that you are very committed to.

sophie
Jan. 5, 2011, 08:42 AM
Speaking of core muscles and sitting the trot...
(flame suit on)

I wish all tests, except for intro, required sitting trot for at least part of the test. I see too many people even at 1st who can not, for the life of them, sit the trot. They have no business being at 1st or even at Training. How can they be effective if they can't RIDE to start with?

I understand the reasoning behind rising trot with respect to the horse, and it has its place in tests, but if the tests also are judging the rider...then they should be able to sit the trot effectively.

SillyHorse
Jan. 5, 2011, 08:44 AM
Buy white gloves. I'm a H/J rider who added dressage last year. Didn't know that wearing black gloves told the judge I had bad hands.

Bad hands tell the judge you have bad hands. Judges can see through your horse what your hands are doing no matter what color gloves you're wearing.

UniqueSaddlePads
Jan. 5, 2011, 08:54 AM
Welcome to the Dressage world first off! I started with HJ and really wish I would have started the Dressage sooner. It makes your core way more solid and you won't freak when the HJ judge tells you to sit trot :)

With the Arabs, you want to try and accomplish that nice floaty trot and they really like the harder stuff because they don't like just going in a straight line. I swear my half Arab loves contorting his body, so Dressage was a great fit. Also AHA has some really great programs for those of us that show Dressage. You can earn year-end points and even qualify for regionals at open shows.

Good Luck!

dwblover
Jan. 5, 2011, 10:01 AM
I was actually blessed with a fantastic trainer at the very beginning of my switch (a long time ago) from H/J to dressage. So, the thing other career switchers should know to make their dressage lives MUCH easier is that you need a good, solid six months of lunge line lessons at least once a week! If you start from that very solid foundation before you work on anything else at all you will be amazed how good of a rider you are.

I never held the reins, I never used my stirrups. We worked on draping the leg and doing different arm movements to show me the seat I needed to have. I'm so grateful to that trainer!

Sadly she stopped teaching shortly after, so my search for correct contact took a few more years. Very frustrating years, but it was actually a great horse who taught me the correct feel. Elastic, forward-thinking, and above all else SOFT!!! If it ain't soft you ain't doin' it right, LOL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

netg
Jan. 5, 2011, 10:51 AM
It's YOUR job to establish correct contact, not the horse's.

Years of various types of equitation told me good hands were ones which didn't move from their spot near the horse's whithers. Wrong! At least wrong when it comes to dressage, where your horse is supposed to be on contact. I had a judge give a comment at my first show which made what I'd been hearing click somehow. I was expecting my horse to hold his head still so rein contact was steady, instead of staying soft in the elbow so my hands could move with him and follow his head movement - and maintain a steady contact.

Contact and sit back were (are) the hardest for me, at least. Also just coming to understand how big the gaits can get. I went from quarter horses to a TB who thinks a trot with almost 1' overstep is a fun thing. :eek: What feels like "enough" rarely is based on what I'm used to, and I'm guessing that will be the same for you, too.

bort84
Jan. 5, 2011, 11:48 AM
Speaking of core muscles and sitting the trot...
(flame suit on)

I wish all tests, except for intro, required sitting trot for at least part of the test. I see too many people even at 1st who can not, for the life of them, sit the trot. They have no business being at 1st or even at Training. How can they be effective if they can't RIDE to start with?

I understand the reasoning behind rising trot with respect to the horse, and it has its place in tests, but if the tests also are judging the rider...then they should be able to sit the trot effectively.

(This is a bit off topic, but so was the post I'm responding to, so here goes.)

I disagree for a couple of reasons.

1) For horses at those levels, they often do not have the strength to properly carry a rider (even the best rider) at a correct sitting trot. Requiring a sitting trot at intro or training (or even first now) is often asking more of the horse than he is ready for. That's the whole point of the levels in dressage - to encourage the proper order and use of the training scale, building solid foundations and all that.

2) There is a huge difference between sitting the trot of a horse with a relatively "small" trot that has little suspension and shorter strides - and sitting the trot of a "big" moving horse that has lots of air time and a long stride. Those different types of trot require different levels of ability, strength and knowledge from both horse and rider before you can execute a correct sitting trot.

3) I find it a bit snobbish to assume a rider is no good if they can't sit the trot. Some people have legitimate health issues (arthritis, bad backs, old injuries, etc) and others are good riders with solid skills that have not mastered a correct sitting trot yet.

I think many can sit a slow trot, especially if the horse lacks suspension and is a bit short strided. However, to do the correct sitting trot that is expected in dressage as you move up the levels, there is a lot more involved. The horse needs to have the education and strength to carry the rider, and the rider has to sit in such a way that he doesn't interfere with the horse.

I personally think it's lovely that 1st level now offers the option to post or not. It opens up another level for those who have physical issues preventing the sitting trot or for those who have big moving or young horses that just aren't ready to carry a sitting trot quite yet. First level isn't really asking questions that are all that difficult, so I think a lot of horses can correctly work a first level test without being 100% solid in sitting trot. The fact that it is now optional opens up a lot more training flexibility (for both rider and horse).

And it's always good to remember: bad riders will be there at all levels, banging away on back and mouth. If nothing else, not requiring a sitting trot will save some school horse backs = )

katarine
Jan. 5, 2011, 12:26 PM
That you should....Ride as many different horses as your situation will allow. You will learn so much accommodating and feeling all those different strides. My background was stock horses and some gaited horses- riding a semi-retired 3rd level import, a TB, and a hot as a two dollar pistol Trakehener in addition to my own horses has been an absolute eye opener and such fun.

That you should...Ride horses that already know the lateral maneuvers as much as possible- if I don't know, really thoroughly know -what a half pass/shoulder in/leg yield should feel like, how the heck can I support my own horse learning it?

That you should...read some basic books. Podhajsky's Complete Training of Horse and Rider lives on my bedside table. As does Lessons with Lendon. And Mark Russell's Lessons in Lightness. Everyone's got their favorite stash.

That you should...NOT get caught up Rollkur related mess. Go ride your horse.

That you should...NOT post videos publicly, online and expect high-quality feedback. That's what your real life peeps are for. I'm not saying don't do it at all: but the variety of expertise here or anywhere is a big fat dent in the quality of the overall experience you may find comes your way. In real life I know whose opinion I respect and seek out: Do NOT worry about what any person on any bulletin board says...unless you know through some process that they actually DO know what they are spouting off about :)

That you should...know that not everyone in Dressage land has a stick up their rear end :) I'm only in my second year of lessons and I've made some good friends and been offered some lovely horses to use in lessons, as those owners know and respect my trainer. I've been blessed to find many judges open to judging me on a gaited horse riding the gaited tests. I've also been lucky as a DUCK to get a lesson with an ULR who was just the nicest person you'd ever want to meet, and she coached me on my GAITED horse. Go figure.

Go have fun, you hear me?!

netg
Jan. 5, 2011, 12:40 PM
I personally think it's lovely that 1st level now offers the option to post or not. It opens up another level for those who have physical issues preventing the sitting trot or for those who have big moving or young horses that just aren't ready to carry a sitting trot quite yet. First level isn't really asking questions that are all that difficult, so I think a lot of horses can correctly work a first level test without being 100% solid in sitting trot. The fact that it is now optional opens up a lot more training flexibility (for both rider and horse).

I just like that we're now being asked to sit the trot when we're asked to have the horse more uphill, back more lifted, and gait collected, instead of while we're still asked to have the horse long and more level, with back less lifted/hind end less engaged.

GreyStreet
Jan. 5, 2011, 01:02 PM
I will second the correctly fitting saddle - it has made a world of difference for me in terms of both my horses's movement and actually being able to sit down in the saddle!

I'll also piggy back onto the statement that not all dressage riders have a stick up...well, you get it. So many people think that dressage riders are DQ's but that may be because many of us are so Type A! That doesn't mean we don't also have fun (well, to me, dressage IS fun!)...but I enjoy a good canter through the fields just like anyone else. It's not all about the sandbox.

bort84
Jan. 5, 2011, 01:32 PM
I will agree with others in that I have found the dressage world overall pretty welcoming (and I grew up riding/training/showing saddle seat, which is hard for many to stomach). There are certainly the stick in the mud types, but you don't have to talk to them if you don't want to = )

A saddle will definitely help - during my cross over period, I was riding in a jumping saddle. It was just so much easier once I got a nice saddle that fit (and you don't have to spend a lot to get one).

The contact thing may be a bit odd at first. You will likely be asked to use a lot more consistent leg and hand contact than you are used to.

You will also likely be surprised at how detail oriented everything is. It's so interesting to feel the difference just the slightest shift of your seatbone one way or another can totally open up the door for your horse. Growing up, our horses were always very attuned to the seat and slight shifts of your body, so I thought I was pretty attuned to that. However, in dressage, even the slightest difference in the placement of your leg, seat bone, etc. can be the key for your horse. It's a really neat feeling when it clicks and they just flow.

I remember one time I shifted my seat bone about half an inch in some direction (at my instructor's request), and all of the sudden my horse just got it. I thought, how the heck can that make any difference? It's amazing how sensitive they can be when you encourage it.

Also, be ready for circles and rarely working on the rail. I always thought I incorporated a LOT of figures and off the rail work in my saddle seat days (and I definitely did it infinitely more than most saddle seat people), but I was still not doing enough according to my dressage trainer = )

The tests at the show aren't that scary either. You can have a reader call out the test at the lower levels, which I highly recommend when you're doing a new test (takes some of the memorization anxiety away). And you'll be a whiz in the warm up ring compared to a lot of others who've never had to show with 20+ horses in the ring and still figure out how to get their horses in front of the judge = )

Also, if your instructor also does jumping and your horse takes a shine to it, I would recommend taking advantage of that. A lot of horses like the break, and it can be very beneficial and fun for them (and you).

And definitely make sure to get out of the ring once in awhile - dressage people hack out too!

Justa Bob
Jan. 5, 2011, 02:02 PM
Another vote for a good saddle. Riders at our barn have lots of options to choose from -- really nice school saddles and using the trainers. It was a great opportunity to find a good fit. The difference was unbelievable between them! (I went from thinking I could never ride because it turned out my supposedly good fit saddle was a terrible match, to AHA! The "new" saddle was amazing. Now I love riding and am making much faster progress. Oh, I wish I tried different saddles earlier, it would have saved almost a year of frustration and no progress. But I was afraid to change anything and to share how hard it was to "ride.")

And I second the subtle shifts in seat. The trainer is great at letting students know when their seat works. She says "Oh, the horse loves that. He just relaxed and moved into frame!" I love that she makes the seat about making the horse happy and able to do its job! It makes total sense.

Have a blast!

betsyk
Jan. 7, 2011, 02:12 PM
One piece of advice from the school of hard knocks: if you have an Arab, or a very Araby half Arab, find an instructor who has experience with ARABS. They're just not like WB's or TB's or QH's when it comes to doing dressage. They have different issues and think differently. You've had Arabs forever, you know you can't "tell" an Arab to do something, you have to ask him the right way and then he'll overachieve. Not everybody is going to understand this unless they've worked with lots of Arabs!

MeghanDACVA
Jan. 8, 2011, 09:21 AM
I too came from a very varied background--western, saddle seat, bareback, a tiny bit of hunters. The things I had to overcome:

Being the only one the judge sees. In the show ring in the other disciplines you can "fix things" behind the judges back and get the horse set up to really show what he has as you go past the judge. Alot of showing was knowing where the judge was watching and how to get your horse most visible at the best time. Or how to hide when needed. So being under the judge's eye for a full 4-5 minutes still gets to me to this day. Guess unlearning 30 yrs of this in only 10 yrs is unrealistic? ;-)

Hiding aids. Again in the show ring everything was to be totally invisible. Heaven help you if the judge saw you do something! In the dressage ring, while exagerated aids are not appreciated, using them visibily is not a no-no.

Contact!! I still have a difficult time with the difference between contact, ie the horse ON the bit vs PULLING on the bit.

Lower leg vs upper leg/thigh. After 10+ yrs of dressage (and I am just venturing in to showing 1st level!) I have finally figured out that is NOT all about lower leg, ie calf and heel. But so much about my upper leg. An instructor I ride with when I can finally made it clear to me WHAT using my thigh meant. It is my panty line!! At least for me.

Leg position: Just where the hell IS it supposed to be!? Ok, "at the girth". Is that my front of my toe at the girth, my iron at the girth (and if so, where exactly is my foot supposed to be in the iron?), is at the girth the front edge of the girth, the middle or the back edge?

Chair seat: I still can't SEE that one. Even in pictures I have a hard time seeing it. Yet I bet a dime to a dollar that is how I am most of the time. Old habits die hard.

Don't lean forward, don't lean back. I swear I need a pool noodle in front of me and behind me at times. If only I could configure that kind of contraption.

Using my core. OUCH. Still working on that one.

But one day I will get it for more than a stride or 2.

exvet
Jan. 8, 2011, 10:01 AM
Lots of good advice. I came to dressage from a primarily hunter/exercise riding at the track background. Although as a kid I also did the whole chase the highpoint trophy thing with my QHs and Apps. The list of "Wish I knew then, what I know now thing"...

1. Absolutely agree with the saddle fit issue. Don't get caught up in what saddle everyone else has. Get the one that fits both you AND the horse.

2. So glad I stopped listening to the "you have to have a warmblood" mantra. I did for more than a few years and wasn't happy. Not because of the horse per se (I had lovely warmbloods but they were behemoths) but I couldn't even begin to be an effective rider until I was able to elicit the appropriate response and feel the difference between the appropriate response and the not appropriate response. My blessed Arab gelding taught me so much because I finally had a horse that my petite frame could influence - good or bad, I was able to learn and correct my mistakes.

3. Longe lessons, longe lessons, longe lessons, are key. Fitness usually requires that most of us work out doing something in addition to riding. Then if you add longe lessons to this regimen you get better balance, body awareness as it applies to riding, etc. My riding improved tremendously once I dedicated myself to regular longe lessons. That same blessed Arab was a wonderful dope on a rope for me to learn on.

4. A riding instructor that accepts your choice of mounts, is capable of training many different personality types of horses and breeds and give LONGE lessons :D - My riding improved tremendously when I finally found the right person.

Finally, I ride almost every day. Then when you figure that I have 9 horses, 6 of which I have going under saddle 4 of which I compete, 2 my kids compete and I just tune up...LOL...I ride a lot. It's hard to get anywhere without putting in the miles yourself but the real key is that old but so true mantra - "practice makes perfect" only works if it's perfect practice ;) Does you no good to practice it the wrong way so good instruction and then working on the homework given is necessary to progress. There really is no substitute.

MeghanDACVA
Jan. 8, 2011, 10:15 AM
I too came from a very varied background--western, saddle seat, bareback, a tiny bit of hunters. The things I had to overcome:

Being the only one the judge sees. In the show ring in the other disciplines you can "fix things" behind the judges back and get the horse set up to really show what he has as you go past the judge. Alot of showing was knowing where the judge was watching and how to get your horse most visible at the best time. Or how to hide when needed. So being under the judge's eye for a full 4-5 minutes still gets to me to this day. Guess unlearning 30 yrs of this in only 10 yrs is unrealistic? ;-)

Hiding aids. Again in the show ring everything was to be totally invisible. Heaven help you if the judge saw you do something! In the dressage ring, while exagerated aids are not appreciated, using them visibily is not a no-no.

Contact!! I still have a difficult time with the difference between contact, ie the horse ON the bit vs PULLING on the bit.

Lower leg vs upper leg/thigh. After 10+ yrs of dressage (and I am just venturing in to showing 1st level!) I have finally figured out that is NOT all about lower leg, ie calf and heel. But so much about my upper leg. An instructor I ride with when I can finally made it clear to me WHAT using my thigh meant. It is my panty line!! At least for me.

Leg position: Just where the hell IS it supposed to be!? Ok, "at the girth". Is that my front of my toe at the girth, my iron at the girth (and if so, where exactly is my foot supposed to be in the iron?), is at the girth the front edge of the girth, the middle or the back edge?

Chair seat: I still can't SEE that one. Even in pictures I have a hard time seeing it. Yet I bet a dime to a dollar that is how I am most of the time. Old habits die hard.

Don't lean forward, don't lean back. I swear I need a pool noodle in front of me and behind me at times. If only I could configure that kind of contraption.

Using my core. OUCH. Still working on that one.

But one day I will get it for more than a stride or 2.

Equa
Jan. 9, 2011, 06:41 AM
Figure out that dressage does NOT involve "manoeuvres". But that playing with dressage , and learning stuff, does.

spotrod
Jan. 10, 2011, 07:08 AM
So I've ridden since I was young - saddleseat, western pleasure, hunter pleasure (flat, no real jumping). I still have a WP horse and a HP horse who I will show in open shows and maybe Arab shows.

But I have an Arab gelding who seems to like dressage. We took lessons when I lived up in MI, stopped when we moved back to TX and started back up again this year once we moved again. I LIKE that there are about a billion goals you can accomplish in dressage - I'm a goal-type person. He likes that it isn't just going around the ring but that there are things to do.

So I am excited. And terrified. :) I've always shown in pleasure classes - where there are multiple riders in the class. And I'm comfortable with that. Dressage is a whole new ballgame.

So - for those who switched over to dressage, what do you wish you had known? I don't have any aspirations of being a national competitor. My dream would be to show at Arab sport horse nationals, but unless I get a much better paying job a more realistic dream is to show closer to home. My goal this year is to get to a couple of schooling shows. I'll start small and slow..

But again, what do you wish you had known? Have any great advice?

Hello,
I am new " kinda" to this too! I like you, am coming from the APHA all around world and my horse is awesome at the pattern classes. I have used basic dressage to warm him up before our classes and have decided to give it a real try as my guy loves it EXCEPT he is so not into the constant contact. it has been slow go with that as he can frame up and carry himself on a loose rein and he thinks he is in trouble cause I am not letting his face go!

Thanks to all for the advice esp on saddles! I have not bought one yet but will soon! ~W

cyndi
Jan. 10, 2011, 08:42 AM
I haven't read all the replies, but since I've been plugging away at this for several decades now, all on green horses I've trained up the levels myself...here's my .02 --ok, well, maybe .98....

1. find a horse that is trained that you can at least (with the help of coaching) get 'through' to the bit so YOU know what it FEELS like. If said horse can also do flying changes, so much the better. I've spent almost 3 years teaching my horse to do flying changes with never having ridden a horse myself that can do flying changes... she learned them quickly, but confirming them is my fault for not knowing the timing...

2. Find the best instruction you can, and unfortunately if you are early in the learnng phase, you will not realize until much later down the road if you don't have a good trainer.

3. You main aids are not legs and hands...they are your core/body and your seat.

4. Ignore people giving you advice who do not show. Everyone is a GP rider at home in their own little ring.

5. Show. IMHO it is almost essential as a 'reality check' for your progress. I can't tell you how many peoplle I've seen who don't show who have this idea that they are riding really well (and aren't) or think they have 'trained' their horses to a certain level (and they haven't). Schooling shows are fine for this if you have some decent judges who are L graduates, but here, take scores with a grain of salt if they are very high. ;) I have a love/hate relationship with showing, but do think it's invaluable for both checking progress and for motivation to ride as much as possible. ;)
6. Ignore the railbirds and critics. As you said, the beauty of dressage is being able to set all sorts of goals that have nothing to do with winning in the show ring.

7. Ride your horse 4-6x a week. I came from the Arab rail show world too and while riding a horse 2-3x a week is fine for that, it's not enough to train your horse in dressage - since ideally they are consistently doing harder work and moving up the levels. And it's not enough to build the muscles he'll need to get there.

8. Write down goals each year. I write down my goals each year for each horse. My goals rarely have anything to do with winning ribbons, and are mostly about scoring. I admit I did have as one of my goals to place in the Top 20 in the nation in the open Adult Amateur Tr level USDF Horse of the Year standings this year with my Half Arabian, Faxxsimile+++/ - and we actually did achieve that goal -- at the #20 spot with a 69% median. :)

Dressage is fun and addictive and although I often wish I were addicted to something CHEAPER --- anything else seems very boring now!

InsideLeg2OutsideRein
Jan. 10, 2011, 09:14 PM
Dressage: The more you know, the more you know that you don't know.

Eclectic Horseman
Jan. 11, 2011, 11:25 AM
The movements are simple (if the horse is physically capable) and there are really only about a dozen of them. What is hard is mastering the basics so you need to spend a very long time on the basics of rider position and correct application of the aids before attempting to move up. Otherwise the movements will never be really good when you attempt them because you will be blocking the horse or giving conflicting aids.

Do not compromise your position to achieve a movement no matter how tempting it is to do so. Make sure that your aids are clear and correct and make your aids effective through TRAINING not through force. The horse should always work harder than you do.

le_dressage
Jan. 11, 2011, 01:22 PM
I wish I had taken lessons on a schoolmaster first so that I would have understood what to look and feel for. Once you know how it is suppose to feel it makes all the difference and you will be able to run into less road blocks along the way.

cowgirljenn
Jan. 11, 2011, 02:37 PM
4. A riding instructor that accepts your choice of mounts, is capable of training many different personality types of horses and breeds and give LONGE lessons :D - My riding improved tremendously when I finally found the right person.


I will say that I've been lucky with my two instructors so far. Both showed warmbloods, but both have really liked my Arab gelding. I tried taking lessons years ago (hunter lessons). It last 3 lessons because the instructor hated Arabs and Saddlebreds, and I had a NSH (Half Arab/Half Saddlebred).

Going to ask the instructor about longe lessons since so many people recommend them.

Tiger Horse
Jan. 11, 2011, 03:11 PM
That you have to be very fit and have an good strong core. To sit the trot you need to be strong enough to support and balance your own body. Sounds easy, but it isn't. Especially for us middle age women who are desk jockeys during the day. You need to be able to sit the trot and half halt and not hang on the reins. It gets even harder at the medium and extended gaits.

You also need to have a very good sense of body awareness and be able isolate body parts (e.g. move your leg without disrupting your seat).

Loads of riders are stuck in their riding due to lack of strength. To progress you will need a fitness routine that you are very committed to.

Couldn't agree more. My trainer and I were having a discussion some time ago about how lots of middle aged women seem to switch to dressage because they think it will be "easier" :D

Audrey79
Jan. 12, 2011, 09:40 AM
Know that any blockages or tenseness/tightness you have in your body is going to be translated to your horse. You will have to spend time stretching, strengthening and gaining a tremendous amount of body awareness. You should spend the same amount of time working on your own fitness and suppleness as you do your horses'.

Ride with the best quality instructor that you can and ride the best quality horses that you can.

crzymommy
Jan. 12, 2011, 09:54 AM
Buy a saddle the fits you. In dressage it is 80% of the battle won when it comes to being effective and having the correct position. I could murder the people that told me changing your position was supposed to be that hard - it was like I had 5 years of dressage lessons in a day when I switched saddles.

I agree. The correct saddle will help you maintain your position and be effective with the aids. Equally important is making sure the saddle fits your horse. My horse's comfort instantly improved his willingness, forward motion, and position.

merrygoround
Jan. 13, 2011, 12:36 AM
MeganDACVA -Whoever your instructor is, stay with her/him. You are in the right track. Use those thighs.

RE: contact-try to separate your arms from the shoulders down, and remember they must follow the rhythm of the head. So it's give in the elbows, give, give, give. But not so much that you drop the contact.
Once you "have" the feel it is much easier to keep. But it takes time to teach each part of your body to dance with the horse, separately but together.