View Full Version : Challenging, but reasonable goals for a newbie?

King's Ransom
Mar. 5, 2011, 06:14 PM
I am meeting next week with my trainer to set some riding goals for this year, but would like input from those of you who have been-there-done-that.

I am 54-year-old re-rider, with h/j background. Absolutely brand new to dressage. My horse, an OTTB, is quite athletic and smart, but also a rank newbie.

I am in pretty good shape, fitness-wise, and continue with a daily workout routine that includes weight lifting and running.

I have a good seat, quiet hands and good body control / balance. My horse also has good body control, a great mind, and is quite sensitive. He learns very fast.

What do you think would be good short-term, mid-term and long-term goals for us? I am not highly competitive, but do like to challenge myself. Also, I am just riding for fun.

Mar. 6, 2011, 12:23 PM
You are kind of where I was last year at this time except that my horse was green as grass. The biggest challenge for me, someone who has ridden a lot, was learning those things that are unique to dressage (at least from my perspective). So, maintaining contact, a bend, doing lateral work, developing suppleness - all the fundamentals of dressage were new to me and I had to work on learning them.

So, do you want to state your goals in terms of tests? Seems like you should be able to get through training level and a little of first in a year?? But to me that means knowing all the fundamentals with an eye to the future.

Also you might find it helpful to talk to your instructor about what he/she feels are your weaknesses (and your horse's weaknesses) and plan on doing things that correct those.

It doesn't sound like you want to show, but do you want to attend some clinics? ride with a particular person besides your instructor?

And, gotta say it - what do you want to do for fun? I like to trail ride about once a month - keeps the horse fresh and it's a blast.

King's Ransom
Mar. 6, 2011, 01:52 PM
Thanks oldernewbie! I appreciate your insights.

I do think I want to state my goals in terms of tests. I think I do best with measurable goals.

I think I would like to do a schooling show, just so Cooper and I will both have to deal with the excitement of the crowd, and leaving the comfort zone of our home barn. I would even be interested in a ride-a-test, if I could find some around here.

For fun? Well, I certainly am hoping this will all be fun! Ha ha, that's the idea! But yes, Cooper and I will be hacking out across the farm and on the trails at the boarding barn, too.

Mar. 6, 2011, 03:36 PM
It's hard to answer your questions!

I always used dressage basics in my riding, but had to fix my "bad" hunter habits. (Bad if you want to do dressage, not bad as a judgment overall for riding.)

Starting over again from what I know a year and a half into my transition to dressage as a discipline rather than as something to help me riding horses in other disciplines, I wouldn't change much because my trainer is good at establishing fundamentals.

I would want to start by learning to sit up straight and open my hips properly, instead of the leaning forward/more closed hip angles of hunters.

I would also want to learn to fully understand contact right away. This one wasn't so easy due to the fact I wasn't riding schoolmasters who could really teach me, and when I got my horse a year ago he was a serious curler who wanted to be behind the vertical in lieu of accepting contact.

I would want as many longe lessons as possible, whether on my horse or a school horse. The feel of how you balance on your seat for dressage vs. hunters is different. Even on a smaller mover who is easy to sit, if you don't re-learn how to sit the trot, you won't be able to once you get to a larger mover. In the end, that shift in position fixes the rest of your position problems pretty well, but it takes opening up some before you can get the seat just right. Already having a good seat means it'll be easier for you to get a feel for what you're doing right and wrong, and most likely be able to feel pretty easily what your seat is doing to the horse's movement. A hunter sitting the trot doesn't necessarily encourage loft in the horse's movement. A dressage rider sitting properly (on a horse who is strong enough himself, of course!) will simply by sitting properly encourage the horse to lift its back, round its entire outline, and start to add amplitude to its gaits.

If you haven't learned about forward-as-energy, and ridden a horse to add more energy to its gaits without getting faster, you'll want to work on that as well.

If you don't already use your core well... learn to do that. It takes a lot of core muscles to really ride dressage well, and at least for those of us who don't ride multiple horses a day extra exercise can be a huge help there. There are tons of programs focused on core strengthening, pilates and yoga classes to help your core and flexibility, etc.

I am assuming you already know something about suppleness, bending correctly on circles, and at least leg yields if not other lateral work from your first post. If not, you want to start there.

Trying to set a time frame is nearly impossible. I showed training level with my horse last year and am showing first this year. I hope to continue progressing one level a year, but can't say "we will do this" because it's just going to take however long it takes us. You'll learn about yourself and your horse as you go, and where your strengths and weaknesses are.

Good luck, and I hope you have fun with the journey!