View Full Version : Dressage horse, hunter rider, love at first sight...WWYD? (X-Posted Dressage)

Apr. 3, 2011, 10:43 PM
Might be long winded and confusing. I've been thinking about a lease on a horse as I finally have the time and money thing worked out (knock wood) and then my dream horse returns to the barn I ride at, up for half-lease none the less.

A little background on the horse: 9ish years old, gorgeous paint mare, did some 2'6" hunters when she was younger but has been ridden dressage for the past five years. She apparently hasn't been ridden much lately (hence the lease offer) so when I first rode her she was super spunky and we did thirty or so minutes of transitions, circles, and leg yields. She calmed down and seemed to love the work, loved the bit, just uppity from not being ridden in a long time.

Rode again today and she was much better, esp. considering the wind, but my worry is that I've ridden H/J for 15 years (! Now I feel old) and I'm not so used to such a sensitive ride. She's also on the market to be sold, and I'll probably end up heart broken in the end.

But! The perk is that I've been wanting to get into dressage since I dabbled in it on a working holiday in France last year. I think the foundations of riding are the same, and I can actually feel things like impulsion, balance, leads, etc on this one because she's so...compact. I just don't have access to a dressage trainer at the barn, but I do love the trainer I'm with and the barn I'm at. I'm also in the process of buying a HJ saddle, and a dressage saddle is out of the question at the moment.

So I need some advice - on the changes in seat, leg, hand from hunters to dressage, if it's possible to do it with an eye on the ground only occasionally, if I could get her into a more relaxed hunter way without messing up the dressage training, and (phew) any tips on how to go from a clunky WB to a super sensitive WB since the more I type the more I realize I'm about to get into a lease?

Apr. 4, 2011, 12:08 AM
all basic aids really remain the same. and believe it or not it is possible to cross ride in both disciplines! and the dressage training might actually help you guys if you decide to do the hunters. Just remain to stay at the vertical when riding dressage-not too far ahead or too far behind. Read lots of books. look at lots of videos. also, taking videos of yourself and posting on here will probably give you some good feedback. You might want to look into maybe taking at least 1 dressage lesson a month just for tips and pointers. you can still ride dressage at the lower levels in a hunt saddle.
regarding the sensitivity part- keep the horse busy busy busy. Use your body in conjunction with your half halts to slow her down and settle her. Instead of just pulling try half halting and bending her whole body while you slow your posting way down. Post slow up and exaggerate the down step too. When you feel her relax and say "ahhhhh" and learn to go with you then make sure you give. this way she learns. keep doing the transitions and and leg yields. Transitions within the gait itself will also help. good luck!!! happy riding.

Apr. 4, 2011, 12:54 AM
Thanks Sarah, great advice. When you say exaggerate the down step, do you mean sit deeper in the saddle when I post down? I feel like I should have a deeper seat all around with this one.

Apr. 4, 2011, 01:07 AM
I think it's a great idea - but I also think you should plan on once a week lessons, at least for the first month so that you can get in sync with the mare and get some one to help you with her. I think this is appropriate to be fair to the mare and her owner, especially since she is for sale. It's also a great opportunity for you, because you can't learn a new discipline from books or from the internet. ;)

"The more relaxed hunter way" you are thinking of is something that rings some alarm bells for me. A correctly trained dressage horse will happily go what is called "long and low" where the nose stretches out and down on a long rein. In fact, this movement is required at the lower levels. You will have to learn to ride the horse forward into this longer rein, and it's something you should have some instruction to learn to do. It's a valuable exercise for any horse, and it will click together a lot of riding concepts for you that probably never quite worked as you expected riding from the hunter background (which is where I came from also).

The important part being: dressage is not about always riding the horse "up" with the nose in a frame. It's something you build from the hindquarter and only guide lightly from the hand.

Apr. 4, 2011, 01:11 AM
yes, sit deeper and taller and hold yourself up with your abdoman. when you sit down, sit for a second longer and when you post up stand in the air slightly longer. you can adjust how much time you spend in the air to help balance your horse.

completely agree with poltroon here: "The important part being: dressage is not about always riding the horse "up" with the nose in a frame. It's something you build from the hindquarter and only guide lightly from the hand. "

Apr. 4, 2011, 03:02 AM
I've always ridden both dressage and H/J and I think each really makes both the horse and rider better at the other. The jumping and forward seat of hunters gives you a strong leg and a good sense of rhythm, and the dressage makes the rider and the horse more balanced and sensitive to each other. I also went from mostly hunters a super sensitive WB and found that I used my seat far more than any other aid. A trainer I worked with for a long time had me do lots of hip exercises to communicate lengthening, collecting, balance and leads instead of relying on my legs and hands. All that hip work paid off when I was on the sensitive one and I had a blast with her once we figured each other out. You'll adjust to a more sensitive horse, then get on another one and wonder why they can't read your mind. :) I would recommend a couple of lessons to at least get a good foundation with her before you get too far and accidentally develop any bad habits. But besides that, have fun - riding a great dressage horse is really like nothing else and can teach you a ton. Even if she ends up being sold, you'll appreciate the time you got to ride her.

Apr. 4, 2011, 08:30 PM
I say turn her into an eventer!!! :D :D

Apr. 4, 2011, 09:51 PM
When I was younger I was a Hunter rider - later in life started Dressage... Found my Hunter years created a tight leg that is not desirable for Dressage. My trainer would have me on a lunge line, with bent knees as I held my feet (near my rear end) this was to stretch the thigh muscles that were tight. I also found my hip flexors were too tight as well... I rode Dressage for two years and learned a lot.

Now back at Hunters because I love jumping - and the Dressage work was so helpful. Also don't need tight hip flexors for hunters either. ;)

But I will say so many Hunter/Eq trainers don't teach the dressage of the flat work and should. What I see a lot is hunter riders going around in a circle walk, trot, canter reverse and there is so much more to it than that.

I went to a recent George Morris clinic - like him or not; he said something I think many of us can agree on "If you as a rider don't have a good understanding of basic Dressage you need to get one."

Apr. 4, 2011, 10:19 PM
if I could get her into a more relaxed hunter way without messing up the dressage training,?

A good hunter is going to go is something quite close to a dressage training level, long and low, so it shouldn't be a problem. The hunter should be pushing from behind and soft over its back, much like the stretchy circles of dressage. If this horse is trained well, it shouldn't be a problem to change its outline to your desire. YOU just have to remember to do it while maintaining rhythm, impulsion and light connection with the bit. Don't just chuck the reins away and let her get on the forehand.

I don't think it's a big deal to turn a dressage horse in to a hunter unless they've been micromanaged to death. And even then, it's good for them to learn to look after themselves a bit. Makes the ride easier in both worlds.