View Full Version : Teaching a Child Dressage Basics

Oct. 4, 2011, 10:27 AM
I am working with an 11 year old (just for fun) on some riding basics and trying to see if she "takes" to dressage. Does anyone know of some good websites or online videos I could email her so she can read about proper seat and position, and just the very most basic information? We are still on the lunge, I have told her she isn't allowed use of the reins until she can balance comfortably at all three gaits without holding on. I have been searching all morning and can only find references to books for sale and ads for Jane's many wonderful products. Surely there is an article online somewhere that shows the mechanics of the dressage rider's position and breaks down some of the most simple concepts, like proper use of aids, etc. I thought it would be helpful to give her some literature in between lunge lessons. Thanks!!

Oct. 4, 2011, 11:30 AM
Hopefully she loves to read is the first thing that comes to mind. You couldn't pay me enough when I was 11 to read but.... send her here.


It is a magazine that I love. It's step by step and typically has photos, which even at 22 I have to admit I prefer a book to have pictures :lol:

Oct. 4, 2011, 11:31 AM
Honestly, my experience (limited) with 11-year-olds and horses "just for fun" is to focus on the in-person experience. It's not many kids that age who are going to be motivated to slog through the reading part of seat/position and all the theory involved in bookwork. Not many adults are, either.

My advice would be to focus on her watching selected videos on youtube to get an idea of what good looks like and the results of all the fiddly details working just right. The horse's biomechanics are bigger and easier to see. And then you can explain the system "backwards" how the rider's position and use of aids influence how the horse moves.

That provides foundations for all the "why's" that come along and may support a flagging interest when dressage seems to get too hard or boring.

Oct. 4, 2011, 12:05 PM
11 years old - unless she's a really intellectual type (which would bode well for her as a dressage rider)...

Coming through Pony Club I believe kids should be exposed to all types of riding,
in and out of the arena. Fun, but with a serious content.

So many young people are introduced to riding with the kick for go, pull for stop
method. Finding the right gentle school horse that is not like that would be so good and to have an instructor that gave the right instructions from the beginning.

Being young, she will take to riding much more naturally than a beginner adult with a natural seat, confidence and balance.

Oct. 4, 2011, 01:42 PM
I just want to give her some background. For me, the diagram with the lines indicating proper alignment for the seat was a real epiphany. She is absolutely ecstatic to be riding, so I think she would eagerly devour anything I sent her way. All I wanted was a couple short articles describing basics, what outside rein is for, how dressage should look, where it came from, etc. I think for a very very beginner rider, dressage basics are the very best idea. How can you go wrong teaching someone to have quiet, soft hands and a good seat and balance and proper use of light aids? My horse is a show horse, and even when she gets reins they will attach to a bitless bridle, he is not a schooling pony, but he listens well and is very careful when I do put a beginner rider on him. He is also extremely obedient on the lunge. If she gets her basic stuff really well, and then leans hunter, he is an excellent packer over fences as well. But I want her seat and balance really good, since I don't want my horse to get messed up.

Oct. 4, 2011, 01:50 PM
I develop courses--both instructor-led and "computer-based" so my answer was what would be best for the learner.

What would be best for your horse's training and development may not be having a kid learning, which is why so many programs put ALL kinds on up-down ponies who have the potential to be more, but won't be ruined by less.

What you're doing is cool and I just wanted to offer another angle of approach.

Best wishes ... what you're doing is very cool.

Oct. 4, 2011, 02:37 PM
I can't really tell you any articles, but I teach lots of kids, altho my kids do "hunter" type shows they also all are exposed to doing some dressage tests and a little eventing (very low level). Teaching them how to ride proper figures is very important. most children don't really have the leg etc to get into a lot of the stuff about proper bending, moving off the leg, etc at least initially, but they can learn to ride proper figures at walk and trot and simple dressage tests. As we focus on also jumping, some of the prix caprilli stuff is fun. But dressage all by itself it a bit over most kids head at first.

Oct. 4, 2011, 04:23 PM
Why not suggest some dressage-themed fiction books (at least as far as the history goes). I remember some book I read around that age that was about the SRS and a boy learning to ride with them. I think it probably even mentioned how much time he spent on the lunge ;). There must be some other books that talk about dressage that'd be age appropriate. I mostly read The Saddle Club and Thoroughbred books for equestrian fiction.

Though for the people who said 11yos probably won't read detailed theory books, I made it all the way through one of Mary Wanless's books when I was around that age. It wasn't my favorite non-fiction horse book because it didn't have color pictures, but I'd read ANYTHING that involved horses at that age. I was very surprised when her name came up in one of my riding lessons almost 20 years later and realized I'd already read some of her work :lol:.

Oct. 4, 2011, 08:10 PM
Since a previous poster mentioned Pony Club, from the national site:


Some lesson plans for both mounted low level (unrated, D) and unmounted.

Oct. 7, 2011, 10:43 AM
My girls are the same age. Since my background is dressage/eventing they are learning the basics but right now it's all about learning to ride basically, safely & build confidence. I don't get super technical and just want them to enjoy it right now. Mine would glaze over if I started having them read or watch videos of dressage. Video them.

Oct. 12, 2011, 02:05 PM
So I am trying to teach her to post the trot. We have had 3 or 4 sessions with minimal trotting because she is a little scared. How can I help her to be able to post? How long should it take? I learned to ride at such a young age that i don't recall having any trouble, but I was practically born on horseback. We practice posting at the walk, and I count off beats for her at the trot, I have her seat really good and her stirrups perfect. Is it just a matter of having her go around the lunge ring 1000x until she gets it or is there any way I can explain it to help her? I also am afraid to frighten or force her to do things, but she loves riding and I do think at this point we should be working on things other than walk.

I have her do arm and leg exercises at the walk, and posting as I said, and kicking out and finding her stirrups, "around the world," lots of stretching, emergency dismount at the walk. I've got her position REALLY good at the walk. Seems like its time to spend more time trotting, but I dont want her to be scared of her lessons! My horse is a SAINT and is sooo careful with her, I try to reassure her of that. She is getting to be an expert at barn chors and grooming, lol. Any advice is much welcomed!

Oct. 12, 2011, 05:39 PM
I get the feeling you're forcing the issue. Confidence is the most important right now. Did you try videoing her? My kids love it.

Also, my kids love leadline trails. I put on my sneakers and take everyone out for a nice walk. Perhaps we'll do a bit in the corner of the field, play a bit, and work again. This coming summer I was planning/hoping to pony them off my guys and see how that goes. Make it fun.

Oct. 12, 2011, 09:30 PM
I started out as a kid riding western at a QH huntseat/ western pleasure barn. Probably 2 or 3 months into riding, I saw a girl posting in an English saddle, and I decided to mimic what she was doing. My instructor saw me "posting" and asked if I wanted to try riding english for my next lesson. I agreed and was soon hooked!

I am a very visual learner, so seeing and mimicking the posting rider worked for me. So based on my personal experience, is there any way you could have another rider ride during her lesson? Maybe your student is also a visual learner and needs to see what posting looks like in person before she is able to try it herself. Also in my experience, connecting posting at the walk to posting at the trot confuses many riders because the two gaits feel SO different. (Or maybe I'm just not explaining it well enough because I didn't start out that way...?)

Putting her on a lunge-line to she can feel the horse's movement and not have to worry about guiding her horse may help her as well.

At this point though, I would mainly focus on making riding natural and fun for her. Try playing games like "ride a buck" (the bareback game) to help teach her balance. Basic arena patterns also seem to help naturally improve balance.

Good luck with her though! I love introducing riding to beginners because it is always so rewarding when they finally "get it"! :)

Oct. 12, 2011, 09:44 PM
In my ongoing experiment with my own child, I just give her minimal directions and ride well in front of her. She does what she sees. So far, so good. She is 8 and can w/t/c on terrain and jump small jumps. She has lovely hands and a good seat. Lucky for her, she was born with a metronome in her butt :lol:

So my advice is, say less and ride with her so she can see what to do. Simple instructions when necessary.

Oct. 13, 2011, 10:35 AM
She is on the lunge in the round pen. I want her comfortably balanced at the trot before she has to worry about reins. I doubt he would, but riding around in the open, my horse could pick up the trot for a few strides and I dont want her to panic. I get on after her lunge session and try to show her how I ride (including a lot of posting!) and also to give my horse a proper workout after practically falling asleep. Really I'd prefer to have her balanced at all three gaits in both directions before giving her reins. Maybe I could just do walk trot though, so she gets to escape the lunge ring. I could pony her on my horse while I rode another, I suppose. Her seat is coming along beautifully, but she is very hesitant about trotting. So far I tell her exactly how far he will go at the trot and tell her to let me know when she is ready for him to pick it up. Sometimes she says that I can keep him going beyond the point I mentioned. She is fine once he starts up, but I think its the anticipation that gets her worked up about it. I will try some bareback work, that would be different and fun.

Oct. 13, 2011, 10:44 AM
Giving her a neckstrap to hold while she learns to post might help her confidence. Sometimes having the stirrups a little on the short side is helpful too.

Oct. 13, 2011, 11:13 PM
Going faster can be scary, as an adult beginner, I remember feeling very afraid of losing control at the trot and that I would go bouncing right off! Grab strap may be just what she needs until she gains more confidence.