How do you do it?
Hi there, I'm in a bit of a dilemma with my riding. I have been taking dressage lessons, but I also want to hack out and start doing a bit of jumping. Yet it seems it is taking me 3 lifetimes just to get the basics down in dressage, and the time doing something else takes away from dressage practice time. So I feel we are not progressing. At all.
So, since you all do 3 phases and have to work on each, how do you progress in dressage when you are also focusing on jumping? I saw a seriously beautiful test at the Olympics - the gold medal winner (I'm sorry, I don't recall the name) - that made me swoon. So clearly becoming proficient in dressage doesn't require full-time practice.
You don't work on dressage or jumping every day, and some days you do more than one thing (for example on dressage days I usually do 20- 30 minutes of flatwork, than go for a long walk to cool out , and I usually get to my jumping lessons a half an hour early and jog around the fields there to warm up).
You might do a dressage lesson once a week, and one fairly intense dressage school, and jump once and do a tiny bit of flatwork and then hack the other days (or just hack). But you don't want to spend an hour doing the same thing every day, since that often makes the horse sore or sour.
Here's what I do with my instructor. I can't afford two lessons a week, so I typically ride in my jumping saddle and yes, spend a good 1/2 hour on flat work before we start jumping. Suppling with transitions, halts and everything we would do in a dressage lesson except in my jumping saddle. We proceed to jumping for the next half of the lesson.
About once a month or so I have a straight dressage lesson in my dressage saddle and practice at home 50% of the time in that saddle. I almost always hack out after a schooling whether it's at home or at my instructor's, so we do a little bit of everything all the time. :)
I also do a bit of canter work in my front field while still maintaining long low and round, it tricks my horse into thinking she's having fun while still getting muscle development. Remember you're not on a time clock to get things done, everything comes together in the right order and don't get frustrated.
I ride mostly dressage. I trail ride at least once a week, and I jump about 3x a month.
Just like trot extensions, jumping is not an issue for us. Of course I'd like to have my leg a bit firmer, but we just haven't had an issue that couldn't be solved by more flatwork. I know that if she hasn't seen a jump in a month, I can still take her to a CT and do well. She isn't a stopper and has enough jump to spare. Our flatwork is good so the jumps are really just canter poles.
So we've had our First Level debut, but we're at the Beginner Novice eventing level. I plan on advancing her in dressage as far as she'll go. This year, I am working with an eventing instructor, so plan on doing more lessons with jumping, but I will still be heavily focused on dressage since that's our weakest point and the point where you can improve everything else.
Proper Dressage in used in all 3 phases. No matter if your show jumping or riding XC you are always working Dressage. Personally I really enjoy Dressage. I found it very enjoyable to work with my horse.
This is NOT aiming at anyone, because I do not know your situation, but one thing I HAVE definitely learned from the past, is that if you aren't in sync with your dressage instructor, dressage itself can get very taxing, and difficult. You might not be progressing because of your instruction.
The other thing that happens to me, may not be everyone, is that my horse really enjoys working between the phases. Because he is always doing something different, he really gets into every chance he gets to work. With my gelding it makes the whole training process much easier, and MUCH more enjoyable on my end as well.
Vary your exercises. Flat work is a must for jumping. Use that time to practice your dressage. Take one day or a series of days to works towards a riding goal that your have set for yourself, in my case it's transition work, accomplish that goal, then the next day or series of days set a riding goal in jumping, say working on bending lines. And so forth and so forth. It will keep your horses mind working, and yours as well, not to mention keep you interested in and wanting to ride.
ETA: Eventing can be is very high stress sport, but take your time, don't stress out about getting it all done at once. That is the wonderful thing about being an eventer, or at least to me, is the training and the time spent in the saddle learning and in the end feeling so diverse :)
It's all RIDING. No time spent in the saddle is wasted if you're working on your basics, which apply to ALL disciplines: forward, balanced, appropriate use of the aids, communicating effectively with the horse, etc.
Sometimes after a weekend at a clinic where it's all jumping I'll notice my next dressage lesson is better than average.
My mother always says, "no education is ever wasted". Everything you learn on the back of a horse (assuming it's correct) is applicable to your chosen discipline. If you want to jump and have the requisite skills, get out there and go for it! :)
I ALWAYS mix it up. I think of dressage as something that is forever a work in progress and it's incorporated into everything we do -- jumping warmup, trail work, even wandering around we'll leg yield back and forth. But the absolute CORE of my training is getting OUT, put horse on trailer, get on the serious trails and move out on all types of footing and terrain.
I think too many people lose their head in the dressage focus. To really event, you need a thinking, active, alert, saavy jumping horse who knows how to balance himself and deal with his feet on any terrain when faced with any question.
So I guess my approach may be a little old school (funny, since I'm in my mid-30s) but I like the way my horse develops this way. My goals is not to "win BN dressage;" my goals to complete a T3DE and then see how far my horse wants to go. I don't do this for ribbons, I do it develop my horse and our partnership and to make progress towards our goals while improving.
Like others have said, just because you may be jumping one or two days, it doesn't mean you aren't working on at least SOME of your dressage. I usually have a pretty strong flatwork warm up session before I jump (either alone, with my eventing coach, or with the h/j/eq coach- who KICKS MY ASS on the flat). I may not work on super fine details of the dressage like I would if I was schooling in my dressage saddle, but I still work on the straightness, the transitions, the quality of the canter, and his suppleness.
I often will school on the flat in my jump saddle, and the school will be a combo of more dressage stuff, but also stuff that we need for the jumping. I may have a pretty intense flat school, but then add in lots of poles or small jumps or a little gymnastic. Often I think of those rides as real "dressage with jumps/poles". They have a different feel than an honest jump school, but they benefit both the dressage and the jumping.
I hack a couple of times a week (as in, that's all I do). Sometimes, I may actually RIDE and work on pushing my horse from behind and into a contact, work on our lateral work, work on his relaxation and submission to half halts (key ingredients to getting a good test from him). But, sometimes we just hack and it's just about getting some fitness and getting out of the ring and seeing the sights. I do try and make a point to hack him a little after as many rides in the ring as I can, as well.
You have to be good at understanding how everything helps everything else. My horse gets more rideable as his dressage gets better. Gymnastics and adjustability exercises are helping him learn to let go so her can find his lengthen, medium, and, eventually, his extended gaits. Counter canter makes him more balanced. Simple changes make his transitions sharper and crisper. Hacking makes him fitter, stronger, and more aware of his body. It ALL helps, and it ALL improves each part of the equation.
The basics are all the same.
And remember that the really TOP riders are (for the most part) riding multiple horses. So if they flat each horse twice a week but ride five, that's ten dressage rides a week..... as many as a busy adult with a full time job might manage in a month!
Thank you all for your comments. You've given me a lot to think about.
Another way to look at it is...you are progressing, if you have a good coach and a good working relationship with that coach. Unless you ARE an Olympics-bound rider, you will NEVER progress as fast as you possibly could. You'd progress more if you rode 6 horses a day.
But it's not a race. Most eventers I know really thrive on the variety each week's "program" brings, and we'd probably be bored silly with less. Of course that comes at a cost to our advancement if we focused on just one discipline...but this way is more fun!
I am sure your horse enjoys getting out and hacking and not always going in circles! Enjoy!
I show in regular dressage, too, so it's actually my favorite but the jumping is fun and a nice change of pace. I take 2 lessons a week, one dressage and one jumping. Then I'll do one dressage schooling, one jump schooling, & one hack or conditioning ride.
For me, I need 2 dressage rides per week but I admit I work on dressage more than anyone in my eventing barn.