The Switching to Dressage thread has inspired me to finally post my question...
I am a hunter rider. My trainer and 95% of her clients pack up in the spring for 6 weeks of shows. As a poor graduate student, I stay behind and work on my own.
My boarding stable is home to a variety of disciplines, including, within the past year, eventing.
I am considering asking my trainer if it would be ok for me to take dressage lessons with the eventing trainer while my trainer and her clients are off at the shows. I would be interested in two lessons each week for a total of 12 lessons (+/-). **Note: there is NO danger that I would want to switch trainers after this. You couldn't pay me $1000 to gallop through the woods and jump solid objects (<shudder>).
My horse was originally trained as an eventer and he evented through training level and was schooling preliminary when he was sold. I've heard from his original owner that he was ok at dressage - not stellar, but certainly competent. My current trainer is very good about teaching and emphasizing dressage-based flatwork and I enjoy my flat lessons, especially lateral work and collection/extension. In addition, I used to take lessons from a hunter/jumper trainer who required her students to show in at least one dressage schooling show each year. So, in other words, I have some idea of what I would be getting into.
My concerns are these:
1) I don't own a dressage saddle or other dressage gear
2) My trainer and I have spent a very long time working on my love of long stirrups. I originally rode western before switching to hunters and it has taken me a very long time to get used to shorter stirrups. After over a year of slowly shortening my stirrup leathers, I think I am within one hole of where my trainer wants me. Obviously, dressage riders prefer longer stirrups and I'm nervous about "undoing" all my my trainer's hard work.
3) My trainer and I have also spent a long time lightening my seat. I LOVE to sit back and on "the pockets of my jeans." I am finally getting the hang of a light and more forward seat, and as a reward, I recently won an equitation class (!). Again, I'm worried about "undoing" my trainer's hard work. I am not a natural rider and it takes me a very long time and lots of repetition for me to learn things and correct bad behaviors.
On the other hand...
I think that 6 weeks of dressage lessons would be very helpful for my lateral aids and helping with some of my balance issues. I have scoliosis and tend to do funny things to compensate for a tilted pelvis, including riding with a perpetual bend to the left. I also have yet to become 100% comfortable with contact with my horse's mouth (again, thank you western background). I am certaily happy with my trainer's efforts to work with me on both of these things, but also I think that some dressage lessons might do wonders, as well as keep me engaged and improving while my trainer is away.
So, do you think it would be too much trouble for me to try to take dressage lessons in my jumping saddle? If you were my potential instructor how would you handle a request to let me keep my stirrups shorter? Would you think of my concerns and catering to them as a waste of time? Would I benefit from these lessons? (and yes, I realize that posting this in the dressage forum is like asking horses if they like carrots)
My H/J trainer has us doing a pile of flatwork and often pulls us into her Dressage lessons if she feels it would be helpful.
I also cross-trained with an amazing Dressage instructor for a few months, and she didn't give a hoot that I showed up in my H/J saddle. She had a weird thing about crank nosebands and shook her head at my Hunter bridle, but she agreed that it was personal preference She mostly worked on my balance and hands anyway and I did a lot of my work with her with my stirrups VERY long. Then again, my H/J instructor has us alter our stirrup lengths fairly often, it isn't uncommon to drop them for flatwork and raise them for the o/f portion of the lesson. The Dressage instructor was just concerned that the saddle fit the horse and I was comfortable enough in it to "do weird stuff" like shut my eyes, shift my weight around to find a good balance, etc.
You might ask your H/J instructor if there's some specific things she'd like you to key in on in the Dressage sessions, then talk that over with the Dressage coach. There's no end of stuff to work on
Lifestyle coordinator for Zora, Spooky, Wolfgang and Warrior
I don't see anything wrong with taking lessons in a hunt seat saddle, as long as you can sit in it. I am not really sure that it's worth it if you want to keep everything exactly the same as your hunt seat trainer has you do. I don't see anything wrong with working in a longer stirrup for six weeks, your backward posture isn't necessarily related to that, because that isn't right in dressage either. It all will probably have you riding far better when you put your stirrups back up for the hunt seat stuff after.
Aside from that, I see hints that you're creeping over to the dark side....Luke...Luke...I am your father.....
I think it's a wonderful idea. Good, balanced riding is always beneficial. If the dressage instructor is good, the basics can be used for all disciplines. I wish I had the opportunity to learn dressage early on - in my case it wasn't popular and unavailable when I was an avid junior rider - only eq, hunters (when they really were hunters) and jumpers (when jumpoffs went as high as the sky!). Of course, that was back in the dark ages! I think you'll find you have a closer connection with your horse resulting in better rides in h/j.
As for the saddle, I have 2 dressage saddles taking up space in my living room because neither one fits my mare anymore. She loves, loves, loves my 30yo, flat as a pancake, close contact saddle. She is more comfortable and more likely to give me more when I ask. That said, it's a little more difficult for me, but we adjust. My stirrup length is somewhere between the longer length I rode in with the dressage saddles and the really short h/j length I see in the ring.
Do it!! I think it will be of great benefit for both you and your horse. And who knows, as SLC said, you may be seduced to the "dark side"!! Just enjoy your horse.....
I show all of my horses in the jumper ring, but the only trainer I ride with on a regular basis is a dressage trainer. I do not own a dressage saddle and ride with [to my dressage trainer] ridiculously short stirrups
A good dressage cross-trainer will help you with exercises and advice that is related to strengthening your horse and making you a better rider, as opposed to focusing on changing everything about your riding position from "hunter" to "dressage" (if that makes sense).
I will say, though, that I also have a tendency to sit on my back pockets, and my dressage trainer encourages that (to a certain degree) where the jumper trainer I school with on occaision makes me emphasize the opposite position (forward and light through the seat). All it really means is that I constantly have to think about my position when I'm jumping, but get to relax and ride [a little bit] softer through my back when I'm doing my flatwork. With that being said, I credit my dressage trainer for helping to "make" my big jumpers and rely on her more than any other trainer to help get all of mine ready for the show ring.
I used to be at a barn with my dressage trainer where there was a top drawer jumper trainer. He would go off for 6 weeks. His students at home would take lessons from my dressage trainer. With HIS blessing.
My friend who jumps with this jumper trainer sent her horse to my dressage trainer to perfect his changes. Everyone was happy.
Pardon the seeming promotion here, but I have a really nice Courbette Marschall AP with a dressage tendency, 17 1/2", M, I'd sell if you're interested; I'd put it on eBay w/Paypal (I accept returns as an Ebay seller as well) so you'd be protected.
This way you're not committing to an all-out dressage saddle and can still get use out of it as an AP. It is perfect for someone in your situation.
Thanks for the encouragement. I think I'm going to do it. Also, since the trainer does eventing (ie. not strictly dressage), hopefully she will be understanding of my saddle and stirrup length. I'm not interested in a saddle because of all the accessories (saddle pad, girth, full seat breeches...etc), or switching over. My horse LOVES to jump and was passed over by dressage folks when he was for sale several times in the the past because it is so obvious that he prefers a jumping job. But, he will just have to deal for a few weeks - just because I love mac and cheese, it doesn't mean I get to eat it every day. I need my vegetables too.
I think people ride far better when they change their stirrup length and ride in different positions. I think one of the big reasons so many eventers ride so well is because they use different stirrup lengths; quite a few people have a distinctly different dressage vs cross country position/stirrup length.
I've jumped (very small 18" jumps) in my dressage saddle and have done dressage in a jump saddle when my dressage saddle was in for repairs. I don't think the eventing trainer will have any problem with your saddle and will likely understand the issues you are working on. Go for it and have fun!
In answer to OP's question 'I am considering asking my trainer if it would be ok for me to take dressage lessons with the eventing trainer while my trainer and her clients are off at the shows', presuming you are paying for instruction yourself, i.e., are making these decisions yourself not your parents, you do not need your trainers permission to study any riding discipline you wish, whenever and wherever you wish. If you are still a junior and parents are picking up the tab, discuss with them, as whoever pays for the lessons picks the instructor and topic/type of lessons, not the trainer.
RIP Sasha, best dog ever, pictured shortly before she died, Death either by euthanasia or natural causes is only the end of the animal inhabiting its body; I believe the spirit lives on.