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  1. #1
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    Default Juggling dressage and hunters - Disaster waiting to happen?

    Just curious if anyone else here dabbles in both dressage and hunters with the same horse?

    My background is hunters - not competitive, just years of riding lessons. I made the switch to dressage 3-4 years ago. My little APHA (paint) mare never seemed to care much for hunters, but really seems to enjoy dressage even if she'll never excel at it.

    Recently, I noticed that the APHA is having a 2-day breed show right here in Northern Virginia! This is the first time there has been a breed show in this area in the 8.5 years since I've had my mare. I simply can't resist a chance to show my mare among her peers and - with any hope - get some show points on her APHA record. The problem is that dressage isn't a recognized APHA class. So... it's back to doing hunters. Not just any hunters either - AQHA/APHA hunters which is in itself completely different.

    I took lessons for several years at a local stable run by a woman active in the AQHA show circuit. I contacted her today about taking a few lessons to prep for the APHA show in June. I really feel like I need to refresh my hunter skills and learn the breed circuit way of doing things.

    I also want to continue with my dressage lessons and showing this year. I really do enjoy dressage more than hunters.

    Do you think I'm going to cause my mare all sorts of confusion working on both dressage and AQHA/APHA style hunters at the same time??? In dressage, we're working on getting my mare to move more forward and work on contact. AQHA/APHA style hunters want slower gaits with minimal contact. By attempting both disciplines at the same time, will I be setting myself up for failure in both?

    I'd love to here stories from those of you who do dabble in both dressage and hunters at the same time. Thanks!



  2. #2
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    Default I can't speak as to the AQHA/APHA hunters

    which as you so rightly say are totally different from 'normal' hunters.
    But I have a mare who does the 3 ft hunters and 2nd level dressage and wins at both. No confusion on her part.

    But the stockhorse world is not the same at the English world so maybe you can't. But you could always try and see.
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  3. #3
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    Default

    Do it. Have fun. You mare will adapt. It is not that different from eventing, when you are a jack of all trades, expect to be a master of none, but if you derive you happiness in doing lots of different things with horses, then you should do what makes you happy. When I buy a horse that is for "keeps", I try to find one with the mind to do "whatever" suits me at the moment. I never get bored, but I will never be "grand prix" at anything either.



  4. #4
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    Jan. 18, 2004
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    Default

    I did both with my fancy hunter. We did some tests and he moved so well that we got pretty good scores. A good hunter, trained correctly is perfectly capable of doing a nice first level, maybe second level (if you're dedicated!) test. And it was fun at hunter shows because we could put him in any frame needed. Judge like a horse long and low? No problem. More upright like an equ horse? No problem. It was pretty fun.

    My jumper used to do FEI dressage before I got him. He knew which clothes he had on - jumper clothes (3 ring and a figure 8) or a dressage clothes (double bridle). Horses are a lot more adaptable than people!

    Just don't think that breed show hunter is the same as the Hunter Jumper circuit. At the worlds level it is, but locally? Think 'winglish', or western in an english saddle. Watch a couple of classes to see what seems to be acceptable, and adjust from hunt seat to dressage seat or back as needed, as it seems to change regionally. But one way or another, you'll have fun.



  5. #5
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    Default

    Ya'll seem to have a lot more faith in my mare's ability to adapt than I do. LOL! I really don't forsee a permanent transition into the APHA breed show circuit. This is the first APHA show in my local area in the 8.5 years I've owned my mare. I have no desire to jump back into hunters - just couldn't resist a chance to show among other paint horses and possibly put some show points on my mare's APHA record. I do want to take some lessons with this AQHA trainer just so we don't look like a complete fish out of water.



  6. #6
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    Default

    Go for it! Especially if it's just an occasional thing, I wouldn't even really consider that juggling.

    I don't know too much about APHA/AQHA hunters, but I used to occasionally show my dressage horse in hunters for the fun of it and we usually did really well. The flat classes aren't that different from going long and low, and dressage improves their jumping. He's a very dressage-type horse, too, but at local shows we did quite well.

    I think most horses are capable of adapting to different disciplines, especially if the disciplines are relatively similar like dressage and hunters. My answer might be different if you were thinking about doing western pleasure with your dressage horse, but hunters is no big deal.



  7. #7
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    Default Try it!

    I don't think you will have a problem mixing disciplines at the lower levels.
    I have ridden lower levels of both with the same horse and I think it actually helped. YMMV.

    It's when you get into the higher (FEI)levels of collection in dressage that you *might* experience some problems and have to commit to focus on one or another.

    That said, eventers do a dressage phase and x-c and stadium jumping the same day!

    Maybe, it just depends on your horse and their talents and preferences?



  8. #8
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    Jun. 7, 2006
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    My horses do both.

    I have a lovely TB 3' hunter that a 10yo can hunt around a course and get her changes, and with him maxed out at 3' I have switched his specialty to dressage.

    He is finishing 2nd/embarking on 3rd, and I recently started trailering in for lessons at a very nice dressage barn down the road, where the trainer is laid back but all the other customers have big fancy warmbloods, if you know what I mean.

    The horse gets universally good reviews from every trainer he meets, whether dressage or hunter. The current dressage trainer's only caveat was that his neck could be set on a little higher but 'he makes up for it'.

    I told him I wanted to go for our bronze this year and the trainer said, "Well, it will be hard work but the horse can do it."

    Every one and their mother will yammer at you that hunters "ruins" a dressage horse for lead changes and counter canter but my horse, "ruinous" training though he may have had, has lovely canter work and my goals for those movements are at least 7s.

    Meanwhile, being able to hunt relaxed and flowing around a 3' course on a light contact is, I have found, the PERFECT way to loosen him up for a nice swingy back for his dressage lesson the next day.

    ETA
    I also have a coming 5yo young hunter who spends most of his life in a dressage saddle -to the contrary of all of that yammering from the hunter peeps that if you ride your hunter on the contact he'll be ruined as a hunter forever. We are working on establishing a solid First Level, so we spend our days developing a slightly more elevated frame (MY GOD! BUT HOW WILL HE HACK?!), simple changes, lots of legyielding, a little counter-canter loop here and there, and some lengthenings.
    At any point of the school somebody could yell out "HUNTER STYLE!" and with playing out a little loop in the rein and lightening my seat the horse transforms instantly into a nose-poking, flat-toplined hunter.
    The horse is trained to follow the contact and seat where they lead, and if the contact and seat are asking for a little more elevation, that's what he does. If the contact and seat say "Go like a hunter", he does that. If the contact and seat say "Stretch long and low," he does a stretchy circle frame. No matter what saddle he's in.

    I find that the combined program is beneficial. It is frustrating to read so many times on this board people treating the two disciplines as mutually exclusive, and discouraging people from doing both with one horse (and most of the time those people don't do both, they only do ONE and guessitmate forth from there...), when with many different horses I have personally had such a mutually BENEFICIAL experience. The horses love the variety and the cross training really develops them (and me!) holistically.
    Last edited by meupatdoes; Mar. 17, 2010 at 12:16 PM.



  9. #9
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by CosMonster View Post
    My answer might be different if you were thinking about doing western pleasure with your dressage horse, but hunters is no big deal.
    That's just it... AQHA/APHA hunters is basically western pleasure with english tack.



  10. #10
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    Default

    I've heard that, but from what I've seen it's not quite the same. They still need to have a true walk/trot/canter, just slower than you would see in open hunters. And you have more of a draped rein, but the horse isn't completely backed off the bridle like in western events. Like I said, I'm not super experienced in it but I have a friend who does QH breed stuff and have been to shows as a spectator with her, and that's what I've seen.

    I still think it's worth a try if you want to do the show. You know your horse enough not to do anything that's going to screw her up, I'm sure. Worst case scenario is you just won't do very well, but hopefully you'll meet some new people and have a fun experience. I'd hazard a guess you'll probably do decently, though, especially if there aren't many paint shows in your area.



  11. #11
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    horses can do both if they are properly trained. i did the 2.6ft hunters and i did first level dressage last year. the dressage judges loved my horse. even with me riding in hunt seat clothing saddle and bridle.
    and for hunters he did very well too. he looks quite cute going around the courses as a hunter. cant tell he does dressage. but i do find that in order to improve my hunter rounds with my horse, he has to stop leaning in on his corners and for that i go to dressage.
    i think its silly to say a horse has to do one or the other. like meupatdoes said, if i want to be more dressage like i sit up and go into a frame, and then if i want to be more hunter like i loosen the reins and let him strut his stuff. the stretchy trot from dressage has really helped him get a better frame for hunters. my last lesson we worked on shoulder fore. (gasp at a hunter barn!) we did this down one long side while it was being taped and then my instructor said let him loose on the other side and he looked so nice as a hunter.
    have fun, do both!



  12. #12
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    Default

    He knew which clothes he had on - jumper clothes (3 ring and a figure 8) or a dressage clothes (double bridle). Horses are a lot more adaptable than people!
    ditto. For example, lots of horses show totally different gaits under western vs. english tack.



  13. #13
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    Um the paints I rode were completely backed off of the bridle in the hunter events for the breed shows, BUT that was at very competative stuff.

    If its a local show, go, have fun, its not a big deal.


    As far as "training" for it, no, I would not make my dressage horse go through the 'bumping" work after he/she has learned to accept contact.

    How competative do you want to be in AQ/APHA? If very, then I wouldnt make the horse go back and forth

    JMO



  14. #14
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    Default

    I too have an APHA mare and we do it all- not only the 'breed' hunter under saddle and english classes, but also the western classes. To top it off I also show her dressage and on the 'regular' hunter jumper circuit. I even have plans to teach her to drive. And yes, she does well at it all. The biggest issue I have is headset and contact, but even that isn't huge- she seems to know that western saddle and curb bit= low and slow, dressage saddle and plain snaffle or double= more collected, and close contact saddle and snaffle or pelham= listen to mom and go the speed she wants with the headset she wants

    Oh, and if you want to earn points without showing on the APHA circuit, look into the PAC program- it's an easy way to earn points! I look for shows that are PAC approved if I'm not going to a Paint show.



  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by NOMIOMI1 View Post
    Um the paints I rode were completely backed off of the bridle in the hunter events for the breed shows, BUT that was at very competative stuff.

    If its a local show, go, have fun, its not a big deal.


    As far as "training" for it, no, I would not make my dressage horse go through the 'bumping" work after he/she has learned to accept contact.

    How competative do you want to be in AQ/APHA? If very, then I wouldnt make the horse go back and forth

    JMO
    It's a "real" APHA 2-day show - not just a local schooling show. I assume it's a big deal. The facility has stalls for up to 150 horses, so I'm assuming there will be lots of horses coming in for this show.

    I definitely do not plan to pursue the APHA circuit. There simply aren't any shows held in my immediate area - this is the first one I've seen in Northern Virginia in the 8.5 years I've owned a paint horse. I'm not interested in traveling either even just down to Lexington, VA which is where this show is normally held.

    I'm doing it for "fun," but I also don't want to go out there and look like a complete idiot either. I try to do everything to the best of our abilities which is why I'm going to take some lessons with a local AQHA trainer beforehand.

    I do still want to stick with dressage since there is a much bigger dressage community around here - plus my mare seems much happier doing dressage than when I did attempt the local hunter circuit years ago. My main concern is confusing my mare over the gaits and level of contact. My mare does best with light contact and seems to fall apart and scramble without it.

    There won't be any major tack changes. I currently have an Albion AP and dressage saddles. Both saddles have the same exact tree and there isn't a huge difference in the way the two saddles seat me. Plus, I'll be using the same bit I use for dressage - a loose ring Sprenger.



  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by TSWJB View Post
    my last lesson we worked on shoulder fore. (gasp at a hunter barn!)
    Frankly, at any good h/j barn, the dressage work is just part of it. Shoulder in, Haunches In, leg yield, half pass, counter canter. Any h/j horse worth his salt had better be able to do it all.

    Many years ago, my long time trainer worked for Jimmy Williams. He required that they show in dressage shows, and take a dressage lesson once a week. So, it's not exactly a new idea.

    I think the idea that the disciplines aren't compatible comes from ignorance more of the other side more than anything. It's only at the upper levels where the muscle structure and carriage becomes so defined that conflicts happen.



  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by mypaintwattie View Post
    Oh, and if you want to earn points without showing on the APHA circuit, look into the PAC program- it's an easy way to earn points! I look for shows that are PAC approved if I'm not going to a Paint show.
    Just looked on the APHA website - nothing in the PAC program really local to me. The closest thing is about 1.5 hours away and I'm not willing to travel that far. Paint horses just aren't that common in Northern Virginia.



  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by wendy View Post
    ditto. For example, lots of horses show totally different gaits under western vs. english tack.
    I have friends who do both paints and quarter horses. Once, for a lark, we put a western saddle on my hunter. Interestingly enough, he broke from the whithers, dropping his head down with a straight neck, instead of coming through his back. All of a sudden I had the picture of a western pleasure horse in my big moving TB. It was pretty surprising, and he wasn't overly thrilled with it, but I learned a lot!



  19. #19
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    Here is a link to the show bill - http://www.centralvirginiapainthorse...rg/events.html

    It's the June 5-6 show - held about 20 minutes from my barn.



  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by paintlady View Post
    It's a "real" APHA 2-day show - not just a local schooling show. I assume it's a big deal. The facility has stalls for up to 150 horses, so I'm assuming there will be lots of horses coming in for this show.

    I definitely do not plan to pursue the APHA circuit. There simply aren't any shows held in my immediate area - this is the first one I've seen in Northern Virginia in the 8.5 years I've owned a paint horse. I'm not interested in traveling either even just down to Lexington, VA which is where this show is normally held.

    I'm doing it for "fun," but I also don't want to go out there and look like a complete idiot either. I try to do everything to the best of our abilities which is why I'm going to take some lessons with a local AQHA trainer beforehand.

    I do still want to stick with dressage since there is a much bigger dressage community around here - plus my mare seems much happier doing dressage than when I did attempt the local hunter circuit years ago. My main concern is confusing my mare over the gaits and level of contact. My mare does best with light contact and seems to fall apart and scramble without it.

    There won't be any major tack changes. I currently have an Albion AP and dressage saddles. Both saddles have the same exact tree and there isn't a huge difference in the way the two saddles seat me. Plus, I'll be using the same bit I use for dressage - a loose ring Sprenger.
    Should be ok for a one time thing The apha hunters are on a loose rein, some have "contact" but thats long definately strung out more than the dressage contact.

    Some of the APHA horses have the movement to really do well at both since most judges place movement above all if you have SOME kind of headset. Depends on the venue, AND the judge, but most trainers favor the bump on the mouth tactic with lots and lots of backing or pivots to get that loose rein work.

    They really get moving in the pro classes at the world, but locally they seem to shuffle still and go like the west/hunt horses of the old days.

    My last nov/ammy class in AQHA was on a mare that did dressage, she was 17.2 and passed every horse at our slowest amble lmao, I had to take quite the back seat in placings.

    The first thing the trainer wanted was me to get her off of the bridle, I couldnt do it, it was too unfair.



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