I found that thread rather interesting I too am in the process next week of switching to dressage from hunter jumpers. I have a hanoverian mare that is better bred for dressage than jumping and we are never consitent enough with our jumping to make it fair to either one of us. I want to challenge improve and better understand proper flatwork with your horse. Not sure how far I will go with it but I am definetly ready to go for it. I need some advice from others out there please.
I think you will love dressage!! I have been taking regular dressage lessons for the last month and am having a blast. It's not easy though. Just the changes in seat and position alone are challenging. What keeps me going however is seeing the changes in my horse when I do things correctly. Not that I wasn't before, but it's very different from H/J in some respects as you've probably noticed.
My biggest piece of advice would be to get a really good trainer. I think that dressage, more so than some other disciplines requires a good match between instructor and student. In the beginning you will probably be spending a lot of time on seat and position as well as basics like straightness and rhythm. Some of that might sound boring but a really good trainer can make those concepts fun and enjoyable to learn for both horse and rider. Right now I feel like we are going really slowly, but I see the changes in my horse and that makes it easier to stick with the program. My trainer also has a very upbeat and positive vibe and welcomes questions and can also answer them very thoroughly which helps with the whole process.
I've worked with trainers in the past who basically just wanted their students to "shut up and ride" and just be told what to do. I couldn't imagine taking dressage lessons from someone like that. There are so many details to consider that two way communication is really important (at least to me). It helps me in my case that my trainer welcomes questions and can also answer them in a way that makes sense. (some trainers are not good at explaining stuff).
You may also find the book "101 dressage exercises" to be helpful. It can give you some ideas for fun patterns to practice during your schooling sessions.
My advice is that after you find a good trainer, set aside everything you think you know. Most of the HJ riders I've met are good riders, but they aren't open to changing how they ride in order to better influence their horse. People are normally afraid of change. Just keep an open mind and try whatever changes your instructor gives you without prejudice.
The first year few months are where most people quit. People expect huge changes to happen over night. It takes time for your muscles to adapt, for your aids to become clearer, for concepts to really sink in.
Oh, and you will, at many point, become discouraged. Don't worry when this happens. It always occurs right before a big "ah ha" moment. Push through the self-doubt, keep asking questions and practicing, and you'll emerge on the other side immensely grateful that you did.
It's very hard, very frustrating at times, extremely gratifying, and there is nothing like it in the world.
On the topic of good trainers... Talk to the current students, go watch their lessons, go watch them at a show. You can tell a lot about a trainer by how they treat their students and whether their students are improving or not. Look at the types of horses they are riding. If an instructor can only make students on 30k warmbloods look good, but the adult ammy on the half Arab is floundering, then there are issues with the training. My trainer can teach her students so well that even on a $500 mutt we get high marks from judges with glowing comments about our horse and our riding. So don't get fooled by flash and money when looking at trainers.
Just so ya know... That was my mental logic for incorporating dressage into our training. Now we jump to freshen our dressage!
In the process, I found where I belong. It's been years and years since my studying began, and there's still lifetimes worth to learn.
You'll enjoy it
I love dressage! I did HJ for about 12 years and I have been riding dressage/ some eventing over the last 3 years.
It is a pretty big change in the seat, especially with more emphasis of your weight in the seat more rather than weight in the heal and a light seat.
I was showing in the A rated shows through hunter jumpers at 3'3" so I thought i was doing pretty well, but i did have to kind of start over again when i moved onto dressage. Now that could have been because of my new horse, a hot TB off the track who is very tense, so my trainer and I had to go back to the basics with him.
One thing I may reccomend doing, which sealed the deal for me, was taking a few lessons with and FEI trainer and riding a Grand Prix school master. Riding a horse trained at that level and being able to really feel and see how your body and muscles can influence the horse in collection and movements is just a feeling you can not describe.
It may be a small, simple movement but in one of the lessons I had, I was told to "canter in place" (which from the hunter world is unheard of) so i did what I was told and was able to do it! THE COOLEST FEELING EVER!
I have been blessed to have the opprotunities that I have had in the dressage world and i hope you have the same.
I had the rides where I was in tears, out of frustration, being told to "sit back" for 2 and a half year, was hard and it was hard not to get discouraged. Just push through all of that frustration you may run into, because you and your horse will be the better for it!
I grew up eventing and doing jumpers, and when one of my horses topped out I sent him to a dressage trainer to sell. I started taking lessons for fun, and instead of selling him to buy another eventer, I kept riding dressage and bought another dressage prospect! I love the sport-I find it so much more interesting than jumping. I never would have believed that I would have ended up in this sport but I can't imagine my riding going any other way. I had a very hard time getting the seat from jumping to dressage. I eventually found a great trainer in biomechanics to iron out the details of where the changes needed to happen and now I just check in from time to time for slight position tweaks. My horse also went through a period where he found the work much harder and wanted to try to evade, but I'm told thats normal for one that has been allowed to go around in a training/first level frame for years and then asked to collect from there. He is stronger now and feels totally different after a few years of work. Just enjoy the process with your mare and take videos so you can observe your progression, and get some great help! Welcome to the dark side!
^^^ yes,great suggestion about the video. I did that with my mare and also have done confo photos as well. In comparing these over the last year or even a few months she doesn't look like the same horse!!!!