Has anyone got any experience of teaching dressage to kids? Is there a 'right' age to start? Do they need to know how to ride first, as in, is it best that they've already got riding experience or is it better to use the principles from the beginning so that they don't get into bad habits?
Any suggestions welcome.
You teach the right principles from the beginning. You may not call it Dressage with the capital D in the beginning, but that's what you teach.
Most little riders have enough body control and cognitive development by age 7 to start learning Dressage.
You can teach correct riding to kids, but you need to be aware that until they're around middle school age, the abstractions that are integral to dressage are really over their heads. They may be able to repeat what you tell them, or follow a series of directions to get a certain result, but the concepts that are at the heart of dressage are beyond what younger kids can truly understand. That's one reason why pony club starts kids over fences and saves the real dressage for later - jumping and the theory behind it is more concrete so kids can work on that while their brains catch up to their bodies.
We had a young one from out barn go to a recognized show a couple of weeks ago. Her instructor is more inclined to want to do hunter training, but has worked a great deal on the flat with the young ones. The child did Intro B & C and got a 61+ % on B and a 64+% on C under a very experienced judge on one of the tests. She is 9, not a baby, and hasn't been babied by anyone. She did the tests after one week of training specific to dressage. She has shown Western, Hunter, and now dressage with a lot of success. Not just the cute factor either, she is very determined!
DD's been riding with a Dressage instructor since she was 6. Now at 10 we're finally getting into the real dressage. It's been mostly straightness, Rhythm, suppleness, balance, contact. She's just now working on suppleness but to be honest we're a ways off from real collection and her understanding the importance of the pyramid. Telling a child Dobbin is in need of a reminder to bend and them having enough strength to do it are very different. Big thing is to make it fun and to teach to the child. DD is very visual so she learned circles with cones and heels down with silly sayings. I cannot stress enough the importance of a solid school horse though. Save the money and skip the GP horse, get the btdt second level schoolie that will really teach her. DD gets to ride the GP horse every once in a while but her regular mounts are tried and true school horses. She also does yoga and Pilates which have REALLY helped her. I got her hooked on it when I would go to the gym and now she loves it. Really really helps with her core and breathing. She's itty bitty but her balance is phenomenal.
Adoring fan of A Fine Romance
Originally Posted by alicen:
What serious breeder would think that a horse at that performance level is push button? Even so, that's still a lot of buttons to push.
When I began riding at the age of 7, it was with a dressage rider on a dressage horse (of course he was retired from showing), and years later people told me they could tell that was how I started because of my seat (Idk if they were just being nice, but it made me feel good! ) so that being said, I think it is great to teach the basics I did switch to hunters for a few years later, but now I'm back to where my heart truly is