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Switching to dressage full time -- why did you?

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  • Switching to dressage full time -- why did you?

    I love dressage, but my last horse got me into eventing, where I have stayed with my new mount (a young pony). I'm not a particularly gritty rider over fences, and just wanted to stay at the lower levels of eventing and work on the dressage on the side.

    New pony is only 5, but her confidence over fences is "meh". She's developed a ton of confidence with certain things like water, and I've seen an appreciable growth in that confidence, but with fences the growth isn't as noticeable. She does love hacking out, doesn't think twice about anything on the trail, and has an aptitude for dressage as well.

    As I decide whether we just leave the jumping altogether (permanently or for a season or so), I have a question for those of you who have switched.

    Why did you switch? What factors did you consider?

  • #2
    I became an instructor at a Dressage School. I lost the use of the my arm and was told I would never ride again. I started riding again and then I married and moved to a farm. I have only just managed to get my own dressage arena.
    You have reminded me that I am supposed to being going to ikea to pick up 10 potties to act as cavelleties.
    It is better to ride 5 minutes a day than it is to ride 35 minutes on a Sunday.

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    • #3
      I was a young person who had grown up taking hunt seat riding lessons. I was comfortable over low jumps, but never all that good. My body type was also not ideal for showing, being short and dumpy!

      I had always been intrigued by dressage and its complexity. So when a boarder moved in with her dressage-trained warmblood I started taking lessons with her. With her help my horse's gaits were transformed and I was hooked! When I started showing I also appreciated the structure of dressage shows. No more waiting until who knows when for your class and then trying to maneuver in a flat class filled with 20 horses! And dressage shows give you test papers with specific feedback. Awesome!

      Now that I am old and retired, dressage keeps me interested and challenged. It doesn't have the adrenaline rush of cross country (well, excepting those occasional buck-bolts), but that was never my goal. I love helping a horse develop through dressage. My old horse liked to jump, so we still did some, often jumping a few fences after a difficult dressage session as a reward and freshener. Most dressage riders like the cerebral nature of the sport and that kind of connection and discussion with their horse. While some truly are "afraid to jump", others may just choose not to jump competitively (for various reasons) and may or may not do some jumping at home.

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      • #4
        I was a jumper who knew the importance of dressage. Then I became an eventer. Bought a mare with a jump to die for and she hated it. Made it obvious she didn't find jumping fun, but stressful. However she LOVED dressage. She's a thinker. She would probably make a great hunter for all the reasons she's a great dressage horse but alas I'm not a fan. I did enough making a square peg fit in a round hole when I was younger and I wasn't going to do it to this horse. So we became dressage queens. Then she promptly came up with a mystery illness that we still haven't solved! I would jump again if I bought another horse but I'm also perfectly happy being a DQ, I enjoy the competition against myself.

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        • #5
          As an event rider, dressage was something you just did, then I got a horse that despised water, even rain runoff. So I started more flatwork. I found it a fascinating mind game, as well as physically challenging. I had top notch instruction available, so learned a lot.

          And, since I never was able to keep my mouth shut when I knew a better, simpler, way of doing things, I started teaching. I found that just as fascinating.
          Some riders change their horse, they change their saddle, they change their teacher; they never change themselves.

          Remember the horse does all the work, we just sit there and look pretty.

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          • #6
            I had hunters & jumpers for years (actually, decades.) Then my heart horse had a hoof injury that ended his jumping career; he came back quite sound but the vet advised us to stick to flatwork. I took up dressage thinking it would be something we could do that would still have a goal orientation and ended up falling in love with it. As others have said, it is fascinating in the complexity and compelling in terms of what it can do for a horse physically. After heart horse semi retired, I bought a nice purpose bred youngster to bring up the levels. It's been a lot of fun and I particularly like the way the shows are organized. As someone else noted, having ride times and written feedback is the bomb!! I do miss jumping and will probably get another horse that I can jump around in my backyard at some point, but just for fun. I plan to stick to dressage as my main discipline / from a competitive standpoint.
            **********
            We move pretty fast for some rabid garden snails.
            -PaulaEdwina

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            • #7
              My holsteiner wasn’t sound enough to jump....started dressage lessons and 50 years. Later I’m still learning.

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              • #8
                Like others, I started out interested in jumping, but became fascinated after watching some low level dressage. I liked that each horse/rider combination was judged on their ability to do certain movements. Then started reading some of the old masters, and began to appreciate the level of communication needed between horse and rider. That is still what I find intriguing and challenging. I have lost interest in showing because like many things, there are politics involved. Having the right horse, saddle, outfit, trainer . . . I enjoy lessons because there is always more to learn, and I have become more effective as a rider through them and the insights of my teachers.

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                • #9
                  I just have always wanted to do dressage. There was a spell for a few years as an early teen watching the olympics and wanting to get into eventing. I learned a little to jump and do more XC type training, but I don't know. It's just dressage. It's always kind of been dressage. It's the partnership and the harmony and maybe the constant search for perfection.
                  "I am but a passenger on this ship"
                  -- Stendal (epitaph)

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                  • #10
                    I saw The Miracle of the White Stallions as a kid. It was what made me want to ride horses, especially when I found out a neighbor was riding. So at 6, I started riding and I KNEW I wanted to ride dressage. We had a local riding school with somewhere likely around 30 school horses, and it was owned by one of the founders of the local dressage club. While the saddles were all different, all riders started on a longe line, and were taught general good horsemanship - both mounted and on the ground. I got a horse and started in 4-H, and when I wanted to do dressage was told "oh, you couldn't afford a dressage horse." So I didn't officially become a dressage rider, and instead did breed shows all-around, jumped up to 4' courses, played with cattle and speed games (poorly), etc.
                    In college, my coach referred to me as a dressage rider for how I rode - even as I competed in IHSA jumping and eq.

                    After college I was saving up to have horses and be able to do them as I wanted, while taking care of my mom. When I was up at 3am or whenever to watch live stream of the Olympics in Hong Kong and was crying because of how badly I wanted to be building a partnership, I knew it was time to get back into riding. I haven't looked back since, and my knowledge my whole life that I wanted to do dressage was right.
                    If Kim Kardashian wants to set up a gofundme to purchase the Wu Tang album from Martin Shkreli, guess what people you DON'T HAVE TO DONATE.
                    -meupatdoes

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                    • #11
                      I know I'm not the only one who has crossed over from western and huntseat. I have also shown saddleseat, and I took reining lessons for a while too.

                      I love the progression of dressage moving each horse closer to its best self in a methodical way. I love being scored. I love being in the ring by myself for better or worse. I love a good horse of any discipline for sure, but I have not once missed the stock shows. (I do miss the music and the yelling and cheering of the saddleseat shows. That was fun!)

                      Hard to believe that it is coming up on 6 years of fulltime dressage! It's changed me, too, in how I take care of myself and my horse. Not that either was ever bad, but I view us athletes now whereas before I might call us 'show pieces'.

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                      • #12
                        I (like many) started jumping as a kid. That was what we did with horses where I grew up. Dressage was pretty rarefied stuff - the Olympics and Linda Zang doing a demonstration at the WIHS - kind of stuff.

                        As an adult re-rider I started back jumping low jumps. One day the owner of the horse I was part leasing had a visitor from Germany, who happened to ride dressage. She gave me my first, impromptu dressage lesson and OMG was it fun! A bit later I had an opportunity to take a real dressage lesson on a horse that had been trained through 3rd/4th level. I was hooked on the progression, the communication, the remarkable difference in how the horse went. So I went in search of regular dressage trainer and haven't looked back.

                        The Type A part of me grooves on the figures, the precision, the infinite but critical details, the structure and search fro perfection. I also love that at shows I am first and foremost competing against myself and my last ride and get both qualitative and quantitative feedback on each ride. I also love the set ride times.

                        For anyone reading who isn't Type A - don't despair. My trainer is very definitely NOT Type A in lots of ways and for her it is the connection, the relationship with the horse, the infinite ways to get to the same point in training.
                        "So relax! Let's have some fun out here! This game's fun, OK? Fun goddamnit." Crash Davis; Bull Durham

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                        • #13
                          I switched about a year ago. Rode hunter for many years and I really loved to jump but my OTTB was having hock issues. He started stopping and after a fair number of falls (and bouts of recovery for me) I stopped jumping entirely and just worked on the flat. Hock injections did help but not enough to jump and then to make a long story short he needed to be retired so I took him home and went horse shopping.

                          With the help of my coach we went looking for the right horse that didn't "have" to jump. I leased a 3rd level school master for 6 months and I just never looked back. I didn't purchase the horse after the lease ended (another very long story) but found a wonderful ranch bred QH cross with a great brain, nice movement and I took the leap. Purchased a dressage saddle and we were off. It has taken a bit to get my position sorted out but the training involved for both myself and my new guy is so much of a challenge and I am having a blast.

                          I just don't bounce anymore but I still love to ride and even if I never do more than a cross rail oh well. I think I am a better rider after switching and enjoy the finer sense of control.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            My event-bred mare you know decided she'd really rather jump low fences only on flat ground, or only ditches or only water. Kind of defeats the purpose of eventing, so I switched her over to dressage because selling her so I could buy an eventer wasn't really an option.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              I've been eventing for 20 years.

                              1. I purpose bred an eventer in 2011 and the b*tch popped out built like a brick sh*t house. She's a pure dressage horse through n through.

                              2. Eventing is too expensive. Rated dressage shows are cheaper and DQs receive better benefits at the shows.

                              3. $^@& Show Jumping. 90% of the time I am in 1st place going into show jumping (BN-T; so just lower levels) and I can't handle the pressure.

                              4. I loooove the flat work. Good thing. Because at HTs I always need to be at least 1 rail in the lead going into SJ.
                              http://kaboomeventing.com/
                              http://kaboomeventing.blogspot.com/
                              Horses are amazing athletes and make no mistake -- they are the stars of the show!

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                I started riding as a kid, first a few summers on Paso Fino trail horses, then got hooked and into a local h/j barn. Very lucky to have learned from trainers with good flatwork! A trainer moved into a barn where I worked and rode when I was 16. She was an artist and got me hooked on dressage, but I didn't own a horse so I did lots of training on young horses, until I bought my first horse to train and sell as a hunter. I've had her 14 years now, and between her and my other 2, finally settled (former military) in an area with trainers and options so focused on dressage. I also jump to cross train, not scared of jumps but just love dressage. I'm not type A but love the feeling when the horse connects and you find their power.

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  I switched due to time constraints after low level eventing (to Novice) for five years. Working full time, hellish commute, family -- trying to be competent at 3 disciplines/maintain the appropriate level of fitness for my horse, got to be more than I wanted to contend with. So I've been focusing on dressage this year. My horses have improved a lot. It can be very Zen at times, but also boring drudgery a lot of the time. I respect the discipline but I am not absolutely in love with it. I dislike micromanaging my horse so much while riding. People talk about practice while out on the trail so trail riding becomes less about decompressing and just another venue for working on the perfect whatever. It's like I have a 2nd job and I'm beginning to resent that since I already work full time.

                                  Sorry for my sour grapes but I'm a bit conflicted about it at the moment. I concede I am a person who is easily bored by repetition and there is just SO MUCH effing repetition in dressage. That and the endless circles.
                                  Fat Cat Farm Sporthorses on Facebook
                                  Fat Cat Farm Sporthorses Website and Blog

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                                  • #18
                                    Originally posted by FatCatFarm View Post
                                    I switched due to time constraints after low level eventing (to Novice) for five years. Working full time, hellish commute, family -- trying to be competent at 3 disciplines/maintain the appropriate level of fitness for my horse, got to be more than I wanted to contend with. So I've been focusing on dressage this year. My horses have improved a lot. It can be very Zen at times, but also boring drudgery a lot of the time. I respect the discipline but I am not absolutely in love with it. I dislike micromanaging my horse so much while riding. People talk about practice while out on the trail so trail riding becomes less about decompressing and just another venue for working on the perfect whatever. It's like I have a 2nd job and I'm beginning to resent that since I already work full time.

                                    Sorry for my sour grapes but I'm a bit conflicted about it at the moment. I concede I am a person who is easily bored by repetition and there is just SO MUCH effing repetition in dressage. That and the endless circles.
                                    If you are that bored imagine how your horse feels. I never gave up hacking out, trail riding and added working equitation. You can really mix things up and still be practicing. Again, there is no "perfect" in dressage, only excellent. Cut yourself some slack and enjoy the journey.

                                    I had to finally stop riding this year due to medical problems and basically "mileage" and really miss those rides, even the boring ones. I dream to have them again.
                                    Groom to trainer: "Where's the glamour? You promised me glamour!"

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      I do mix it up and do still hack out, but there's that word again, "practice" or "practicing". When I go have a hack just for the sake of having a hack, I still hear my trainer's voice in my head, "you know, even when doing free walk, you should be asking your horse to reach down and use your legs to get more swing out of that walk!" Ugh. It's got me feeling guilty for just going out and having a ride. Instead I feel like I should be "training" all the flipping time.

                                      I'm aware that it's really about me, my horse and our last score and the improvement, hopefully, but it often feels so sublime it's monotonous.

                                      But, it is truly great exercise for both the horse and rider, so I'm not giving up. Hopefully it will get more fun as we progress, and it should.
                                      Last edited by FatCatFarm; Aug. 10, 2018, 02:43 PM.
                                      Fat Cat Farm Sporthorses on Facebook
                                      Fat Cat Farm Sporthorses Website and Blog

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                                      • #20
                                        I started out with Arabs and did a little bit of everything...English, Western, driving, trail, costume. All fun but I soon found rail work tedious and boring. I did trail ride and enjoyed that but had to haul out to do that so that was somewhat limited. I saw some international Dressage competition and thought...YES...I would like to do that. I can teach my horse to dance and I can show off. How is that for self absorbed?

                                        As my job changed and I was on call a lot and had less time to haul out, Dressage was right up my alley. Easy to do in the arena but infinite exercises to work on and better the horse and improve their way of going. I do some trail riding and throw in cavaletti to keep things interesting. I haven’t ever shown above 2nd level so never quite made it to the GP but hey sometimes life gets in the way. I am kind of decrepit now...not sure I can ever get back to a ton of sitting trot but there is still so much to work on. If my horse and I can hang on for another 11 years, we can do our Century ride.

                                        Susan

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