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Transitioning Eventing Horse to Dressage

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  • Transitioning Eventing Horse to Dressage


    I am seeking advice from anyone who has transitioned a competitive Eventing horse to strictly Dressage.

    I recently purchased a horse who was retiring from Eventing as his previous owner wanted to move up from Novice to Prelim and he was unable to manage the jumping at that level.

    Any advice on what to look out for when transitioning a horse from competitive Eventing to Dressage? Very interested to hear other people's stories, what to expect, etc.

    Thanks in advance!

  • #2
    It's generally not much of a transition. My old guy was a little bit horrified to learn that he had to come back and do a second test, but other than that it was fine.


    • #3
      Yes - no real transition. Your horse already does dressage, and shows dressage. He just does other things too. And his dressage skills are likely around training level if he was showing novice in the US (assuming he wasn't schooling anything he didn't have to show, which he very well might have been).

      Without gallop days, conditioning days, and jump days - you may find that you need to adjust his diet.


      • #4
        The only tough part is if you go to a dressage show at a venue that he ran events at; I've had really exciting second warmups when they think it's time to jump.


        • #5
          Same here...second test can be a killer....I for one have kept on jumping and hacking...even if horse can’t jump any more, he’s used to being out and about. I think hacking out and a good gallop around the field are beneficial for mind and body and wouldn’t take that out of his routine for anything...
          for context, we’ve competed at Training (eventing) but horse is ditchy, so we switched to dressage this year, competed 1st and 2nd with good scores, headed for 3rd next year. Totally doable but do be careful not to make every day a sandbox day.
          The big man -- my lost prince

          The little brother, now my main man


          • Original Poster

            Thanks very much for the advice and replies!

            We've had some trouble with the new horse suddenly becoming spooky and over-reactive to noises, both under saddle and on the lunge. Two professional trainers I've had work him and both have had him buck under saddle. He's never bucked under saddle with me but I get a lot of bucking on the lunge. He's a big boy - 17h TB - and so it makes for quite some dramatic lunging sessions as he will try to bolt after a buck (I lunge him in his bridle so I have more control).

            My Dressage trainer won't ride him anymore as she says she doesn't have the confidence (she's older and I'm not surprised she stated this - he's very athletic and she hasn't ridden horses like him in years). Will start working with one of her former students who is now a professional Eventer and trainer herself.

            He wasn't spooky and no bucking the first 30 days he was with us. He had 8 weeks of professional Dressage training prior to his arrival. I was told no bucking or spooking by that trainer.

            It was suggested his diet was to blame for the behavioral change. Working with the vet to come up with the correct blend of calories and supplements. He's currently on Platinum Performance, probiotic, calmer and low-starch grain. He also gets polyglycan monthly (early signs of arthritis came up in his PPE X-rays).

            He is worked in the indoor 4-5x's/week and hacked out 1x/week weather dependent. He was adjusted by the chiro for a pelvic misalignment (nothing serious, normal wear and tear, chiro said) so we hadn't been pushing him out for a couple of weeks while we waited for chiro appointment and then under advice of the chiro. Started pushing him again recently. We assumed spookiness and bucking was due to pain from pelvic misalignment, but that doesn't seem to be the case.

            We're in the northeast so I knew he may have some difficulties mentally settling in to his new Dressage life as he doesn't get all the time outdoors he was used to having (he's originally from the south).

            I'm slowly working through all the standard issues - diet, exercise, routine, mental adjustment, training, etc. Feel like I get one step forward and two steps back, though. He has some really great, quiet days, but then there are days when he's the complete opposite of the horse he was. Will reintroduce jumping via a chute (vet says no jumping under saddle due to x-ray results) and focus on his mental health over the coming weeks. Vet also suggested removing all of the grain from his diet and see what happens so he's getting no added calories, then we can reintroduce grain slowly to find the right amount.

            Much appreciate hearing other people's experiences! Thanks again!


            • #7
              Purely anecdotal, but we've had 2 horses in our barn get borderline dangerous on the Platinum. If he wasn't on it before, I'd remove it from his diet for a month and see what happens.


              • #8
                Why ever would he not get the same or similar amount of turnout? I know Northern footing can get hard, and snow can be a challenge to work with, I didn't always have an indoor available, but we worked all winter most winters. I love fresh snow, as long as it didn't get too deep. Better than a dragged arena for checking the size and shape of your figures.Just make sure your horse is shod for winter, with snow rim pads and tiny titanium studs.

                Take a leaf from Reiner Klimke's videos. His horses warmed up over cavaletti, and on a racetrack. You need not be that extreme, but a hack out warm up and cool down, with an occasional canter in an open field , will go a long way to making a happier horse.

                Even horses preparing for the Olympics ave been known to go on daily hacks as well as getting turned out.
                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.


                • #9
                  This has nothing to do with changing from eventing to dressage. More likely changing to new owners, riders, or barn management.

                  How much turn out? How capable and confident a rider are you?
                  Boss Mare Eventing Blog


                  • Original Poster

                    Turnout at the barn we're at now is about 4-6 hours/day. Horses go out in the morning and are brought in mid-afternoon. I changed my riding schedule to correspond to his turnout schedule and started riding him at 3pm instead of midday. This did seem to help for a while.

                    The other barn in the area that is an option for me has even less turnout, but no indoor.

                    The training barn he was at before was overnight turnout, so he must've been getting nearly twice as much. Prior to the 8 weeks at the training barn he was at, I have no idea. I don't know those sort of details of his full history (I have his show records, but that's all).

                    He's not hacked out regularly due to the area where we are at. It's very hilly and we've had rain or snow consistently for the last 6 weeks, so the footing is muddy and difficult, at best. We have an outdoor track at the barn but it's been a mud field the better part of the last month.

                    I'm a capable rider but my confidence has been shaken the last few weeks. He is a tough horse to ride, in that he's challenging me to move up a level in my riding, but I don't believe he's too advance for me. I trialed a dozen or so horses in the 6 months before I settled on this one as I believed riding him would push me that little extra bit I want to go, but it wasn't beyond my reach. I'm a Dressage rider with nearly 15 years experience and have been stuck in that Level 1/Level 2 land for years and finally decided to take the plunge to move up.

                    Horse was schooling 3rd level when I bought him and I've had it confirmed by a clinician and trainer that he has the athleticism for at least PSG (which is my ultimate goal).

                    I do believe another issue to note is my trainer's style is Classical dressage, whereas his past dressage training has been more modern.

                    I have never honestly seen him buck with a rider on him, I only hear about it later (I have a young family, so the professionals helping me out right now typically ride or work him days when I am unable to). But from what I have come to understand, he tends to buck either when he's stretching low or when there's a loud noise or other commotion. Can't figure out if it's him being in physical pain or taking advantage of the situation to get out of doing something he doesn't want to do. Or he's just really confused...

                    He's not my first horse, but he is my first TB and the first horse I've ridden who's come out of one program and directly into another. Most of the horses I can recall riding at the moment had all been with their current owner/trainer/program for some time. (The last horse I owned I bought from my then trainer and kept him at her property the first year I owned him.)


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by vlmst22 View Post

                      I'm a capable rider but my confidence has been shaken the last few weeks. He is a tough horse to ride, in that he's challenging me to move up a level in my riding, but I don't believe he's too advance for me. I trialed a dozen or so horses in the 6 months before I settled on this one as I believed riding him would push me that little extra bit I want to go, but it wasn't beyond my reach. I'm a Dressage rider with nearly 15 years experience and have been stuck in that Level 1/Level 2 land for years and finally decided to take the plunge to move up.
                      SO many red flags.

                      This horse sounds like too much horse for you, and you sound in danger of being hurt.

                      You may be presenting it here in a more extreme manner, but from how you've presented it, you have every reason for your confidence to be shaken.
                      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.


                      • Original Poster

                        WRT the Platinum Performance - he was on a SmartPak Combo before the behavioral change. Started the Platinum after the behavioral change. I don't think it's related to the Platinum.


                        • #13
                          I'm in agreement with Jealoushe---this horse has had an entire lifestyle (and owner/rider) change---so there is a lot more that could be influencing his behavior than just the transition to straight dressage. He also sounds like a "hotter" horse than you (or your trainer) might be used to. Spooking or bucking due to loud sounds or commotion might just mean that he's a more reactive horse. He's also new to the environment so he is still on high alert, of sorts. Tb's *can* be hotter than other breeds, but not all of them are spooky and reactive (mine was quite sensible). But there are horses of any breed that can be spooky or prone to bucking when their life has changed. The 24/7 turnout may have mellowed him out too---so I'd see if that's an option at your current barn. FWIW---both of my horses are spookier in the indoor arena (where we are currently stuck for the winter). They can hear sounds in the aisle, or behind the barn, but can't *see* what's making the sound. And your horse isn't familiar with this new barn.

                          In the winter, in the indoor---both of my horses have days where they are wound and something very minor will set them off. Once I have them on the aids, the nonsense usually goes away. On those days I also do lots of exercises (changes of bend, figures, lateral work, transitions) to keep them focused on me instead of the door rattling in the wind.

                          This is something unique to the indoor---because both of these horses work fine in the outdoor arena, and out hacking (even on windy, cold days) and are not generally spooky horses.

                          So there are a lot of factors--less turnout, different feed, different riders and being stuck in the indoor--that might be contributing to his behavior. Plus--it takes some time to get to know a new horse and develop a rapport with them so they trust you. It may not be the best thing to have a lot of different riders hopping on him. It might be better to have one rider (preferably you) so that he has some consistency in his new world.


                          • Original Poster

                            Originally posted by netg View Post

                            SO many red flags.

                            This horse sounds like too much horse for you, and you sound in danger of being hurt.

                            You may be presenting it here in a more extreme manner, but from how you've presented it, you have every reason for your confidence to be shaken.
                            I'm not at the point yet of agreeing he's too much horse. He's more horse than I'm used to, but the horses I'm used to bore me to tears and I was either going to find something more challenging or give up riding.

                            Just to be clear so I am presenting it correctly - he hasn't bucked with any rider in at least a month. His spookiness has dropped since we made a diet change and he saw the chiro, but it's still not at the level it was.

                            That's why I started this thread. I'm going through my checkboxes of what could have caused the change in the first place. There was something physically wrong with him - chiro corrected, some improvement. Diet has been modified with input from vet - some more improvement.

                            So now I'm at exercise/routine, which is really tough when we're headed into winter...


                            • #15
                              You left out riding. If you're afraid of him, nearly guaranteed you're holding more than you should. On a high energy, sensitive TB, that tends to lead to explosiveness and reactivity. It's dangerous.

                              You can be challenged without your life being challenged. They aren't the same thing.
                              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.


                              • #16
                                Check for ulcers, all those changes would have caused some that have made him more reactive. We saw some big differences in horses after ulcer treatment, less spooky and much less anxious.

                                My prelim eventer is now my 3rd level dressage horse in the course of one year but his program hasn’t changes much. He still jumps and hacks and even does some gallop sets (he was the only horse fit enough to go out with another Prelim horse that needed some encouragement galloping). What you are describing sounds like a management/health issue, not a training issue.
                                "I'm too sexy for my blanket, too sexy for my blanket, these mares-they should take it..." (J-Lu) - Featuring The Skypizzle Pony aka Classic Skyline


                                • #17
                                  Can he go out overnight either by himself or another horse(s)? even if it's muddy, you should ride outside as much as possible, even if it just walking. You can get a lot of fitness just walking up and down hills. I'd try to only work in the indoor one of two days a week.
                                  He sounds like he is used to a lot more time outdoors and maybe never riding in an indoor. My horse has always been on pasture board and ridden outdoors. I suspect he'd be awful if I suddenly switched his routine.


                                  • #18
                                    It sounds like you've got diet under control. Next I'd want to rule out turnout. I'd put him out 24/7, or at least over night, for a week and see if anything changes.

                                    If not, I'd move on to riding. Chances are he's fairly fit, and used to quite a bit of working hard. When you get used to a new horse, you tend to work them less hard than you usually would (and for a lower level dressage rider, that might be less hard than an eventer to start with). You spend more time walking to think about things, and more time figuring out buttons.

                                    The lightened workload with a fit horse, coupled with a 'classical' trainer could be a cause. I'm making lots of assumptions about classical - but I'm generally thinking french school - flexions and balance before forward.

                                    Try the exact opposite for a week. Longe him for 10 minutes before you get on to warm-up. Then hop on and canter forward with a light seat for 10 minutes. Then walk and start your work.

                                    I would also make an effort to be there for every ride for a week so you can see how the trainer is handling him and how he responds.