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Switching from A-circuit hunters to I nuts?

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    Switching from A-circuit hunters to I nuts?

    After 30 years of riding hunters (purely by default as that's what discipline I began taking lessons in as a child), I can't shake the thought that I'd like to explore other disciplines.

    As a middle-aged woman with a career and young child at home, perhaps it is the endless amount of responsibilities in life that is causing me to lose my "nerve" for jumping??? I don't know why as I've never been injured, but I find that increasingly when I'm jumping, debilitating anxiety takes over. Which has me thinking....if I'm not loving it anymore and I'm not confident doing it anymore, then WHY am I torturing myself? It's not fair to my horse, and quite frankly why am I paying all this money every month to doubt what I'm doing?

    I'm very fortunate to own an absolutely beautiful warmblood who is the quintessential "adult hunter/hack winner extraordinaire", but I'm it possible to switch over to dressage with a "made" hunter? Am I absolutely nuts? I don't know the first thing about dressage, but I have the desire to learn, and I'm reasonably confident that my horse has the talent to as well. I love LOVE my horse and wouldn't want to sell her just on account of switching disciplines.

    So that brings up the next issue of switching barns. We live in a small area with VERY few barns. Current one we're at is an A-circuit hunter/jumper barn. I have found a dressage barn in the area to look into, but how do I go about switching barns? My horse has been at the current barn for YEARS. How do I tell them I'm leaving - just give 30 days and say bye? What if I were to switch her her to the dressage barn and then realize that its not right for us? I just don't want to cause any issues.

    Sorry if any of these are "dumb"questions - just looking for some insight or kind advice to help push me along through this little period of uncertainty here - perhaps from someone else who has done this, as well. Thanks for any help!

    Riding should be fun. Good for you for thinking about ways to make it more so for yourself again. I don’t have any insight about switching from hunter/jumpers to dressage, but I’m sure there are some folks on COTH who have, and hopefully they’ll chime in.

    Have you visited the dressage barn yet or just researched it online? I would do that first - decide if you like the barn and the care. Watch a couple of lessons to see if you like how the trainer teaches. Could you trailer your horse in for a lesson and/or take a lesson on one of the dressage trainer’s horses to try it out before you make the jump to switching barns? Perhaps that will give you more confidence that it’s the right move.


      It's not at all uncommon to want to try something different or find yourself needing a change. The great thing about dressage is that it is for anyone or any horse; after all, dressage is a French word that means training - and it sounds like both you and your horse are athletic and willing; you'll do just fine.
      It's never easy making a change, or a move, however you aren't making this change because of anything that went wrong at your current barn - you are simply moving in another direction. If they are reasonable folks, they should want to wish you well. Your true friends will remain your friends, anyone that doesn't - doesn't matter. And you'll make new friends. Dressage is an amazing journey and we are always thrilled to have someone new along for the ride - welcome!


        This is one of those situations where you're not talking about leaving to go to a direct competition program, so potentially your existing trainer could help.

        So to that point, it might be worth talking to your existing trainer about your interest in dressage. Maybe he or she could help direct you to a good trainer/program that they know of. Or help set up some lessons for you to play around with for a little while. Seems like you could take your time finding the right place whether or not this place you've found is "it."

        Along those lines, maybe you could try some lessons at the barn you're interested in and see if it feels like a good fit?

        As for "is it crazy to do it with a made hunter?" Absolutely not. What a great way to grow your relationship with your horse. Will dressage "help" the horse be a better hunter? Maybe yes, maybe no (my answer would be different for a jumper where it's a definitive "absolutely!"). But will it detract from his ability to do hunters again down the road? Nope. I have taken regular dressage lessons throughout my showjumping "career," and feel that it has made a huge positive difference in every horse I own - hunter or jumper - in one way or another.

        Good luck whatever you end up doing!

        Flying F Sport Horses
        Horses in the NW


          Original Poster

          WOW....THANK YOU all so much for the words of kind encouragement! They are much appreciated!


            Good luck and enjoy the journey.
            "Good young horses are bred, but good advanced horses are trained" Sam Griffiths


              I am a dressage Trainer with Good familiarity of the hunter world. A GOOD hunter is really in a perfect place to morph into a dressage horse. In fact, if you go online and look up some winning training level dressage tests, the horses frequently look like excellent hunters.

              As a hunter rider, your focus on flow and rhythm will really help you. These things carry over beautifully into Dressage tests and training,

              Be sure to find a dressage trainer who has lots of experience helping people make the change from being balanced in a forward seat, to being balanced in a more open angled position. Take longe lessons.

              Be especially ready to give up completely on the idea of having your heels down much, if at all. Really. Because if you try to do Hunter Leg, you can’t sit. Look at videos of Olympic riders.

              And accepts that “things” (like lower legs) are supposed to move with the horse...and it will feel like A LOT!

              Welcome! And don’t stop jumping, it helps dressage!
              Last edited by Arlomine; Jan. 4, 2020, 07:02 PM.


                I think your horse will do fine.

                You may need to learn to sit in and down and back and not perch. You will however be happy to know you can post at Training and First level trot!


                  I could do a decent PSG test with my friend’s 1m40 jumper horse because it was just very well trained on the flat.

                  So as the others pointed out, I would not rush the barn changing for now, especially if you like the care/amenities at your current barn.

                  Go check out dressage lessons. Over the years, I’ve evolved quite a few times the way I want to be instructed - and what I believe is good dressage.
                  Never settle for poor-abusive instruction.

                  Talk to your current trainer about your fear issues, it happens - and doing dressage might not resolve that sentiment entirely.

                  Ask your trainer about potential dressage trainers.
                  Maybe your hunter trainer could even organize a more dressage oriented clinic?
                  I organized clinics with dressage trainers at my friend’s hunter/jumper barn.
                  My dressage trainer also train jumpers and hunters regularly.

                  For me, riding should be fun and intellectually challenging.
                  ~ Enjoying some guac and boxed wine at the Blue Saddle inn. ~

                  Originally posted by LauraKY
                  I'm sorry, but this has "eau de hoarder" smell all over it.


                    What Arlomine and PNWjumper and gardenhorse said. I think your horse will transition to training level perfectly, will be "ho-hum" at shows, and I think you'll find showing dressage is cheaper than the Hunter A Circuit! Riding without stirrups to lengthen your leg will help. And a dressage saddle will certainly help.

                    Do you have a truck and trailer? If so, trailer out to the dressage barn or a good local dressage trainer and take some lessons. See if you like it. Alternatively, see if you can pay a dressage trainer to come to your barn to give you some lessons. Go from there before just moving barns. Talk to your current trainer about your desire to transition to dressage (or at least check it out) and see what advice she can give you. She might know a good local barn/trainer. Try a local schooling show - they are great and cheap events to practice your dressage in front of an unbiased person.

                    Before considering moving, go check out the other barn and talk with the owner, manager, trainer and boarders. Watch some lessons. See if it seems like an atmosphere you'd like to be at. Check out the footing.

                    It's great to explore other options with your horse and that just broadens both of your backgrounds. I do dressage with Sir SpooksAlot and last year we started basic cow work with a NH guy and the steers' owner. SOOOO FUN! We're doing more advanced work this coming year. We've also been doing some Working Equitation clinics with a guy from Germany. SOOOOO FUN!! Both of these experiences made the dressage ring work meaningful and a lot less boring for my horse (this horse has to be creatively ridden to keep his head in the game). I've done some jumping lessons with him as well, and he's a good jumper (his full brother is/was a Hunter Stallion). I used to do Jr. Jumpers, then eventing, and now, I get excited about a 2' jump! Hahahahahahahaha! Age....

                    Have fun! Check out your options, gather information, and make the best decision for you and your horse. Take your time! If jumping makes you nervous, know you'll be many steps ahead since your horse will likely excel at cavaletti work!
                    Last edited by J-Lu; Dec. 30, 2019, 07:44 PM. Reason: kant spel
                    Proud member of the Colbert Dressage Nation


                      Welcome to the journey... we had a NICE Hunter (warmblood) change to dressage this year. I am the only dressage rider at a H/J barn. Like you, we both have kids and stopped having fun over fences. I was an event rider, previously h/j. As I got older I found that dressage was more attractive from an intellectual point of view. Lots to learn.

                      See if you can take a lesson on a schoolmaster. See if you can borrow a dressage saddle that fits your horse. Spend time watching some lessons, maybe a (schooling) show. Lots of YouTube videos both good and bad, checkout CDS symposium on the new 2019 tests. The judge not only gives scores and comments but insight into the tests. That was one of the big changes from the hunter world. In dressage you will get a score sheet with comments to explain why you ‘placed’ as you did.


                        The horse with natural hack winning hunter gaits might not do that well when a certain degree of collection is required, but you can absolutely do well with a nice moving relaxed hunter type at the lower levels. You might have a harder time adapting than your horse .

                        What's the current program like? How much do you rely on the current barn for lessons or exercising your horse for you? I wonder if you could have a dressage trainer come to you at first? I was looking at barns a little while ago due to some changes and lack of space where I was, and I visited a h/j program with a resident trainer. I mentioned I ideally wanted my dressage trainer to come work with one of my horses, and the resident trainer was totally fine with it and interested in setting up some cross training for her jumper riders. It's not like you are going to the rival A show h/j program down the road. You might not have to make an abrupt transition for your horse while you figure out what's right for you at this point in time.


                          I made the same switch 6 or 7 years ago and my only regret is that I didn't do it sooner. In my case, my horse had a hoof injury and my vet suggested it would be better not to jump him anymore. He was (is) my heart horse and I thought it would be fun to try dressage so we could still have goals and things to work towards. Little did I know I would fall in LOVE with the discipline!

                          Said hunter turned out to be quite good at dressage; we had done a fair amount of equitation and he is very broke so he found it rather straightforward. We were able to get within one score of my bronze medal within two years - I would have it now had I not stupidly gone off course the last time I showed him, missing the qualifying score by something like .2%, sigh. Shortly after that he had a pasture injury and is now basically semi retired, but the dressage bug had bitten hard and I ended up buying a couple of purpose-bred young dressage horses that I am slowly bringing up the levels with the help of a wonderful trainer. I find dressage absolutely fascinating and don't miss jumping at all.

                          Plus, the shows have RIDE TIMES (the best thing ever) and they are soooooooo much cheaper!!!!! Oh and if you are so inclined... we have bling, too. SO fun. Welcome to the party!!
                          We move pretty fast for some rabid garden snails.


                            Original Poster

                            WOW.....I am just completely blown away by all of the thoughtful and encouraging comments. THANK YOU all so very much....truly!


                              I started in Dressage as hunter rider wanting to improve the horse. I went to 100% dressage simply because I loved it so much. Your horse and you will learn and grow and I have no doubt he will have zero issues with learning how to caryy himself properly and do the medium levels if not further.

                              There is no reason a talented open hunter could not do Pre St George and proven by my old trainers stallion and another clients horse that she had. Both were champions over fences and at PSG

                              YOu will be challenged and will learn a ton.

                              Wait til you get to showing, your own private ride time, days mercifully short. I bet you will find it far more affordable as well.

                              If you give your regional location I bet some will be able to make recommends ( or cautions)
                              -- * > hoopoe
                              Procrastinate NOW
                              Introverted Since 1957


                                Another thought... see if your local dressage club needs volunteers... usually this can help figure out the social aspect of the area as well as let you see the way the shows are run. Plus if you scribe you might find out the judges are helpful people. Mostly you might find out that the lower levels can be easier then you might think. Plus you will be thanked and valued.


                                  Original Poster

                                  Originally posted by hoopoe View Post
                                  I started in Dressage as hunter rider wanting to improve the horse. I went to 100% dressage simply because I loved it so much. Your horse and you will learn and grow and I have no doubt he will have zero issues with learning how to caryy himself properly and do the medium levels if not further.

                                  There is no reason a talented open hunter could not do Pre St George and proven by my old trainers stallion and another clients horse that she had. Both were champions over fences and at PSG

                                  YOu will be challenged and will learn a ton.

                                  Wait til you get to showing, your own private ride time, days mercifully short. I bet you will find it far more affordable as well.

                                  If you give your regional location I bet some will be able to make recommends ( or cautions)
                                  Thank you! To answer your question, we are in the lower coastal South Carolina / Savannah, GA area.


                                    Not crazy at all. Dressage tends to attract adults who started in other disciplines, and then either lost interest/nerve for jumping, or wanted to focus more on the training and details. Just about any hunter can transition smoothly to training and first level work. Beyond that, it is hard to predict. Some of them move up the levels smoothly. Others turn out to be quite set in their ways and never enjoy the collection for upper level work. But then it is also difficult to predict whether you will want to progress to upper level work.

                                    Switching barns SHOULDN'T be a big deal. Do you have a trailer, and ability to trailer out to the other barn for some lessons first to check that you enjoy it and are compatible with the trainer there? If so, then I would do that first. Approach your trainer BEFORE you actually take any lessons with someone else and let her know what you are doing. Yes, there might be some tension, but better to be up-front and deal with it. IMO that would be the best way to keep all options open for your future. Who knows, as some point, you may decide to do some of each, and want good relations with both trainers. And you will probably want to keep up friendships within your current barn as well.


                                      Of course you are going to get support, this is a Dressage Forum. I left the jumping disciplines (hunters and then eventing) and moved to dressage only, but not by choice. I have never loved this sport, and I greatly miss jumping and regret leaving it. If you really don't like jumping anymore, then I suppose it is a good idea to move to another branch of riding. As for fear, it sounds like you are doing only the adult hunters, which is just 3 feet high. Is that right? I don't feel that jumping that height is any more dangerous than riding a pumped up athletic dressage horse. If you feel you are ok with just doing training level or first level dressage, then you might be satisfied. However, for many people, once you start in dressage, your goals get more lofty. Since I don't know you, your riding, or your horse, I have no clue how this will work out for you. Just know that for many it takes a long time to get proficient at dressage and it's not nearly as easy as the good riders with good horses make it look.


                                        Based on the GA location you posted - join the GDCTA organization and USDF. Both will give you a list of trainers and shows in your area to explore. USDF will have the dressage tests online so you can read what is expected in the various tests for showing. Since I never jumped I cannot comment on the transition challenges. I will say though that dressage looks easier than it is. Be prepared for years of learning, not months. If you are at all a Type A personality, you will love it!!