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Best way to teach yourself dressage w/o trainer?

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  • Best way to teach yourself dressage w/o trainer?

    Here's my situation...
    I live in an area devoid of dressage. Truly. Western, contesting, hunter, jumper, saddleseat - all those are available, but there are no trainers to help guide or even trainees to pass on 2nd hand info.

    I have a nice dressage horse who knows far more than me. Any tips on good resources for learning dressage that don't involve traveling hours to find a trainer/attend a clinic? I don't have a trailer, so travel isn't practical at this time.

    Are there any good videos or books?

    I'd appreciate any suggestions you may have.
    It's a lot like nuts and bolts - if the rider's nuts, the horse bolts! ~Nicholas Evans

  • #2
    jane savoie
    I wasn't always a Smurf
    Penmerryl Sophie RIDSH
    "I ain't as good as I once was but I'm as good once as I ever was"
    The ignore list is my friend. It takes 2 to argue.


    • #3
      Try Lessons with Lendon

      I'd suggest Lendon Gray's "Lessons with Lendon.". It's a very straight-forward book of progressive lessons. One of the handicaps to learning dressage without a trainer is not having "eyes on the ground" to make sure your horse is moving correctly. Lendon has some great tips in the lessons to have someone watch you and your horse (and not necessarily even a person familiar with dressage), to make sure you both are doing the excercises correctly.


      • #4
        I really really really liked Sylvia Loch, I found her books to be fantastic, especially Dressage in Lightness. Lots of great visuals that really stuck with me and very user friendly, very methodical progression and what to expect at what stages, etc. Her DVDs left me a bit flat sadly, I much preferred her books.

        I also have a horsehero.com subscription, and I'm actually getting quite a bit out of it. Lots of great 10 minute sessions/schools to watch, lots of neat ideas.
        Being terrible at something is the first step to being truly great at it. Struggle is the evidence of progress.


        • #5
          You might also like my site, it's really geared towards Eventers, but Dressage riders are welcome too! Check it out at:

          Facebook page


          • #6
            All good suggestions above. I also suggest getting a friend to video you while you ride periodically because the visual feedback can illustrate problems you might not feel under saddle and give better clues as to how to fix it. Couple this with watching videos of good riding. USDF's "Up the Levels" can be a handy guide of what's expected.
            Here Be Dragons: My blog about venturing beyond the lower levels as a dressage amateur.


            • Original Poster

              Thank you all for the recommendations. With everything out there it's great to have a few directions to focus on and start with! This is very helpful.
              It's a lot like nuts and bolts - if the rider's nuts, the horse bolts! ~Nicholas Evans


              • #8
                Get a flip. If you set it down at say A, you can see almost the entire arena and can just plug it into your computer to view.


                Thats just a short clip of the quality you get (remember the camera is sitting unattended) You can see if you stay in the middle of the arena how muc feedback you can get.

                Hope this helps


                • #9
                  I wish I got paid for mentioning this site all the time LOL!!! But horsehero.com is fantastic!!! They have wonderful videos with Laura and Dr. Bechtolsheimer, biomechanics videos with Suzie Peacock and Mary Wanless, also the Eilbergs. And yes, watching a video CAN make a difference to your riding. I had been studying the Suzie Peacock videos and using her suggestions and when I saw my trainer she was amazed by my improvement! I only get to see my trainer about once every four months as she is in a different state. So the videos have been wonderful for the months when I am on my own. It's only about 25 dollars per YEAR to join!


                  • #10
                    Mirrors are great when riding alone. Video is good, but with mirrors you can see what is happening while it's happening.

                    You don't have to spend a fortune, and sometimes can pick up used mirrors if you look long and hard enough.


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by atlatl View Post
                      Mirrors are great when riding alone. Video is good, but with mirrors you can see what is happening while it's happening.

                      You don't have to spend a fortune, and sometimes can pick up used mirrors if you look long and hard enough.
                      this is what I'm searching for now because I can make so much more progress at my instructor's place being able to see and feel correct in real time.

                      I travel 5 hours for lessons, and instead of once a week, or once a month, I make the trek 2-3 times a year for short course intensive study. It works great for me, but not everyone can download muscle memory in that time frame like I can.
                      I do continuously read, and books that are helpful just starting out are:
                      USDF Guide to Dressage
                      Sally Swift, Centered Riding
                      Paul Belasik, Dressage for the 21st Century
                      Paul Belasik, Riding Towards the Light
                      Paul Belasik, A Search for Collection (because understanding the meanings behind the end result gives you better comprehension and decision making for the journey that leads up to it.

                      Books, mirrors, videos and prayer will only get you so far so fast. you really need to find someone, somewhere you can connect with, even if it's just once a year.
                      chaque pas est fait ensemble


                      • #12
                        video feedback

                        I endorse the videotaping idea, both for you personally to review and to send to trainers for feedback. I think Heather Mason offers this service and am sure others do too. Some friends of mine who are experienced in dressage (upper level riders) are kind enough to give me feedback on particular issues I'm having, and it is very helpful.

                        I also second Horse Hero, it's the one single non-trainer source that has improved my riding (Susie Peacock's rider position videos totally rock)...
                        Dressage, riding, sport horse blog
                        Unique browbands for dressage and hunter riders


                        • #13
                          All of the above contributions are great. I learned Dressage from Henry Wynmalen's book of that title, starting when it first came out in about 1954. I was not alone in having this book as my only resource. I remember a picture a few years later in Western Horseman of a woman in Alaska seated on her horse, reading this book (which was set on top of a fence post). There are many fine newer resources, but the feeling in this book is still unmatched for me.

                          I learned only a couple of years ago that, before writing the book, Mr. Wynmalen was a war-hero pilot who was so badly injured that it was amazing that he was able to ride. That feeling of what must have been his trememdous draw to Dressage permeates the book.

                          In more recent years, I have appreciated the books by Paul Belasik.

                          These two authors may not offer as much on form and process as others, but for me they get at the essence of why we do Dressage, and are a good reminder not to focus on technique and goals at the expense of the partnership between humans and this amazing animal.


                          • #14
                            People are going to think I work for Savoie, lol, but I cannot say enough good things about her "training a happy horse" series. I used to watch them while doing laundry. They are pricey, but I believe you can probably get them from a rental service, and I am definitely going to contact Netflix and tell them they should get them in. I only got through the first several, but watched them over and over and it helped sooo much. I love how she uses normal horses with different body types. I wish I had the series still on loan, I would review even the first couple tapes a few more times.


                            • #15
                              When I have been without a trainer I watched Dr. Klimke's videos. I would watch then frequently with the sound off, just studying the riding. When you can get to a clinic, get your ride videotaped to study later. My trainer is in another state. I have had short bits of problem areas taped and put on video sites, then we can watch together and discuss over the phone. It is not as good as when she is here and we work together, but it is quite valuable still.


                              • #16
                                I have often used the reflection in the truck windows when I ride by to check my position . Free and before and after every ride when leaving and returning to the barn ... I just ride by the windows so I can always SEE what I look like and make sure that I am maintaining the position I am aiming for.

                                That and many of the other things mentioned above.


                                • #17
                                  Subscribe to one of the online clinic things, read some books (USDF recommended reading list is good place to start), and get that flip so you can video and self-critique.


                                  • #18
                                    Originally posted by carolprudm View Post
                                    jane savoie
                                    I'll second that - get her dvd series... Its so clear and you can email her with questions which, btw, she actually answers unlike so many BNT's out there.

                                    Then when you want feedback you can attend her clinic and comehome with homework to burn

                                    She is so encouraging, constructive and yet firm. She puts dressage for amateurs in a whole new category.


                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by FocusCalmPatience View Post
                                      People are going to think I work for Savoie, lol, but I cannot say enough good things about her "training a happy horse" series. I used to watch them while doing laundry. They are pricey, but I believe you can probably get them from a rental service, and I am definitely going to contact Netflix and tell them they should get them in. I only got through the first several, but watched them over and over and it helped sooo much. I love how she uses normal horses with different body types. I wish I had the series still on loan, I would review even the first couple tapes a few more times.

                                      I split the cost with a friend - I agree its the best investment I've made heretofore..


                                      • #20
                                        she actually answers unlike so many BNT's out there

                                        Better yet, they cannot get on your horse and sink a pair of spurs in AFTER you have asked them to please remove their spurs FIRST before getting on in the first place ....