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where should i start in dressage & how did you start?

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    where should i start in dressage & how did you start?

    hi guys! i have been riding hunters and am now just starting to want to do dressage and i was wondering how you got into it and if you have any advice? is their a book or dvd that i should get? i am planning on taking a couple of dressage lessons this summer but I don't want to go in their empty headed!

    I started by reading the book 'Lessons with Lendon' by Lendon Gray. It's a great intro to the core concepts of Dressage, broken down into easy-to-understand lessons and exercises with lots of photos. Working through the first few lessons in the book was enough to give me a taste, and know that I wanted to learn more. So I asked around in my community to figure out what would be a good barn to take lessons at.

    I was lucky to find a barn close by where the trainer's philosophy of riding and horsemanship is very complimentary to my own. There are several good trainers in my area, at different levels of competition.

    Last year I showed training level at local schooling shows. This year, I am showing first level at the schooling shows and at USDF rated shows. It's really fun to work up the levels.

    Good luck!


      Really good introductory books:
      Dressage for the 21st Century- Paul Belasik
      Dressage Principles Illuminated- Charles DeKunffy
      Centered Riding- Sally Swift
      Reflections on Equestrian Art- Nuno Oliviera
      Lessons with Lendon: 25 Progressive Dressage Lessons Take You from Basic Whoa and Go to Your First Competition (Popular Training Series from Practical Horseman)

      For after you're totally obsessed:

      Give Your Horse a Chance- d'Endrode
      Riding Towards the Light- Paul Belasik
      A Search for Collection- Paul Belasik
      Gymnasium of the Horse- Gustav Steinbrecht
      Dressage Formula- Erik Herbermann

      ... that should get you started.

      Dressage is one of those complex, simple things. Elements may seem so hard, so complex that it's a wonder anyone ever learns them. You'll cry, scream, have a bottle of wine, and wake up one day and it'll just be there; effortless, and you'll think to yourself "that's all it is?!!! all this time???"
      Know that we've all felt that way, and that it's all worth it.

      Also, if the advice you're getting seems ethically sketchy... it probably is. As much as I adore this art, finding good quality instructors that actually teach it and not some bastardized version of it are tough to find.
      chaque pas est fait ensemble


        for someone just getting interested in dressage i would recommend a tad lighter reading that what the above poster suggested

        you might try books by the klimkes or the ever useful books by podhajsky.

        for vids again klimke - there are a lot of them.

        but really the best thing to do is to find a very good instructor because no matter how much you read or watch - riding is the only way to really learn and a well educated trainer is a must have.


        oh and i got started in dressage via eventing


          I did H/J as a teenager rode on and off through college then was out of the sport for a while and got back into it recently with a young OTTB. I kind of "fell into" dressage when I sought out some help with our flatwork.

          It was very humbling at first because I had to go back to basics and spend a ton of time on a new type of seat and position. It took some getting used to at first. However, seeing the benefit it had on my horse's mental and physical development made it worth it.

          Fast forward a few months, and my green bean is learning SI, HI and is very rateable within W/T and now canters promptly and politely abut 80% of the time (with me up...99.9% with my trainer). She is also much easier to ride around courses now because of what we've learned in the dressage ring.

          I'm enjoying the mix of dressage and jumping so much that I'm going to start eventing this season in addition to doing some dressage shows.

          I would definitely second the notion of finding a really good instructor who you jive with in terms of teaching style and personality. This is a very cerebral sport and I think requires a good match between student and teacher much more so than for H/J I've found, at least for myself. It may seem boring in the beginning since the concepts are so basic at first, but a good instructor can make it fun. Also, I found from H/J land that some H/J trainers treat dressage as doing patterns in a ring, but it is so much more than geometry.


            Jessie - I would search around on internet for articles on the training pyramid in addition to the other reading recommendations. Snicklefritz summed up the transition pretty well. I did it probably 9 years ago. Humbling - yes. Rewarding - yes. Hard - yes. Instant gratification - No

            One of the hardest things for me - due to having a horse that, though well trained, was a long bodied, leggy OTTB with a trot that was incredibly difficult to sit. Now you don't need that sitting trot until into first level, but to quote my trainer "the sitting trot must be your best friend". Over time, if you can, find someone to give you lunge line lessons; it will help you establish the seat that you need.


              @Jessie: I second what 2tempe said, yes the sitting trot is really critical.

              I took a clinic about 2 months ago where I had a breakthrough moment with sitting trot. I'll see if I can figure out how to load the video to Youtube and provide a private link to it. The clinician had some awesome techniques that were unlike anything I'd ever heard anyone in H/J land talk about...
              Last edited by SnicklefritzG; May. 26, 2012, 10:21 AM.


                I second everything the other COTHers have said. In addition, watching my sister go from Huntseat to dressage, I would add: concentrate on the change of position more than anything else. Once you understand the difference in the position and use of the aids, everything else comes at quicker pace. Until the pelvis is different, leg different and your core is correct, your horse won't get the difference and you'll just be riding hunters semi badly and dressage semi badly.

                On the other hand, from others I've watched make the switch, it will allow you to "pop" back into hunter land if you wish with a much improved horse.

                Wish I had more insight but I actually grew up with dressage back in the dark ages and only did hunters when I needed to improve my stadium jumping rounds.


                  If you can find it, Henry Wynmalen's "Dressage" is worthwhile.

                  It was the first dressage book I read and it made me want to learn.


                    This is a really handy little book for someone who rides but is new to Dressage: Dressage School.

                    I also found this one very useful with respect to understanding the training scale: The Elements of Dressage.

                    And lastly I enjoyed this one: the Classical Seat
                    "You can look at a horse and know what he/she seems to be; you can study the pedigree and know what the horse ought to be; but only the offspring can tell you what horse really is..."
                    Redbud Ranch


                      Without a doubt as a former hunter/eq rider, I found this book the most helpful and inspiring. Not that I have "made it" in dressage, lol, but reading about her journey from a hunter rider to Olympic Medalist is great.

                      Debbie McDonald - Riding Through
                      On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog


                        You could do a ton of reading but it doesn't replace good instruction. You already know how to ride but to perfect dressage and move through the level it works best just getting out there and doing with a great trainer. Hence, more than a couple of lessons.


                          I don't offer much truly practical advice, but I am writing a blog on this subject.

                          Stop by some day when you are aggravated by the whole affair and need a laugh. Start at the beginning so you don't miss any of the step by step frustrations!

                          (Procrastinating instead of writing right now!)

                          Visit my blog!


                            "lessons from Lendon" might be a really good book to start with.

                            However, I think you'd also benefit greatly by going to watch lessons from a successful dressage trainer in your area. Many of them will let you audit for free. You can also audit clinics from bigger name trainers, which might cost an auditing fee, but are very useful because the trainer often explains things to the audience. Watching the trainers with real riders lets you see whats happening and hear instant feedback from a knowledgeable source. Good luck!
                            Proud member of the Colbert Dressage Nation


                              What mbm and j-lu said.
                     See Little Bull Run's stallions at:
                              "Argosy" - YouTube and "Boleem" - YouTube
                              Boleem @ 1993 National Dressage Symposium - YouTube


                                Original Poster

                                Originally posted by SnicklefritzG View Post
                                @Jessie: I second what 2tempe said, yes the sitting trot is really critical.

                                I took a clinic about 2 months ago where I had a breakthrough moment with sitting trot. I'll see if I can figure out how to load the video to Youtube and provide a private link to it. The clinician had some awesome techniques that were unlike anything I'd ever heard anyone in H/J land talk about...
                                yes that would be awesome!


                                  Original Poster

                                  thanks everybody for the advice! has anyone ever heard or read dressage 101 by jane savoie? i have a gift card for a bookstore that has it in stock right now and it looks like a great book...


                                    I like Jane very much She is exactly who I think of for a person starting out
                                    ~~Member of the TB's Rule Clique ~~


                                      Originally posted by jesse7815 View Post
                                      yes that would be awesome!
                                      I sent you a link to the video. Let me know if you're able to see it.


                                        Original Poster

                                        @SnicklefritxG it wouldn't let me see it!