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What should one expect to learn in beginning dressage lessons?

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  • What should one expect to learn in beginning dressage lessons?

    I am asking because I want to learn some basic dressage that I think will help both me and my horse. I'd like to use the dressage to help my horse work over his back and also keep him supple. He already knows some basic dressage but was trained as a jumper. Since he's got some soundness issues (so he isn't going back to the jumpers) I thought this might help us. I'm not looking for him to compete in dressage, I just think it might benefit us both.

  • #2
    A key dressage concept is having the horse engaged and working off their hind end. What are your horse's soundness issues?


    • #3
      A beginning lesson and what you will learn will depend on where you and your horse are now. Should introduce a correct half halt, learning balance, and learning to push from behind and engaging. You will be tired probably lol after your lessons as well as your horse if you are worked correctly and your not use to the work.
      Horses aren't our whole life, but makes our life whole


      • #4
        As an instructor, I focus on rider position until its solid a level higher than the horse. Then, we focus on influencing the horse, then the rider, then horse, and so on.
        Rider position is the greatest influence over the horse, so that's my priority.
        chaque pas est fait ensemble


        • #5
          THIS^^ You first then the horse. And if you can, either on this guy or another horse, take some lunge line lessons, all the better. As I was trying to convert from h/j land to dressage I did one a week for several months to rearrange my body and my mind.
          We don't get less brave; we get a bigger sense of self-preservation........


          • #6
            How exciting! It's always fun to learn new a new discipline, don't be surprised if you become hooked. I would have a brief discussion with your coach, and mention to her/him the things you would like to work on. Discuss the soundness issues that your horse faces, and also what you would like to work on in regards to your riding style, position, etc. Your first lesson won't be much different than the flat work you probably already do as part of your warm up, riding your jumper. The focus, however, will probably be geared more towards rhythm and suppleness. And of course, you will learn how to sit completely different from what you are used to. Have a plan for what you want to accomplish in that first lesson...sit back, relax and enjoy!
            "Anti-intellect and marketing, pretty, pretty, who needs talent
            Crying eyes, we're so outnumbered, fight for the right to remain silent" Buck 65


            • #7
              Originally posted by Petstorejunkie View Post
              As an instructor, I focus on rider position until its solid a level higher than the horse. Then, we focus on influencing the horse, then the rider, then horse, and so on.
              Rider position is the greatest influence over the horse, so that's my priority.
              Yes! I usually ride H/J, but took weekly dressage lessons for months last year, for fun and educational purposes . I took lunge lessons for weeks, working only on seat and position and fixing some of my typical H/J habits (clamping with the thigh and tight hips among other things!). Then we moved onto to some basic dressage lessons on the instrutor's sweet school mistress. It was a lot of fun (hard work!) and, though I don't intend to switch to dressage permanently, I found it really helpful.


              • #8
                Rider's position, and then using themselves within that position.
                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
                  I would steer clear of some one trying to start out with influencing the horse to be "in a frame", engage from behind, or even dissect a half halt in beginning dressage lessons.

                  Look at the training pyramid: Rhythm, relaxation and forward. Accepting contact. Those are the beginning goals in dressage. In order to achieve those things, the teacher will have to educate you about how to use your body:
                  Alignment of torso over legs, straightness of body as viewed from behind, how to get out of your horse 's way so they can balance, relax and want to seek contact.

                  That's where I usually start


                  • #10
                    position, position, position

                    and the rest follows like magic (more or less)
                    A man must love a thing very much if he not only practices it without any hope of fame or money, but even practices it without any hope of doing it well.--G. K. Chesterton


                    • #11
                      Position and balance. Provided you've been on a horse before you ought to expect to be put on the longe on a well-balanced horse for a while.

                      He is total garbage! Quick! Hide him on my trailer (Petstorejunkie).


                      • #12
                        Rider's position, especially the seat and balance and how to follow the horse's movement.

                        Basic arena geometry and the importance of riding accurate figures (aka a 19 meter egg or a 21 meter amoeba is not the same thing as a 20 meter circle)

                        Base-of-the-training-pyramid stuff (rhythm and relaxation.)

                        How to appropriately and effectively use the aids, as well as the horse's response to basic aids. So lots and lots of transitions between the gaits and proper changes of direction.

                        (please note this is a non-trainer opinion based purely on being a lesson junky)


                        • #13
                          And can I add, straightness. You can't do the "fun stuff" until you can ride the horse forward and truly straight. And that's harder than it might seem!


                          • #14
                            In addition to working on position, I think you'll learn a lot about feel, timing and body awareness.... yours, primarily, not the horse's.

                            Start with what you know how to do with your jumper-- show the dressage instructor your best rendition of flatwork and let her modify it. I think you'll find that dressage isn't so different at bottom.
                            The armchair saddler
                            Politically Pro-Cat


                            • Original Poster

                              Thanks so much for all your responses. Someone asked about my horse's lameness issues. It seems to be a growing list of things. First, high hind end suspensories, so he was given a year off any sort of jumping although vet said to keep hacking him lightly. Also issues in his right front hoof, which we dealt with by a change in shoeing. We went back to the clinic in Feb and he checked out well enough that we can start to do some jumping again (neg flexions and sound on hard pavement). BUT, in the meantime we discovered arthritis in his neck, had X-rays done, and subsequently did injections of the cervical joints involved. He is sounder now than he has been. The long term soundness outlook, though, we'll just have to see. In any case, I don't see him returning to jumping competition, but I'd like to work on something with him. Lower level dressage lessons. I thought would be good for us both, and not stress him too much. Anyway, he really isn't an ideal dressage prospect, lovely as he is. Here is a recent video of my trainer riding him. The footing in the ring is a little uneven around the edges.

                              We did one lesson and he concentrated on doing correct circles. Deceptively uncomplicated. Getting the geometry correct, lining up the position of the horse with the letters marking the arena. As in jumping lessons using your legs to control the bend the horse's body and use of reins to control the shoulder. We decided to start up in April and see how it goes.

                              Some mentioned the training pyramid - rhythm, relaxation and forward with acceptance. I have been trying to incorporate that into our hacking, working long and low to get him to stretch his back, and begin to track up under himself. Given the neck issues, he's often tight in the back and his back end then tightens up too, and he begins to look like a different horse in the back than he is in the front. I thought this would help get him relaxed and working like one horse.

                              I do not own a dressage saddle, given the position of a dressage rider versus a hunter/jumper, should I look for one? Does it matter?

                              Thanks again.


                              • #16
                                I just switched to dressage from h/j a few months ago, you will be happy you tried it out! Things like circles do look deceivingly simple!

                                You mentioned your horse has a tight back, the horse I ride in lessons also has a tight back. She has a set of neck and back stretches to do before every ride and they help quite a lot. You can google "equine back stretches", but the one that helps her most is when I press under her belly with two fingers, right where the girth lays, until she rounds her back, holds it for 20 secs then repeats 3 times. She is visibly looser after that stretch. You could probably try a few different stretches and see which make a big difference.

                                Also, I too do not own a dressage saddle, but my instructor said that as long as the stirrups are dressage length it doesn't matter very much.

                                Hope this helps!


                                • #17
                                  Originally posted by Starda01 View Post
                                  I am asking because I want to learn some basic dressage that I think will help both me and my horse. I'd like to use the dressage to help my horse work over his back and also keep him supple. He already knows some basic dressage but was trained as a jumper. Since he's got some soundness issues (so he isn't going back to the jumpers) I thought this might help us. I'm not looking for him to compete in dressage, I just think it might benefit us both.
                                  Basically you will be learning how to ride in a way that "gymantizes" (killed THAT spelling!) your horse so that he can use his body in the most efficient way.

                                  What is your riding experience? It's helpful to know the rider's jumping off point as well as the horse's. Likely your teacher will concentrate on your position (both leg & seat) and see what sort of contact you can maintain.

                                  Even though "riding is riding" to a great degree, the basic tenants of dressage are extremely helpful in most sports and if you've been riding for any length of time I think you will find you already know more than you realize. There is nothing "mystical" about dressage, especially at the lower levels.

                                  I know by reading that most jump riders put more emphasis on flat work than the actuall jumping, because dressage will fit the horse up to use his body better AND it gives you more control.

                                  And I know by conversing with quite afew talented and successful endurance riders that the smart ones take the occasional dressage lesson as well. A friend of mine tells me the secret to award-winning endurance performance is to "ride every stride."

                                  Must work...she sold her top horse last year, but at the time he had 8,000 competition miles (2100 in one year alone) and never taken a bad step. When he was sold the buyers did some 60 x-rays and the horse didn't have a mark on him!!

                                  Can't give dressage all the credit, but I'm sure it gets a big nod. And can you imagine "riding every stride" for EIGHT THOUSAND miles?! Yikes!

                                  Of course she doesn't (didn't) ride in a deep, dressage-type seat or have him in serious contact, but there was constant communication between the two and he was educated in how to move off his hindquarters when asked.

                                  Regarding the saddle -- Personally, I would not rush into that. Ask if you can borrow your instructor's or a friend's. Saddle fit for both horse & human is fraught with nightmares and you don't even know if you want to stay with the discipline. Maybe put off that journey for afew months.

                                  I've found that the correct saddle will help positioing --the ones with thigh blocks basically force you to "assume the position", but if you are fairly athletic and limber than you should be able to do it with are typical AP saddle.

                                  However if you are older, stiffer, and have extra $$, you might investigate buying a saddle in the near future; but wait till you see if you like the discipline. It's all about concentrating on tiny details, so it might be that neither you OR your horse will enjoy a steady diet of the stuff.

                                  Does your horse seem to be liking it so far? If he has comfort issues, this might help, but keep in mind it will be very much like you if you had just started an exercise program...he will be using his body in a way he may not be used to and might experience soreness.

                                  Of course no one is aiming for this, but the Net is not the place where one can truly evaluate teaching/riding/soundness, etc. Words are not a help...and I could not get your video to play.

                                  Does he get any plain old trail time to just sort of be-bop down the trail? Or does he get alot of pasture time to just "hang out"? Not grilling you at all, just trying to get a picture of what sort of physical stuff he's been doing.
                                  Last edited by Kyzteke; Mar. 30, 2013, 09:10 PM.


                                  • Original Poster

                                    Of course no one is aiming for this, but the Net is not the place where one can truly evaluate teaching/riding/soundness, etc. Words are not a help...and I could not get your video to play.
                                    Kyzteke, thanks for your long reply. Sorry you couldn't get the video to open. Its my trainer riding him. My trainer is someone I've worked with for a few years, as he trains jumpers but has a lot of background in dressage also. So he knows both me and horse pretty well.

                                    The net isn't the same as watching a person live, but videos do help. I think you can watch some of our other videos to get an idea of what we've done so far. Try again:


                                    My horse has several hours of turnout daily, but they don't turn out in pairs at this barn. We sometimes ride off property, but trail riding is poor in our area, sadly. I think full turnout access and a year of trail riding would do his soul good, but I don't have that currently and he hasn't known life any different for a long, long time. One day.

                                    sdara94- I do try to incorporate stretches into our ground work, as well as massaging. My sister gave me a video and book of the Masterson Method, which is quite interesting. I've tried some of the things, but haven't quite got into the whole system. That'll take some time!


                                    • #19
                                      the basics of dressage are rhythm, relaxation, and roundness of circles. with these building blocks you can go pretty far

                                      with your guy my guess is that the first order of priority would be getting him to relax his body and learn to use it more correctly by lowering his head/neck and relaxing in the back and taking bigger strides.

                                      even a few months of GOOD dressage lessons will really really help your guy.

                                      welcome and have fun!


                                      • #20
                                        What should one expect to learn in beginning dressage lessons?

                                        The reasons why it will take time.

                                        That no steps will be missed.

                                        What the basic requirements of relaxation, submission, forward and supple are.

                                        And the understanding that you might be disappointed, frustrated and concerned about lack of progress but that progress is often made simply by the fact that you recognise what is right and wrong.