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Riders Ability to Ride Dressage Versus Jump

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  • Riders Ability to Ride Dressage Versus Jump

    I'd like to get some input on an issue I noticed recently. A little history first. I grew up riding with 1 day a week lessons, sometimes a little extra time on my grandma's pony but nothing too much. Stopped for about 15 years but recently decided to get back into horses.

    My dream has always been to event. I decided to take jumping lessons first at an A show H/J barn, as in my mind I thought that would be the best route. I am really exceling in my jumping lessons, so I felt it was time to add dressage into the mix. I am currently taking jumping lessons at the H/J barn and dressage lessons at an eventing facility. They don't jump that often at the eventing facility and I am riding a strictly dressage horse in my additional lessons.

    I feel like I just can't seem to grasp anything in my dressage lessons, I still don't even have the correct posture. Its quite a reality check since I've been cruising through my jumping lessons. Is it common to feel that you have a better ability as a rider to jump rather than ride dressage? Does anyone have tips for riders starting out?

    I would really like to purchase a horse, but I don't think it is a good idea until I have been riding for at least a year. I don't want to have it in my mind that eventing is what I want to do, when I just might not have the ability for dressage.

  • #2
    Hi...have you thought of leasing a horse? We all struggle with dressage...its other nickname is stressage. However, hunter people do dressage too, they call it flatwork. Don't give up. Sometimes its a good thing to try a different tack if you aren't "getting" dressage. Really, jumping well is just an extension of the flatwork. Perhaps talk to your jumping instructor and see about doing a "flatwork" between the jumps lesson to tie the two concepts together. Also go to a "straight" dressage person and see if you can take some lunge lessons with them. You may just not click at the eventing barn right now. Read Centered Riding and Centered Riding 2...see if you can tie some of that together. Just some thoughts...


    • #3
      If you're finding the dressage hard it probably means you found a good instructor who's teaching you to do it right.

      Seriously - if you have been jumping, changing to the dressage posture is VERY HARD for a lot of us. My start was at a school built on dressage principles, and I sat very upright, on my seatbones, open hip angles.... and then I went on to the breed show world, the hunter world, and spent time away from horses. I've been riding again for about 3 years and my body still doesn't always want to listen to me about how I want to sit! My guess if you're having trouble is you tend to have more of an arched back rather than hunched/rounded type of posture - and it's not that you don't have aptitude for dressage, but just that you have to give your body time to get there.

      There's a statement that you should try yoga and pilates to help which has almost become cliche... but it's true! It will help you greatly as you work on increasing flexibility and core strength. As for getting a horse - if you get a good eventing prospect for yourself nothing would keep you from doing jumpers in the future or something... I said I was waiting a year to get a horse when I started, and I managed to hold out almost 6 months.
      Originally posted by Silverbridge
      If you get anything on your Facebook feed about who is going to the Olympics in 2012 or guessing the outcome of Bush v Gore please start threads about those, too.


      • #4
        (I know nothing of the quality of the facility you are taking jump lessons at, so take any of this with a grain of salt).

        I find that most people who have a foundation in h/j land, especially a lower level, school horse type program, REALLY struggle with re-learning how to sit in a dressage seat, take a contact, and the like (I speak from experience and also the experience of watching a lot of people learn how to ride dressage!). So, you aren't alone and that does not mean you won't get it or that you won't be good at it. It's just a learning curve. Honestly, had you asked me when you went back to taking lessons, I would have probably urged dressage lessons FIRST. Oh well.

        Give yourself some time. It DOES take awhile. And I think the pilates and yoga idea is a great one! Also, ask about taking some lunge lessons on the dressage horse. That can help a lot. And maybe consider substituting one jump lesson a month with a dressage lesson, so you get a little more time on your weaker phase. Until you have a horse of your own (leasing is a good idea), you won't have the luxury of riding several days a week, and spending most of that time on the flat. So, if you're finding the jumping easy, maybe back off, just a bit, and add in an extra dressage lesson or two.


        • #5
          The issue with most H/J lesson programs is that students are not, in fact, taught to ride. They are taught to 'passenger.'

          Stay off the horse's back. Stay out of the horse's way. Stay on top, in a specific posture.

          This is far, far, far removed from the reality of 'plugging' the rider's body into the horse's body, and the two acting as one. Kind of like the difference between being a client who is served by a professional, and being a spouse who is in a 24/7 parenting/life arrangement with another person.

          Often, H/J lesson riders are served by a professional horse, who basically takes care of the hard stuff. It is harder to pull that off with dressage. In most cases, the rider must increase their skill and knowledge level to a certain extent.

          The issue is not so much that dressage is so incredibly hard. The issue is that most lesson programs are service industries. You pay them $, they make you happy. If your lessons had started out as hard as the dressage lessons, well, would you have kept coming back?

          I am sure that George Morris, Anne K, or Michael Klimke could design an H/J lesson program that would kick most butts from day one. However..... would the 'average' consumer keep coming back for more?

          The OP question is a really good one because it highlights a big problem with the horse industry. In order to keep people coming back, lesson programs strive to, as you mentioned, keep riders "cruising" through. (This could include western pleasure, saddle seat, etc. styles of riding also.) But when someone then attempts to take a next step in their learning, they invariably learn how little they have learned in their lesson program.

          Modern economies seem to fall into this trap often. Think Walmart, McDonalds, etc. Making things that are 'good for you' is not the goal. Making things cheap(er) and easily accessible is the goal.
          "Friend" me !



          • #6
            OP, I feel your pain. My background is not dissimilar to yours, except that I started as a re-rider at an eventing-oriented barn--and I still didn't get dressage at all. I got the dressage seat fine,just couldn't get what I was supposed to be feeling, or doing, on any consistent basis.

            From my admittedly uneducated perspective, a)dressage is hard and confusing;b)a lot of times the horses don't much like doing it either, and won't respond unless you ask perfectly, which of course you don't know how to do, and c)it's an unusual dressage instructor who puts it all in the eventing perspective. I'd be really surprised if you found this at a pure dressage barn--I had a hard enough time getting it at an eventing barn.

            What helped me was riding with a trainer/friend whose background is classical dressage and hunter equitation. (There are a bazillion schools of dressage, they all argue with each other constantly. Don't ask.)

            All of a sudden the lights went on. My hunter friends said, "of course, that's hunter flatwork." Now that I understand the basic principles, I'm actually looking forward to seeing if it makes "real" dressage with my eventing trainer any easier.

            It's also my understanding that not all hunter barns emphasize the underlying flatwork, so you might have to look around a little. But it's worth it.


            • #7
              I have never had a hunter style lesson go that way. There is a ton of work and sweat involved in looking like you aren't doing anything, and I think that more eventers (self included) could learn to wait and make smaller movements in the tack.


              • #8
                Agreed. Now that I'm crossing disciplines, I'm amazed at how much each one contributes to the understanding/performance of the others. And "making it look easy" is actually really hard.


                • #9
                  Have a little patience. It sounds like you haven't really been doing this for very long. Riding in general, and Dressage in particular is a life-long pursuit. You can work at it for decades and still be striving to get it right. I am also a re-rider. I've had my horse for about 3.5 years and just now am starting to feel like I ride her correctly sometimes (for moments here & there). And this is at a BN/N level, just basic stuff. Jumping? We were clicking along right away, no problem. One of the fantastic things about Dressage though ARE those little breakthroughs. You feel like you aren't getting it and then suddenly something just clicks in. Horse reaches for contact, or you get a true forward trot where your horse is pushing from behind and swinging the back. Whatever. It's like crack. You get a moment like that and it's almost a bit of a high. Keep at it, have patience. If you're just starting out a relaxed, harmonious ride is going to be the most important element anyway. Enjoy the process.

                  ETA: Oh and I agree with the lease idea. Or even a half-lease.
                  -Debbie / NH

                  My Blog: http://deborahsulli.blogspot.com/


                  • #10
                    My experience is similar to the previous post. I've had my guy almost 2 years; when I bought him he was competing at novice and getting good dressage scores with a talented young pro. But he is not an easy dressage ride! So I have been trying to learn dressage on a tough horse. Not easy! But I am making sloooow progress, and he has also gotten much easier to ride as he has gotten more pro training and age (he is 7 this year). It is a long road! Best of luck to the OP--don't despair!


                    • #11
                      I guess I'm in the opposite boat as most of you, since I started out riding straight dressage during my childhood and have just recently ventured into the world of eventing. I of course have a harder time with the jumping, being that I've never done it before. But a lot of what I know from dressage translates over to jumping. I'm not sure if it works the same in the opposite direction. To me it seems like dancing. Ballet is the foundation for all dance. Anyone who wants to be a serious dancer of any kind first starts, and continues to study ballet. Dressage is the foundation. I think most serious riders do it to some extent, sometimes they just call it something different.

                      When taking jumping lessons with eventing ULRs, the things they have ALWAYS stressed to me, a beginner, is to not worry about my striding. That it's my job to take care of balance, straightness, and rhythm (the dressage part!) and the horse will take care of the rest.

                      But like some of the PPs have said, you haven't been doing it for very long, so don't get discouraged! The dressage part can be tedious, but it will come, and when you have those little breakthroughs you'll feel how much of a difference it makes!


                      • Original Poster

                        Thanks to everyone for all of the advice. It really makes me feel so much better that it will just take time!! I really appriciate hearing all the stories about how people have progressed in their eventing/riding career. My problem is I have little patience and I want everything to be perfect from the start. I guess riding will help me in that area of my life too!

                        I have been taking twice a week lessons at the H/J barn and once a week lessons at the eventing facility, but I may flip flop those. I do agree with everyone about the lease. I didn't want to do it at the H/J barn since that isn't as much of a weakness as dressage is. I will talk to my dressage instructor about what she thinks when I see her again. I really don't like my dressage lesson horse that much, but I have a feeling she will suggest a partial lease on him. I haven't said anything to her about him since it might be me causing all of the problems.

                        I also really like the idea of yoga or pilates, I'm trying to get a friend to sign up for classes with me now!


                        • #13
                          Not so much a re-rider, but a truly starting out rider, I went through much of the same feelings. The trainer would say "Do you feel that?" and in veritably I'd say no. I could see it, but feeling was elusive.

                          One day we tried something, she had me ride no stirrups, at first in lunge, then on my own. Wow!! Now I could feel my seat better, I could feel the horses back. I used the stirrups to put me out of the seat (and position) so my horse could also not feel me. As a new rider no stirrups was scary, but the more I rode that way, the better I got. I also got into the habit of lowering my stirrups when I did dressage (flatwork) vs my jumping work. One other thing I do is ride bareback. Again that was scary for me to start, but when I got my balance...Wow!! Now I really felt things moving with my horse. Riding bareback also put my body in a more natural position which really helps me see how my horse reacts when I get off balance.

                          We also play games like riding with no reins. The idea is to move around the pasture, making turns around things (jumps mainly) without using reins, just my seat, legs, core. At first we looked like a couple of drunks, but over time it got better (except going past the paddock gate ). Put it all together I begin to get this connection with my horse so my aids got lighter, he responded better, and the stuff my dressage trainer was trying to show me became easier, because I could really feel it.

                          I may be the minority, but I really enjoy dressage. Like another post mentioned, it is the foundation for practically everything else. Now, when I jump I feel I have many more tools in the box to help him for those last few strides. Good luck, remember there is no time limits, and have fun.