New to Dressage and Struggling - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 17 Old 08-05-2013, 10:56 PM Thread Starter
Green Broke
Join Date: Aug 2013
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New to Dressage and Struggling

Hello everyone.

I started taking formal dressage lessons in April. I'm fortunate to have found an excellent instructor (FEI gold medalist) who lets me take lessons on a couple of her horses. I would like to say that I love it but it is such a struggle. "Keep your left hand closed, don't absorb the shock in your stomach, open those hip flexors, shoulders back, and most of all keep that left hand closed"....why does it seem like I will never get any better at this?

Why can I only do 2 of the 10 things she asks me to do? What can I do to remember everything all at once? If I could do 5 out of 10 I would be happy at this point.

Does anyone else struggle with getting all of these things right? I'm about to tape my left hand with duct tape!

Any ideas for how to remember to do multiple things at once?

Thanks in advance.
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post #2 of 17 Old 08-05-2013, 11:29 PM
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I've only been riding dressage for a couple of years now and only on my horse that I'm training as well with my instructor (anyone else who specializes in it is either too expensive or out of town right now so I've only had a few lessons with them :P) so I understand what you're feeling! It's all muscle memory in my book. Once you get it down every so often eventually your body kicks in and works those muscles! I'd say go with the flow, relax and take a deep breath. When your instructor teaches you try and let your muscles and horse tell you the right action. Don't worry to terribly much on the looks or tiny inch of perfection but more of like a hardened shape that you can form. Once the general shape is there you only have to fine tune!

I think everyone feels this way at some point and always remember to make it fun and enjoyable! Just as a thought is there any way you can maybe ride a western horse? It sounds crazy but the few 'top notch' dressage people I worked with said that riding western taught people how to loosen up A LOT and taught their students to improve their seat so they could focus on their hands/legs. Maybe if you work from the seat up there wont be so much to worry about and remember?

Good luck and I hope this helped in SOME way!
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post #3 of 17 Old 08-06-2013, 12:52 AM
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IMHO... your trainer calls out "Do x! do y! do z! do x! do y! do z!" and each time they remind you, you fix x, y and z. And then do it again. And again. :) Eventually it becomes muscle memory or you simply remember it because you knoooow after your trainer tells you to get your leg back he's going to tell you to close your fingers, so you end up doing it in anticipation...

Don't become stressed out. :) What you're stressing out about is just what your trainer is for. Focus on the excitement of your progress and look forward to every little breakthrough.
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post #4 of 17 Old 08-06-2013, 08:34 AM
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It is hardest when just starting out. Or when learning something new. Don't worry, we ALL felt that way. It's extremely hard to coordinate and remember everything all at once, all while the horse is bouncing along.

You will find it gets easier to coordinate everything over time. I am hesitant to say it gets less difficult, because it doesn't. But the parts that are difficult change over time.

Keep at it. This is the most non-fun part you'll have. Once your muscle memory gets locked in, and your seat gets better, then the fun stuff can start.

It's like trying to pat your head, rub your tummy, while riding a unicycle and bouncing a ball. Trust me, we all went through it, and it will get better. It just takes time and a LOT of hard work. The benefits far outweigh the drawbacks though.
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post #5 of 17 Old 08-06-2013, 08:40 AM
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You might also ask about lunge lessons so you can concentrate on your seat without having to worry about all the aids.

Also, watch lots of other riders (preferably at a few levels above you) ride. Imagine yourself riding like them, visualize how you would sit, how you hold the reins, everything. Mental visualization can help your body lock in the muscle memory. There are several studies on how this has helped top athletes perform better, helped their form, etc.
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post #6 of 17 Old 08-06-2013, 09:15 AM
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Don't stress yourself out about it. It takes a long time and a lot of practice to be able to do everything at once. Dressage is very technical and there is a lot going on at once. Try to set mini goals for yourself in each lesson. Focus on one or two things and let your instructor do the rest. Over time those things you picked to focus on will become second nature and you will be able to move on to more advanced maneuvers.
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post #7 of 17 Old 08-06-2013, 09:35 AM
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Dressage is supposed to be hard ;)

Sounds like, however, you have a good trainer! There are so many trainers that get bored and do the same thing over and over.

A few times I have had to take breaks, 4-5 weeks or so. When I get back in to riding, it hurts, I crunch my shoulders, my leg position is quite frankly shocking etc!

It's about consistency, listening and building yourself up. We build our horses up, but we need to also build ourselves up.

You will need a lot of core strength, and as you develop this it will be a lot easier to sit tall, open your hips and keep your elbows tucked.

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post #8 of 17 Old 08-06-2013, 12:00 PM
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just keep saying to yourself , "I am SOOOOO lucky to be here. I am SOOOO lucky to be here. I am s . ..."
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post #9 of 17 Old 08-06-2013, 12:20 PM
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Originally Posted by tinyliny View Post
just keep saying to yourself , "I am SOOOOO lucky to be here. I am SOOOO lucky to be here. I am s . ..."
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post #10 of 17 Old 08-06-2013, 09:15 PM
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Does she tell you WHY you're doing x, y and z? She knows, I'm sure, but do you? I kind of find that when I say 'push your heels down' I don't get as much consistency as when I say, "put your heals down , it puts your hips down in the saddle where they belong". -- for example.

Just a thought. Maybe ask her why your hands needs to be here and your hips need to be there so you can FEEL when you're wrong because you know what x, y and z do to your ride.
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