What can I expect in my first dressage lesson? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 11 Old 12-27-2010, 10:38 PM Thread Starter
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What can I expect in my first dressage lesson?

So, I just reread this and realized this is kind of a novel, so I apologize.

Here's the deal: I've been riding for about six years now. I started western lessons once a week, then went to college and joined the equestrian team, continued riding western on it for another year, then started riding english my sophomore year and learning to jump that following summer. I continued riding until this point. Now I'm a college graduate with my own OTTB that I've put all the training on.

So, all in all, I've ridden:
6 years of western
4 years of english
3.5 years of hunter-jumping

So, I've taught my horse basic aids for the most part, and she can do a pretty nice working walk, trot, and canter in addition to her racehorse jig. I've also taught her how to jump. I mostly do crossrails, but we've done up to 2'3" with a decent spread, though that was only once. That's about all I feel comfortable with...on any horse. I'm just not sure jumping is for me. I always over-think it and get this little pit of dread in my stomach whenever I jump her (or any horse) in a lesson. When I jump her for fun I don't worry as much. Luckily she is such a good girl, never rushes a fence, and clearly loves jumping as I can always feel her focus in on me whenever she realizes we're going to jump.

I just feel like I get in her way a lot while jumping. My position just sucks. I know EXACTLY what's wrong with it, but can't seem to fix it. I'm better than I was, but I still am almost standing rather than getting in jump position. It just doesn't seem like there's enough time to get so low like I see everyone else does. I can't seem to release in any of the pictures, though I don't feel like I'm not releasing over the fence while I'm jumping. I hunch my back. My legs slip back. It doesn't look so bad in video, but in pictures I look atrocious. My trainer hardly ever criticizes me because she knows I beat myself up way more than necessary when she does.

Anyway. I've decided to stop even semi-seriously pursuing jumping. I may do it for fun, but I stress myself out to much. My favorite part of jumping lessons is always the flat-work before we start jumping. So, I thought, why don't I try dressage? Everything I've heard about it tells me that it builds a great foundation for a rider, and I feel like there are some holes in my horse's training that more jumping and vague flat-work just won't fix.

So I've decided come spring that I'm going to start taking lessons on a schoolmaster and pay a dressage trainer to train Lyra. I've always wanted to train my own horse, and to some effect, I've accomplished that. She didn't know much at all before I got her, and now she knows much, much more. She was out of control, and I really don't ever worry about her when I ride her now. The problem is other people have a lot of difficulty riding her, and sometimes I do, because of these "holes" (ex: she only respects my leg sometimes, in the arena, not so much out on the trails). I don't want to do the upper levels of dressage, just communicate better with my horse and have her training foundation become more solid.

So what should I expect at a first dressage lesson? What should I look for in a good dressage trainer?
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post #2 of 11 Old 12-27-2010, 11:02 PM
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Originally Posted by Romantic Lyric View Post
So what should I expect at a first dressage lesson? What should I look for in a good dressage trainer?

Everything you have said is all fine and well but a GOOD dressage instructor will decide what they will work on based on WHAT THEY SEE, not what you have done.

Post a video and a better answer can be provided.
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post #3 of 11 Old 12-27-2010, 11:26 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Spyder View Post
Everything you have said is all fine and well but a GOOD dressage instructor will decide what they will work on based on WHAT THEY SEE, not what you have done.

Post a video and a better answer can be provided.
Hm. True. How long you've done something is not necessarily an accurate indicator of your skill level. I was just wondering in general how dressage lessons might be different than hunter-jumper/western ones. But you're right, that is a difficult question to answer without further information. I guess I had some silly idea that, I really don't know actually, I've never ridden in a dressage saddle so maybe tips for sitting in one versus an hunter saddle?

Here's the most recent video I have of both of us, I apologize for the quality, I obviously didn't have someone there to hold the camera.
MVI_0272.mp4 video by sjd889 - Photobucket

Here's a video from her first show, a year ago. She was very, very good, but has definitely improved since then.

Here's just me on another horse bareback riding a few years ago:
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post #4 of 11 Old 12-28-2010, 01:56 AM
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The horse has promise but does not have rhythm, relaxation or suppleness so all of that needs work on.

As a rider you are stiff in the back and are more the passenger than the rider.

I would be having you work on your position and how to use your aids effectively to allow this horse to best utilize its own body more effectively.

Now what I would ask you to do may be different than what someone else would but any instructor should be able to see the above in you and be making those areas their top priority.
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post #5 of 11 Old 12-29-2010, 11:23 PM Thread Starter
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Thank you Spyder. I appreciate the comments and now I'm even more sure that dressage is the way to go. Now to find a very patient instructor!
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post #6 of 11 Old 12-30-2010, 10:26 PM
Green Broke
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The biggest thing I found with changing from a hunter seat to a dressage seat is stirrup length. They seemed soooo long. It took a bit of getting used to.

In the lesson I took, there was a lot of "Get him in front of your leg" and "more leg, more leg, more leg!".

It is impossible for a man to learn what he thinks he already knows. --Epictetus
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post #7 of 11 Old 12-30-2010, 10:36 PM Thread Starter
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Oh dear. I used to have a pretty strong leg from riding lazy school horses but I've mostly been riding my horse since I got her and she can be touchy so I ride with a much softer leg now. I can't wait to get on a schoolmaster!

I've found two stables I'm considering. Any opinions?


Hamilton Stables LLC
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post #8 of 11 Old 12-31-2010, 12:21 AM
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I actaully just started taking dressage lesssons on a FEI horse after riding for 6 months. I am alreading doing Hunter at my stable but wanted to learn dressage. My mom suggested me to find a well trained horse to learn on so that once I "get it" I know how it feels like and can apply to other horses. I was happy enough to find a trainer who clicks with me and her horse who happens to be my size. and also that she is OK with letting me riding that horse.

I think the first stable has a schoolmaster program. However, go watch a lesson at both places and see which instructor you like better. I know I like that kind of instructor who explains the theory and not just correct what I am doing wrong.

Good luck. Dressage can be so much fun. I remember my excitement when doing leg yield at the trot for the first time. It's very simple but for a horse newbie like me, I felt like I am a super dressage star in the making!!
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post #9 of 11 Old 01-09-2011, 11:20 PM
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Expect to be sore. I went from HJ to eventing. Dressage is a whole different ball game. In hunters you are in a forward seat, legs bent, horse's nose out. Dressage is a straight seat legs back (farther than you think) and horse's neck up head paralell to the ground. It's a lot of physical work, but it is a great baisis for all training. it gets the horse ballenced and put on mucsles in the right places. It helps the horse and rider be more in tune and you'll see improvement over fences after all a hunter course is a hundred strides on the flat and 8 over fenses. You should look for a trainer that challenges you but not overwhelming. Look for one that is to the point. For me I prefer trainers who focus on one issue at a time not 5 things at once. Look for a trainer with methods that work with the horse. For instance, I took a lesson from a trainer who had traveled the world and rode with olympic riders, yet his method made my sensitive mare nearly flip. Just find someone who can connect with you and has had experiece with all types of horses.
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post #10 of 11 Old 01-10-2011, 06:13 PM
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Hee hee, you can expect a serious muscle memory issue! You've spent a lot of years in a forward seat. After the corrections to a dressage seat, you'll probably feel like you're leaning backwards. Dressage is a great discipline, and very addictive. I'm sure you'll love it.

You just have to see your distance...you don't have to like it.
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