Sawyer and I LOVE trail riding, but I would also like to give us a 'job' or goal. He has been under saddle for a year on Fourth of July, and we have reached our goal of him being relaxed and sound on the trail and me being comfortable and confident with him. Thinking of a new goal, I spent a lot of time thinking of disciplines he would be good at. My barn is known for gymkhana, but he has trouble turning corners at a fast speed (I've been told this is common of walkers) and really doesn't seem to enjoy them. I am also personally not a fan of gaited shows because I think they promote cruelty that I will never advocate. As I was thinking, I noticed that something Sawyer and I already do without noticing is 'dressage' work when we play in the arena. Sawyer is extremely skilled at side passing at the halt, walk, and running walk. He works on a loose rein with very light cues. We ride with a small riding bat (not quite a dressage whip). Most of our arena work consists of transitions, side passing, figure eights, and helping him learn to work off the slightest cues possible.
I rode English show jumpers for a while, and after a ten year break I switched into a mix of English and Western style tack.
- Australian Saddle. I'm told it has a dressage style seat. I purchased it because I was more comfortable in an English saddle, but wanted extra security when he was green broke and unpredictable.
-Ultra close contact english saddle. I bought this saddle to work on my seat and equitation. I have never seen an English saddle quite like it. It is nearly flat across the seat. It has zero leg padding and no calf blocks. When I took it in for a repair the saddle maker said he hadn't seen a close contact ever be that... close. It has a tree, but everything else is minimal. It is NOT a cutback, fox lane, saddle seat ect. Saddle. It could serve no purpose in eventing, as I think it'd be much to dangerous to jump in, but it is used as a personal training tool for myself and doesn't sore my horse so I enjoy it.
- Western Bridle. I've been told it looks like an English bridal, it's very minimal in styling with a broadband and chin strap. I also own a cavasson that he can work comfortably in.
- Short shank Tom Thumb bit. He is very responsive to very light cues in this bit. I understand it is considered a harsh bit, as is any bit in the wrong hands. He has also worked in a training snaffle (extra large rings). I could buy another snaffle or D ring bit if necessary. He also works extremely well on the trail in a halter tied at the bottom like a bosal (I'm sure I could also attach at the sides to create a side pull). I would LOVE to use something bitless for his English bridal but am not sure if that would be permitted
While I don't have the time or expenses at the moment to hire a trainer, I'd like to do a little work with him without one. What are some good basic dressage exercises that can be done with my equipment in our large arena? What is some suggested equipment I save up for?
Most importantly, I've never heard of Gaited dressage in my area, much less trainers. When I do look for a trainer (some time next year), would I be more successful looking for a dressage trainer who is willing to train a gaited horse, or a gaited horse trainer willing to train in dressage?
Thank you for any advice or answers you have. Sorry for the length of this post.