Barrels to Dressage?

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Barrels to Dressage?

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  • Barel horse to dressage
  • Differences dressage and barrel racing

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    09-20-2012, 04:25 PM
Barrels to Dressage?


I have been riding Western for over 12 years now. Majority of it has been competing in gaming and barrel shows. I love the speed, the adrenaline rush, the wind making my eyes tear; But I've always found myself drawn to something slower. Dressage.

I think Dressage, when done correctly, is beautiful, harmonious and so poised and proper(not really my personality but I love the idea of being poised, proper, and serious) I've always wanted to take a few dressage lessons. I've been playing around with my QH lately and teaching him some very low probably very sloppy Dressage moves. I've been working so much on that, that the poor boy forgot everything about speed and gaming at our last show haha.

I might have the opportunity to do a working student (work for lessons, shows, etc) position at a Dressage barn (if I work up the courage to call them, I'm so nervous!)

I'm not exactly sure at this point and time but I'm fairly certain I would like to go to a highish level of Dressage if possible. I'm conflicted .

Also I would try to work as much as I possibly can to get as many lessons a week as I can without interfering with school, work, and riding my horses. So it would make me pretty busy which is definitely not a bad thing because I hate sitting around doing nothing when I've done everything.

My concerns:
- If I still wanted to barrel race as well would that be okay? I wouldn't want to develop any bad habits or mess up any of my dressage training. Barrel shows are coming to an end next month so I would be able to focus on Dressage all winter.

- Would it confuse my horses if I took Dressage lessons? I know I can control which cues I use on them so that shouldn't be a problem (I ride multiple horses and all have relatively different cues from the others) but wouldn't my seat change? Would my seat changing confuse them? I am such a worry wart.

- All of my Western buddies make fun of/joke around with me whenever I break out my English saddle so I can only imagine what they'd say if I started working and taking lessons at a Dressage barn. I don't really care what they think but as most everyone knows some remarks can sting a smidge.

Now general questions.

-What do you look for in a Dressage instructor? The instructor at this barn is a USDF Silver medalist. Is that good? I'm so new to all of this. They also show young to FEI horses at USDF/USEF competitions.

- What, in general, would you wear for lessons? Being western I have NO english clothing whatsoever haha.

- How big of a transition would it be? I'm nervous I'm too "Western-Y" for the Dressage world or that the instructor wouldn't take me seriously given my riding background. Also, I'm worried about sticking out like a sore thumb.

Sorry for the rambling, I'm just really nervous, excited, conflicted, and possibly every other emotion in between haha.

Any advice would be awesome. People who've done the same as me (Western to Dressage) stories are welcome. Anything.

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    09-20-2012, 04:55 PM
I think you should go for it! There are a lot of similarities and more techniques cross over than you may realize :)
    09-20-2012, 05:03 PM
I was actually saying I should do this with my mare! Dressage during the week and barrel race on the weekends!

When I started out I was a western rider, roping, cutting, reining, pretty much whatever anyone wanted to teach me! I then moved to Alberta and got a job at a dressage barn. I started riding and getting lessons well there and man was it awesome! I wouldn't be concerned about your dressage wrecking your barrel racing if anything it will help improve your seat and communication skills.

As for what to look for go to a barn and watch the coach ride or find out if they show and at what level. Dressage starts at level 1 and goes up to grand prix levels. The coach and horses I got to ride where st. George and grand prix dressage horses so I learned LOTS!! And made me a way better rider. I am now getting into barrel racing and because of my dressage training I am better able to do the proper turns and stuff associated with racing.

As for what to wear for the longest time I just wore my wranglers and ropers for lessons. And eventually bought some cheap half chaps, which I definitely recommend!

Not sure if this post makes much sense seems I've been thinking faster then I can write so probably missed some stuff!! LOL hope you can get something out of it!!
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    09-20-2012, 05:11 PM
Selena does dressage schooling sometimes. I find that riding English every now and then is good for my core muscles so we school dressage lessons and cross rails once a month or so. She holds her own...She knows that the english saddle, bridle with the nose band and snaffle means "dressage" and my barrel saddle, breast collar, all four sport boots, her jr. Cowhorse bit and belt headstall mean "It's time to GO, MOM!"
    09-20-2012, 05:13 PM
Dressage lessons will probably help with barrels. I use some cross-training on all of my horses, because I believe dressage training helps the horse be more balanced and supple. It improves the level of communication between horse and rider. It helps the rider figure out how to correct problems the horse has.

I took dressage lessons for a while, and it really helped all of my riding.
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    09-20-2012, 06:09 PM
I with out hesitation encourage you to try it.

DOn't think of it as changing discipline but maybe just another way of training. I think dressage would be a great way to establish a different kind of connection between you and your horse.

However, I do think your horse will not be quite the same racer anymore, as you said, "the poor boy forgot everything about speed." Dressage wants a calm, collected horse that is not rigid (Anky . . .) where a lot of barrel racers IMO seem to be rigid, anxious, hollowed out and anticipate what is going to happen next. My mare Vedra, a rescue, has blown out ligaments above her fetlock (I'm not good with anatomy) my trainer suspects she was ridden hard possibly as barrel racer by an inexperienced rider) but anyway she is very anxious - whatever gait she is in, she is running.
Additionally, I think dressage training would help your horse physically, for example:There is a lot misconception about what "collection" is. Both disciplines use it, however, my old western/gymkhana trainer talked about "suppling the horse so it is collected". To her this meant getting the horse to arch its neck. When in dressage, a truly "collected horse" is something that is not achieved for may years (depending on who you ask) in that collection is somethign the horse works up to. It's not just neck being round and on the vertical but also getting the horse to lift it's back as well which is extremely beneficial to any horse! It's kinda like the difference in people who slouch versus forcing themselves to stand up strait - I know I have a better stride and my back doesn't hurt as much.

:) as a side note, I don't wish to offend any barrel racers on here
    09-20-2012, 08:24 PM
My barrel horses are always extremely soft, round, supple, and freed up. It really depends on how you train them. The rigid ones are a subject of poor training IMO.

My trainer said something to me once. She goes, "When people see you and your barrel horse in the warm up pen, you want them to see you collecting and extended gaits and go 'Oh! That's their dressage horse!' Then, two minutes later, see you sliding and spinning and chanigng leads and they say 'Wait...Maybe it's their reining horse.' And then when they see you go in to run, you want them to say 'Holy cow! That is a NICE barrel horse!' " :)
    09-20-2012, 08:39 PM
My trainer said something to me once. She goes, "When people see you and your barrel horse in the warm up pen, you want them to see you collecting and extended gaits and go 'Oh! That's their dressage horse!' Then, two minutes later, see you sliding and spinning and chanigng leads and they say 'Wait...Maybe it's their reining horse.' And then when they see you go in to run, you want them to say 'Holy cow! That is a NICE barrel horse!' " :)
^^^^^ First off I LOVE this! ^^^^^

Ok I think I'm going to suck it up and call them then.

Also I think it's a good idea for me to ride the barn's horses in lessons first because I want to get a feel for everything on an already trained dressage horse so I can feel what it's supposed to feel like before I work on it with my guys.

Thanks guys I love the input! Keep it coming! I love hearing the ideas, stories, experiences.
    09-20-2012, 10:40 PM
But in order to get real connection you need to get the horse to stretch down and then work your way up tp "collection" but I do like what you say SorrelHorse, but I honestly believe you are minority among your discipline and I wish there were more people like you guys though :)
    09-20-2012, 10:46 PM
Well, I think yoiu are worrying a lot too early. You don't have the job yet. Do you think you WILL get the job? Around here, if there is a working student job with a USDF silver medalist instructor, there will be several, if not many, students vying for the position. The instructor will want the one with the most "heart" in the business, I should think. He/she will not chose someone who is only interested partway, unless that is all that is available. I know this sounds harsh, but think of it from her perspective. If she is going to give you her time, then she wants someone who really WANTS to learn dressage.

If there is not competition for the job, and you are accepted based on your good work ethic, then awesome ! I doubt your horse will suffer from the variety of experiences. However, to get good at dressage takes years and years of real committment, so if you want to go to higher levels, then you may have to leave go of barrels and put your ALL into dressage. If you give it less, you get less out of it. That's just the way it is.
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