So, I have this dream of someday doing dressage with my horse, Riley. I know he has the stuff, he was an eventer before I owned him and I guess he did pretty well. The only reason why I came to own Riley is because I was working at his barn (where he was a lesson horse) for riding time and the BO decided to give him to me because I loved him so much. That story is much longer and more detailed, but off topic. Anyway! Riley's stall was always covered in all kinds of ribbons, the BO had pictures of herself riding him in shows, etc, etc. I never really paid attention to any of it so I couldn't say what level he was at or where he placed. I adored him, not his ribbons.
My background, however, is much more... rustic.
I learned to ride on a cattle farm in northern Michigan when I was 5 years old. I was carted around the yard bareback for a few years, then I got the reins when I was probably 7 or 8. One day, my great Uncle Art and my Cousin Mike basically tossed me a western saddle and said "Go put that on that horse standing over there. We're going to get the cows." So I did. And we went and got the cows. And I've been sickly obsessed ever since.
So here I am... Western to the core... With a dressage horse.
Now, I haven't always been an uneducated heathen. When I was a young teenager, I took lessons at a barn near my house and learned the basic fundamentals of riding. I took mostly western pleasure (surprise, surprise), but she did throw in a few english lessons. That is the extent of my formal training, however. When you are a horse crazy kid, cantering through the hay field is way more fun than having an instructor nag you about your posture. Needless to say, english lessons got scratched.
I've always had a closet interest in dressage. I think it's really beautiful and I'd love to learn something so different to my roots. Acquiring Riley didn't really help things, either. It's like we have this unspoken rivalry between us.
I'm all like "I want to show you western!"
And he's all like "Psshhh... bring it."
Then I'm all like "Wow! You're really good at this."
And he's all like "Let me show you my fancy foot work."
Then I'm all like "Holy crap! How did you do that?"
And he's all like "I'm a dressage horse, baby."
He wins. I'm jealous. I want to learn dressage.
So this is the deal. I'm 25, 5'3", and teetering between 215-220. Riley is an OTTB, he's 16hh and about 1120-1140 (he's been gaining and probably will weight in the 1200s). I haven't done much other than walk/trot and trail ride, so I know he is going to need some work and I'm going to need to lose some weight (hopefully they go hand in hand). He has always carried me well, no fatigue, no sore muscles, no fussing. I'm sure we will be a great team once we are both in good shape.
So I guess what I want to know is, where do I go from here? I have a nice saddle that his old owner sold to me, so I have that covered. What next? Are there exercises that we could do to get in shape before I call an instructor? I'd hate to pay $40 an hour for simple things I could do myself. Also, when the time comes, what should I be looking for in an instructor? I am a laid back rider, I'm not rough on my horse, and I don't want someone who is going to be harsh or judgmental.
On a side note... Will I anger the dressage gods if I ride in jeans? Do I have to invest in tight tan pants? I mean, it's obviously not a huge problem, but will I get laughed at if I show up in Levi's?
Seriously... I am so lost in this world, I feel like a tourist. Like I'm enjoying a visit, but I'm not actually supposed to be here.
Someone please, point me in the right direction. Any advice. Exercises for me, my horse, your experiences as a dressage newbie, terminology, important notes, things to watch out for?
I'd really appreciate it!