The more I hear about dressage, the more I want to try it out. However, there are zero dressage coaches within a reasonable distance so I'm hoping a few of you could give me ideas on what I could work on? I'm not sure how levels go, but mostly beginner exercises since Indie is still pretty green, training-wise.
So far, we've been just trying to get her to round up, relax and bend/supple. We've also been doing sidepasses, etc which she's doing reasonably decent at.
That's her going at the trot, she still has her moments of resistance but usually, she's content and doesn't pull on my hands, she's actually very light.. and there's times when she'll bring her head down quite low.
First of all...cute horse! The second thing I noticed was that your stirrups are quite short for dressage, but that's me with my dressagey brain. You might want to consider dropping them down a couple of notches.
From what I saw, she seemed pretty relaxed and obedient. I did notice she isn't super-steady with the bridle but like you said she's fairly good. It's hard to get a lot from a short video like that though.
So in dressage there are different levels as you are aware. The beginning level is called Intro (Introductory Level) and it's really quite basic. Here's a link to all the levels and the tests within the levels: USDF | Downloads | Forms and Documents
So if you are working towards perhaps competing dressage, check out what is required in each test. Then begin working on each movement. I haven't seen any canter, so I'd recommend just working with Intro Test A&B.
Anyways, focus! Me...focus hahah
Warm up exercises:
I like to do tons of suppling exercises when I first get on. I ride my horse on the buckle for ten minutes in walk, then still on a long rein I will ask for the trot on a 15-20 meter circle. For the first 5 minutes, I focus on getting me into a good position and not messing with him. Then what I do is bending. Still on that long rein I ask him to over bend to the inside, making sure he stays on the circle with my inside leg. Then after a dozen steps or so I change his position to straight. Then a dozen strides later, I ask him for some counter-flexion. I don't ask for a lot, just enough to see a piece of his eye lining up with his outside shoulder. Then back to straight. I repeat this until he can easily do it, gradually shortening the reins. And doing it both sides
Then the transitions. Tons and tons of transitions. My goal is to have him pick up whatever gait I'd like, without tossing his head and remaining straight and steady. Walk 5 steps, trot 10 steps, walk 5 steps. Then you can do more. Trot 5 steps. Halt. Trot 6 steps halt. Trot then canter. Canter to walk. Walk to canter transitions.
It's just a start, I hope I help just a bit. Any questions please ask! :)
I do have a longer video, although it's just more trotting with a few sidepasses and a back up at the start. Her canter needs a lot of work so we usually save it for the end of our ride and try to get a couple correct leads. She's ten and raced up until she was seven, was a broodmare for a couple years and was started under saddle back in the summer.. but her training wasn't too consistent and my instructor feels like there were lots of gaps, so we're focusing on a lot of basics.
I also try to fit in lots of transitions, although I've always found it ironic that she goes from canter to walk very easily (walks off on a loose rein, no attempts at trotting off) but her canter to trot is more difficult, as it takes a few circles to get her focused again.
I'll print off some of the tests and try to incorporate some of the more basic requirements into our warm-up and general ride. I think she'll benefit from the ten minute walk as well. :-) Thank you!
One thing I didn't mention was that you could also incorporate leg yielding, circle changes, and serpentines into your rides. They are all really good exercises. Since your horse can sidepass she understands moving off your leg. Leg yielding will simply be an extension of that. As will the circle changes. To do that you start with a twenty meter circle, then spiral it in until its a 10meter or small circle. Make sure she continues at the same pace though just increasing the bend in her body. Then spiral it back out keeping that same bend.
Serpentines are great for working on the bend as well. :) Good luck!
Your horse looks willing and like she's a very nice horse to ride. I think you should work on your riding and that will help her more than anything at this point. In that video, you're leaning too far forward (which puts the horse on its forehand) and your stirrups are too short. You need to be sitting straight up, like a telephone pole in the middle of the horse, and lengthen your stirrups. You also need to work on steadying your hands. The horse looked like she was fussing with her mouth, but your hands were moving quite a bit and at least from what I can see in this video, it looks as if you're using your hands to help you balance in the posting trot. If you can quiet your hands and get them working independently, your horse will be a lot steadier in the bridle.
And thank you, she's usually quite willing although she enjoys testing the boundaries at points. :-P
Here's another quick video from the same day, although it's a bit longer and includes the back-up and a sidepass in each direction. She has days where she's relaxed while backing up and when she's tense and a bit resistant, which she happened to be that day as it'd been a couple days. My instructor just tells me to keep asking until she softens, then give, reward, walk on.
This was my first ride on her, for comparison. Tense/nervous rider + tense/nervous horse = not a pretty sight.
The primary differences that I see are that she's much more relaxed, has a sense of balance/rhythm, not quite as resistant and she's finally understands what leg pressure is.
Good book on OTTB, etc.
You might look into getting a book called "Beyond the Track, Retraining the Thoroughbred from Racehorse to Riding Horse" by Ann Morgan Ford. I actually got this book when I was considering buying an OTTB, but didn't end up with the horse. The book has lots of great info and training tips.
I think it's wonderful when OTTB's can be given great homes like you're obviously giving this horse. She is so cute! I think you're doing great with her- you look like a pretty calm rider and you aren't grabbing at her mouth or holding her in too much, which is great at this stage.
Obviously you've progressed from this ride in the initial video but if she's still putting her head up tensely at times, you might try following with your hands (keeping that straight line between your hand and her mouth) as this will let her know she can't avoid the bit by putting her head up. Then, once she brings her head down, you can release with the reins a bit to reward her. It's tempting to want to pull down on the reins when a horse has their head up but it doesn't usually work to solve the problem.
Your position and posting are more in line with a hunt seat. With dressage you sit much more straight up and post by bringing your hips forward toward the pommel (without your shoulders moving forward) if that makes sense. I've found that a dressage seat takes a lot of core muscles!
Dressage is good for training any horse and you don't even need to be interested in showing in Dressage to get a lot of benefit out of it for your horse. Good luck and have fun!:-)
Looking pretty good.
I have an OTTB I'm starting in dressage, too. We can all (me, Reno, you, and Indie) can learn at the same time. My boy is recently under saddle for the first time in two years and I think he's doing great considering. When I finally get on him (after my wrist heals up and I take a few lessons on my trainer's horses just to get back in the swing) I'll start just walking on him and working on bending and such.
I agree that your stirrups are way too short for dressage...you almost have to look like you're standing. Reins for dressage also have to be ridiculously long (to me...coming from hunter/jumper). Also confusing to my H/J roots is that, at least in classical dressage, you have to be completely relaxed and loose and still retain good posture. No gripping with your leg, posting feels soooo much different and I think I'll have to work hard on that because out muscle memory my leg wants to grip when I post...I think Reno will appreciate the looseness though.
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