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QuietHeartHorses 10-24-2012 12:01 AM

A Girl Can Dream!
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. :shock:

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? :lol:

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! :-)

tinyliny 10-24-2012 12:29 AM

Ride in what you like. The tight pants feel good, to me, and I love full seat breeches. you can get all that down the road, though.

Can you trot and post for long periods of time? When you start dressage, nearly all of the trot work will be done posting, and you need to have the stamina to trt and post for long periods of time. So, I'd work on that.

you need good core muscles , so anything like Yoga and /or Pilates helps that a lot. Walking vigorously helps, too.

Start by getting some videos are some books that are beginner level. watch and learn the terms.

Work on feeling your horse's mouth. I mean, when he is bitted up, you learn to find his mouth (make a good contact) and then follow it, and encourage him to stretch forward, then to come back. Learn how to feel and follow your horse's mouth and get him ok with that.

And watch intructors give lessons before you commit (if you have more than one in your area) Can you understnad her? does her student understnad her? Does she talk more than she lets the student ride? is she encouraging or critical?

Along the way, the right instructor will fall into your lap. As the Chinese say, "When the student is ready, the teacher appears"

QuietHeartHorses 10-24-2012 12:45 AM

I'd like to think I'm pretty muscular, but I bet I will be proven wrong when I start down this path! I work at my boarding facility cleaning stalls, hauling hay bales and feed bags, sweeping miles of rubber mats... Basically, I work out 4 days a week. I'll have to work on my core though, I don't think it gets enough attention.

As far as posting at a trot, it's not something I do often. I have done it before and I'm sure I can do it again. Riley LOVES to trot so I'm sure he will be a good sport. I just need to find my balance, but that will come with exercise. I'll also need to work on feeling his mouth. That, unfortunately, is something my cattle driving family never taught me!

Thanks for the suggestions! They will be put to good use! :)

tinyliny 10-24-2012 02:50 AM

YOu will be using a snaffle bit, right? not a curb bit . And what kind of saddle do you have? just out of curiosity.

QuietHeartHorses 10-24-2012 03:37 AM

I've always used a plain eggbutt snaffle, even when I'm riding western. I never saw the need to switch him to anything else.

I'm really not sure what brand my saddle is, it doesn't have any other markings besides the size and some random number. It does have an S engraved on both of the saddle nails. I've googled it and nothing comes up. It's all leather, it has a solid tree, the channel doesn't narrow from front to back, it has decent sized thigh blocks, and flocked panels. It fits Riley perfect, it sits level on his back, and he sweats a solid pattern in it, so I'm happy.

A friend at my barn said it's a dressage saddle, but correct me if I'm wrong... Doesn't a dressage saddle have long flaps and long billets? Because this saddle looks more like an AP to me. I've just never seen an AP with blocks that large. No matter, I like it. It's comfortable for both me and Riley.

I'll take pictures of it tomorrow when I'm at the barn!

afatgirlafathorse 10-24-2012 08:52 AM

I had the same thing happen - western upbringing, and then an english horse fell into my lap, and while she could do a pitter patter jog with her head low, she is made for dressage (according to my chiro/CEMT anyways!) and fitting a western saddle to her isn't the easiest task in the world. I ventured into this in February - started teaching myself to ride English, but then started taking lessons. It is still a huge workout for me and my legs are really the part that seem to be crapping out on me the most. Best of luck!

QuietHeartHorses 10-24-2012 01:52 PM


Originally Posted by afatgirlafathorse (Post 1730791)
... while she could do a pitter patter jog with her head low, she is made for dressage... and fitting a western saddle to her isn't the easiest task in the world.

This is Riley to a T! With enough time, he can do anything I ask him to do. When I first got him, I rode english. Mainly because that was the only saddle choice I had at the time, but also because that is what he had been ridden and I didn't know how to switch him over. Turns out, it was only a big deal to me! :-P

Fitting him to a western saddle was a pain in the butt for me too. I ended up with a semi-QH Wintec trail saddle. All of the big name leather saddles laid right on his withers, the Wintec was the only one that cleared them. It figures, though. Wintec makes nice english saddles so they would know how to make a western saddle for a high withered TB. I still have to use a two pads, though. He just wasn't build for western.

I'm really looking forward to starting dressage with him. I think I will learn so much more about him in the process. He's full of fancy little secrets! :wink:

afatgirlafathorse 10-24-2012 02:43 PM

Haha as a side note, a lot of people with stock horses don't like the Wintec westerns - but I bet they can make a saddle to fit a pretend western horse. ;)

QuietHeartHorses 10-24-2012 03:37 PM

Yeah, I'm sure that my saddle isn't high on anyone's list, but it fits Riley, it fits me, and it looks nice. That's all I can ask for! :)

QuietHeartHorses 10-24-2012 06:17 PM

Here's my saddle!

I really love it, it's a good weight, the leather is soft and buttery, and it fits Riley very well.

So what do you think? Will it work for dressage?

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