Gaited dressage questions
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.
Go to Horsemanship,Volume I - Horses - Books and buy this book. It's $13.95 plus shipping and is th best money you'll ever spend on your horse.
This is NOT a "dressage" training manual. It IS a Manual designed to train a forward moving horse in most of the basic dresssage and horsemanship skills. It has two parts, Vol. 1 written to train the rider and Vol. 2 written to train the horse. They use common language and techniques, allowing a rider or trainer to use a seemless method.
The next best book I can think of is Alois Podhajsky's classic The Complete Training of Horse and Rider. You can probably find this at Amazon. It's also not expensive and presents the classical methods of the Spanish Riding School in Vienna.
Get a proper English bridle and a good quality snaffle bit with a mouthpiece appropriate to your horse. This may take some experimentation. In dressage/Dressage* training the snaffle (often called a "bradoon") is used until the horse and rider gain significant skill. Then the curb bit (usually just called the "bit"; the full combination at higher levels is the double bridle with bit and bradoon) is added. The curb adds a more sophisticated level of communication allowing the use of higher level manuevers.
I've some "heartburn" with some of the current "Gaited Dressage" programs but all, at their core, have significant value in teaching horse to move correctly (i.e. carrying the rider in a balanced fashion) and teaching a rider how to obtain that correct movement.
Good luck in your search.
*The word "dressage" (with the lower case "d") is a French word meaning "training." The word "Dressage" (with the capital "D") is an English word meaning a certain type of competitive equine event. Don't confuse the two! :wink:
I'd go with a regular dressage trainer. I'm not impressed with the gaited trainers I've seen, or how their horses have turned out. I was lucky when I bought my Icelandic that the breeder had dressage training. My horse came with a nice foundation on him, a soft mouth and moves off the leg.
Thank you both for your input! I really appreciate it and will check out those books. I will also try to remember 'Dressage', not 'dressage' ;) thank you for the heads up so I don't look silly!!!
Do you think it would be fine to just work in my Australian saddle for now?
Is it absolutely that I purchase an English bridle before I start? I'm on a budget, and have used a snaffle with this particular bridle before. If it is imperative (I'd hate to mess up before I start), may I ask out of curiosity what the difference is? I've always put more thought into bits and never minded what was necessarily holding the bit as long as it all fit well.
I, personally, don't like Aussie saddles. I've yet to find one that wasn't a "blister rig" for me. :wink:
How is it rigged and where are the stirrups hung? Does it put you into a "chair seat" or can you assume a proper balanced and centered seat? These are really important questions. If it permits you to take and hold a correct seat, fits the horse, you, and permits free lateral movement then it's probably OK for the time being.
The headstall is an open question 'cause I don't know what kind you have. Some are not designed to permit proper snaffle bit action or to put the snaffle bit in the correct place in the mouth. If your Western bridle permits proper snaffle placement and action then you're probably OK. If it doesn't (and it might take a ground observer to really assess the action) then you're well advised to "retire" it for the time being.
I second the idea that you're likely better off with a real dressage/Dressage instructor than any sort of "gaited horse" instructor. Find one whose orientation is the "classical" vice "competitive" direction.
Good luck in your program.
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