Well not now but in a while Chinga and I are going to start dressage. I ws wondering where to start? I did about one and a half years of very light dressage training, at the moment I don't have a dressage trainer as it is just something I would like to do for fun and maybe have a private lesson on Chinga with my instructor doing dressage every 2 or so weeks.
Can your horse go on the bit and be collected? If yes, work on your trot work and staying consistent with being on the bit in both walk and trot. If that's consistent you can try cantering and do the same thing, consistency is the key with being on the bit and with tempo. In dressage being on the bit doesn't just mean having their heads tucked in but also moving forward and tracking up. But if you wanted to just try a competition for fun showing intro level dressage is a great choice because your horse doesn't need to be on the bit in this level and all you need to concentrate on is keeping your horse forward, tracking up, and even in tempo. Intro level is only walk-trot, and it isn't just for kids either:D. The next level in dressage is training level which includes canter transitions but your horse must be on the bit at all times. Hope this helps.
If you are interested in starting to be more competitive in dressage, I'd take her to some shows, doing the beginning tests, so that you have some critiques to go off of, from judges comments, my trainer always has us bring the tests to our next lessons, so we know what we need to work on. Then I'd start asking around at the shows and such for references for trainers, who's who, and maybe try out a few trainers, so you can find one that works for you.
OK, first let us clarify a few things. Every time you hop on your horse and go for a ride, you're doing dressage. Every time we are around our horses we are in advertently training them, they aren't smart enough to know when we want them to be learning, and when we don't, so they are always learning.
Because of this you really must be diligent to always be correct in your riding and always try to be at least maintaining and if not then improving the horse's training with every ride.
As far as showing, go for it. Your coach and the judge should both provide good feedback for you.
Thanks guys, I think I might try getting him collected first and then maybe think about taking him to a beginner fun show.
First, familiarize yourself with the Dressage Training Pyrimid and the Test Objectives. These are good roadmaps for training - since the tests are designed to build the skills in a logical and practical progression.
For example, at Training Level, the purpose is to "confirm that the horse's muscles are supple and loose and that it moves freely forward in a clear and steady rhythym, accepting contact with the bit".
Translation LOL, is that the horse should be generally balanced, maintain a consistant, forward (working) tempo in all gaits and the horse should be acceptiong contact; the horse should be on the bit or slightly in front of the vertical. The horse should understand how to bend, respond to half halts and be well balanced through the transitions.
Next, a good understanding of the court geometry is helpful. The geometry used in the tests is not random; again it is designed to promote a progressive system of training.
Lessons are highly beneficial, but if finances or time prohibit this, there are other ways to collect knowledge:
Go watch some shows; better yet volunteer to scribe. There is a wealth of knowledge to be had (and its FREE!) If there are barns in your area that allow you to audit, go and watch various lessons, observation of riders of your level and above will give you lots of insight that can be applied to your own workouts with your horse.
Warm up properly: a stiff horse cannot perform at his highest level - make sure to really loosen up his muscles with a good warm-up (and don't forget the cool down when you are done!)
Read: Although books cannot teach you to ride, they can help you understand concepts better. Sometimes our instructor will tell us something 50 times, yet it takes someone else explaining it with different words to really make it "click". If you are a fairly educated rider, you can take the information you read and apply it to your self-schooling sessions.
Test yourself: even if you don't plan to show, ride through the tests periodically as a measuring tool. Where are the weak points? The strengths? What has improved since the last time you tested yourself? Has anything gotten worse? (Don't laugh, this happens! ;) )
Oh..and don't forget to practice the walk, free walk and halt! These are just as important as any other movements and are often overlooked or under-appreciated. Remember, the freewalks have a co-efficient of 2 in many of the tests - don't waste points because you didn't give it the respect it deserves....I've seen many otherwise well-schooled horses blow it on the free walk.
Finally, have fun! Dressage is hard work but its also highly rewarding. Make sure you don't over drill yourself or your horse. Make sure you make time for a bit of relaxing and play too...
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