Dressage is the basis of all proper riding.
Founded on balance and relaxation dressage sets the tone not only for the horse and rider’s training progress but for their mental development as well.
Dressage teaches the rider to connect to their horse like no other discipline and once its concepts are understood can catapult a rider to newer awareness and proficiency no matter what discipline they choose whether it be jumping, endurance or barrel racing.
But Dressage is hard and it’s too technical. If you come away from a session with a dressage instructor thinking that then that’s the wrong instructor for you because dressage training should be the most natural and exciting thing you learn from your horse’s back. Your instructor should be able to explain the concepts well enough that it makes perfect sense giving you the ability to gradually implement steps to promote greater balance for both you and your horse.
Dressage need not be hard! I have taught very small children balancing techniques and have had many compete while still quite young with some on their ponies walking away with a dressage show’s hi-point score for the day! I tell my adults that come to me with fear of the sport that it’s easy enough for a child to do but they don’t believe me until they have a child explain the use of the half halt and the importance of the outside rein.
I’ll never forget the day I decided my nine year old daughter, in anticipation of her first dressage show was ready for a child size dressage saddle. You should have seen the look on the face of the owner of the largest tack store at the time in Los Angeles when I asked to see their children’s dressage saddles. The entire staff tried to laugh me out of the store. That was twenty five years ago. That store has been closed for some time and no one is laughing now. Today you can go to any dressage show big or small and find a good many competitors that are juniors well before their teens.
Let me assure you, learning dressage will give you a better position and more security in any kind of saddle for any style of riding and better balance and cooperation from your horse in any endeavor. If you think you’re doing everything you can to be the best at what you’re learning with your horse and you’re not learning dressage then you’ve fallen short and will never be the best rider you can be. It is that important.
So, what are you waiting for? Start thinking about looking around at who’s out there that could help. Some of the best places to find a good dressage instructor are at the shows. Look at who’s sitting the best, has the calmest horses and seems to be having the most fun with the least amount of stress. Listen to the instructor at the warm up ring. Does her voice sound pleasant with great interest or is she screaming at her rider to “RELAX!” You can laugh but I’ve actually heard instructors do that, scream at a student telling them to; “relax.” It’s rather ridiculous don’t you think?
Be cautious looking for the right instructor. Look for someone that genuinely cares about you not their own ego. If they only want to talk about how great they are, what medals they’ve won, where they want to go with their own career then run. They are only in it for their own interests. The first question a trainer should ask is for you to tell them about your horse, your desires and who you want to be as a team.
Finding the right trainer can take some time. Don’t hesitate to keep looking if you don’t find someone that clicks for you. Learning dressage as with anything is best taught by someone you enjoy being with, someone that can make it fun and interesting and someone you feel you trust.
If you can find the right instructor I can guarantee you will not regret the time, money and energy spent in the pursuit of better riding skills and greater awareness of the magnificent creature underneath you!