The first time I witnessed dressage was at the yearly event held at a local race course. At the time, I already owned two horses. I had always ridden English, and we did groundwork, and went for trail rides. But what I saw in dressage fascinated and terrified me at the same time.
This post explains a few of my experiences learning dressage. The music, the idea of creating a dance between equine and human being, combined with the formal attire, and the way it all looked so easy, too easy – I wanted to try it! It seemed magical, almost spiritual, when you were lucky enough to observe a really good partnership in action.
For the rider to give cues that you can’t even see, and the horse responds in such a relaxed and giving way, I wanted to have the same experience with my own horses. I know they get bored sometimes, so it would definitely be a challenge for them as well. But where to start?
My daughter participated in a riding club at the time, so I started there. At our next meeting, I asked if anyone could recommend a good dressage trainer who would teach at a private home, not just a training barn. I got a couple of leads, but nothing seemed to pan out. The more people I talked to, the more one trainer in particular kept coming up. She was a woman in her 80s, but still rides every day. People made her out to be some kind of a dressage guru.
But she only trains at her own barn, and I don’t own a trailer, so working with my own horses was out. Her barn was almost an hour away from me, so lessons during the week were out, too because I work during the day. She was also extremely expensive, but everyone who had taken lessons with her swore that she was worth it. I went back and forth, weighing the pros and cons, so many times. I finally decided to call and find out if she was taking on new students.
First Dressage Lesson
In my first dressage lesson, you would think I had not ridden a horse in ten years. The saddle and leg position were totally different than what I was used to. I was embarrassed, but my new trainer was patient and extremely gracious. She taught me how to experience a completely different sense of balance.
My leg strength improved. I looked forward to my weekend lesson all week, and tried to teach my own horses during the week what I had learned.
My trainer has taught me that you are never done learning dressage. Every time you master something, you then set about refining it, making the cues more subtle. As a result, my horses have learned to be extremely responsive to my requests. I love to see the wheels turning in their heads when I ask them for something they know a little more lightly. Our relationship and communication has deepened. Indeed, dressage is an ambition worth pursuing.
The above post was contributed by a reader.