An Inkling

An Inkling

I’ve had a little idea in my head lately that I haven’t been able to shake. Indulge me for a moment.

Once upon a time, Jen J came over and played dressage with Simonpants. I was all, “Wow, you make him look fancy!”

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And she was all, “I know. I’m the coolest.”

And I was all, “Wow. I look like a sack of potatoes!”

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It was fun, but then I was pretty much like, “Bye flatwork! Time to jump all the things!”

But this winter happened, and we needed some major flatwork boot camp. Boot camp commenced, and I realized that IΒ strangely enjoyed it. My horse suddenly had buttons he didn’t have before.

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Sometime during boot camp, jumping became a little bit more scary. Not “I’m quitting and I’m never jumping again scary,” but rather “Maybe I might like to try and be competitive in a ring that doesn’t involve hurling my terrified body over large fences”. Β You know, something like that.

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You probably see where this is going.

I talked to my trainer last week about cross training some in dressage. I’ve been playing faux dressagz on my own for a while, but I think I’d like to experiment with the real deal some. With dressage tack. At shows. In the sand box.

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I promise I’m very not intoxicated while I write this post.

Tell me your thoughts dear readers! I can get my horse traveling in what I imagine is a decent training level frame at the trot, therefore I obviously know a lot about dressage and am ready to go win at rated shows.

Kidding, I know nothing and will be tortured.

There are some logistics to work out like training and access to shows/tack, but my trainer is open to the idea. I’m concerned that my jumping loving horse will not enjoy moonlighting in a new career, but I also know that proper flatwork will be the best thing for his weak hind end and arthritis. I also don’t want to “ruin” my hunterland riding style, but let’s face it… I’m not going Grand Prix anytime soon. In theory, dabbling in dressage should allow me to do both quazi properly up to a certain level?

Hit me with advice or comments telling me I’m crazy. I can handle it.

70 thoughts on “An Inkling

  1. I think it seems like a perfectly reasonable idea. No reason to not develop all of Simon’s talents. If you’re having fun with it, that’s what matters. I think the change has the possibility of being refreshing for both of you!

  2. Dressage (proper, ha) will only help you in hunter land. Having adjust-ability is everything and being able to make accurate transitions, and having your horse truly move from back to front will help improve things over in hunters. As far as tack goes, you can really go in whatever you are most comfortable with. You may have to check on bit regulations, but outside of pure aesthetics, most people compete at lower levels in the saddle/bridle they are most comfortable with and martingales/boots are not allowed (at least in the eventing world dressage). ps. white breeches are not required!

    1. At the level I want to do, I could totally get by with my hunter tack.. however my jumping saddle puts me in a bit of a chair seat and makes it hard to dressagz properly. Luckily, I may have access to a dressage saddle… we’ll see πŸ™‚

  3. So not crazy! I’ve had similar thoughts. But I’m at a hunter/jumper barn which means we’d have to move if I wanted to switch. I’m not ready to give up on the jumping completely so I have to be satisfied with asking for extra flat lessons every now and then.

  4. Do it!! One of the great things about dressage is that you get feedback on your ride – quantitative scores and written comments, so it’s a really great way to track your progress.

  5. You know my thoughts on that lovely world haha. Dressage is foundational and can never hurt when done correctly.

  6. This is a fab idea! It is always beneficial to be more well rounded, but understanding the principles of dressage will take you and your horse to a new level. Don’t worry about the tack, at Training level you don’t need a dressage saddle. You can use your cc, lots of people do πŸ™‚ Get the best trainer you can find and be prepared to take it slow. Most good trainers will start you right back at square one when just starting out in dressage, so don’t be discouraged. You will probably enjoy the mental aspect of this πŸ™‚

  7. You KNOW what I think! πŸ™‚ A little dressage never hurt anyone, and it will definitely help you in the hunter/jumper ring. As attested by my own dressage queen foray into jumpers (which you witnessed), the only thing that made it work for me was that I realized jumpers was basically dressage with obstacles in the way. Being able to access those buttons you speak of kept me from falling off my pony ignominiously!

  8. I think I was more like “Damn, your horse is AWESOME and SO MUCH FUN TO RIDE and I’M NOT GETTING OFF.”

    And you know me… dressage all the things! Simon is quite talented and I think you could have a lot of fun with it – and it won’t ruin your h/j seat. Promise!

  9. I think that your jumping will drastically improve after some time in the sandbox. Training level dressage is basic walk/trot/canter, don’t think it up to be some big huge game changer! You have been doing all of that for years, now its just time to fine tune those movements. Plus I think you will find that you will feel more secure/strong as a rider! New pony buttons are the best πŸ™‚

  10. This sounds great. Even if you never show you can learn a lot. I really need help from a dressage trainer to make sure I maximize Stampede’s rehab and stabilize his back so thanks for reminding me to stop slacking!

  11. I think it’s a great idea! Cross-training is so good for the ponies. Chloe and I did tons of flat/basic dressage work to get ready for jumping. I’ve been thinking about doing a dressage schooling show just to get out this summer and help fine tune our flatwork.

  12. I say go for it! Since it sounds like you might be able to borrow tack, you shouldn’t have much of an investment other than time. If, after a few lessons you or Simon hate it, then stop. It’s not written in stone that once you decide on a discipline you have to stick with it all the time.

  13. Martin says (and I agree) that if done properly, a horse should get enjoyment from dressage. It should stretch and loosen and strengthen the horse’s body and mind. Henry was dressaged very badly in his former life, so we started in a negative place, but with proper work and the right approach he’s only gotten better and better. I truly believe that horses only dislike it if it’s done improperly, whether that be mentally or physically. That said, I still think that all horses benefit and enjoy cross-training the most – jumping and conditioning and dressage. I wouldn’t want to do the same thing day in and day out either!

    1. I love this idea, because I love dressage! I don’t think Murray LOVES it (especially not like he loves jumping), but I think he does enjoy it, and gets some relief from the stretchy and bendy motions. I get lots of big yawns and stretches after good dressage rides, which I take as a good sign.

  14. DO ITTTTT!!! And you don’t need to go out and buy all-black tack and a new saddle and coat and and and… you can show in your CC saddle and hunt coat. πŸ™‚ Learning good dressage basics and how to develop your horse as an athlete will only help you both, and it will NOT ruin your jumping seat – in fact it might give you new options on course once you really learn to sit the canter well and control Simon’s body from that position. DO IT DO IT!!

  15. MWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. Yesssssssssss…. come on over to our sandbox, there’s a pretty white fence…. they ring a bell when they’re ready for you… it’s all very civilized. Warning: You may never go back. Dressage is like a vortex. But it’s SO MUCH MORE FUN THAT IT SOUNDS! This is the best news I’ve heard all week!

  16. Go for it!!! Why not? I can’t see it changing/ruining your riding style that much… maybe just the longer dressage leg…? I ride western and dream of doing dressage. I have a bridle, just need to find a saddle one of these days.

  17. I dont dressage, but we do dressage-ish lessons every other week or so. The more you reinforce that kind or flat work the better jumping will be. Prob should still do some jumping to keep him in practice, if not you with a trainer. He looks so nice in a frame.

  18. My hunter/jumper trainer says a jump course is just a dressage test with fences in the way! It’s great cross training…it builds muscles and confidence, increases focus, and your jumping will totally improve. That said, be prepared for the first few dressage lessons to royally SUCK – as in, it took me three weeks to complete a single 20 meter circle to my dressage trainer’s satisfaction. But it’s worth it in the end – good luck and have fun!

    1. PS My TB gelding has some back issues last summer and dressage work came highly recommended by his vet to increase muscle tone and build up his topline. Even with the terrible winter here in Boston and limited rides, he’s improved dramatically. To the point where non-horse people see him and go “wow!”

  19. I think it’s a great idea! Mattie and I have been really focusing on the flat work, and if I can’t get her in front of my leg for a good walk or trot, guess what, that’s all we will do that day. Like all of your friends have said, dressage expands y’alls tool box and ultimately will make your rides in the h/j ring that much more fun! Dressage saddles will make it a little easier on you both but certainly isn’t necessary. Good luck!

  20. All of the best h/j trainers that I’ve had taught with a dressage foundation. (Okay, it was only two of them.) Do it. And then maybe you can add a couple CTs if you feel like jumping again. πŸ™‚

  21. DO IT DO IT DO IT GO!!!

    Gina enjoys dressage much more than jumping, and even Moe seems to like it okay. I’ve garnered a new appreciation for it because it’s made them both more rideable and better behaved.

    Go to some schooling shows and have fun! And if you need any dressage tack, you know my number. πŸ˜›

  22. Do it. Worst-case scenario, you and/or Simon don’t love it after all and you go back to what you were doing before. All other scenarios, Yahtzee!

  23. Dressage has done amazing things for Courage’s body and rideability.

    It’s also bloody hard and quite frankly, after a whole winter of it, jumping looks really easy and fun.

    Courage has learned a ton about how to use his body and he’s putting on muscle in all the right places. I’d highly recommend it especially for a horse struggling with hind end weakness. πŸ™‚

    Do it!

    PS Don’t get sucked into the “I can’t ride WAAAHHH” DQ theatrics. Dressage does make you feel that way from time to time (ok most of the time), but at the end of the day, you can get in your halfseat and gallop around like a badass. Life will be ok.

    1. YESSS DO IT! πŸ˜€ I’m with SB: don’t get sucked into the DQ theatrics. I felt like a total noob at my first dressage lesson; a good instructor basically takes apart everything you know and puts it all back together in a completely different way. But it is SO good for the horse and I love the mental aspect of it for the rider: it is so NOT boring when you’re doing it right! Lily is a nerd too – a perfectionist that really just wants to please. She thrived on dressage as long as I remembered to *praise* her. She would get upset if I nitpicked too much without telling her when she was doing things right, so I started praising every effort. And OMG she looked like a body builder after just a few months working correctly. She even had the double ridge of muscle along her back.

      It is fantastic cross training for every discipline. A lot of the best jumpers can also do correct dressage. It makes the horse stronger, more rideable and adjustable over fences (and on the trail!), and it makes us more effective riders. I think you’ll have fun and it will only help you and Simon be an even better team. πŸ™‚

  24. I think it’s great to try new things! And good flatwork is good flatwork, no matter your saddle choice. I’m a hunter/jumper princess all the way, but I have lots of dressage queen friends. I think you should see how you like it! I don’t think your horse will be offended πŸ˜‰

    http://www.amateuratlarge.blogspot.com

  25. Oh this is so exciting! And Simon looks so cute in his black tack, but as the other posters have said- dressage saddle not a necessity, but the bit is important! And learning dressage will likely help you with jumping, not only for improving his adjustability but also for your balance within the gaits. I think it’s an exciting idea and I hope you give it a whirl!

  26. I love dressage. I’m actually better at it than jumping right now, because that’s what I’m doing more of. It helps A LOT that I have the trainer I have, because she’s a legit dressage rider with medals and everything, and the way she talks works for my brain. I don’t know if I’ll ever really fall in love with eventing, but the dressage and jumping phases are excellent fun.

    Here’s the other thing: a really good show jumper should be able to do all the movements at third level, even if she can’t string the whole test together. That means the rider has to be able to cue those movements. A summer riding a PSG horse last year and this summer on the 2nd/3rd level horse I’m playing around with have made my jumping WAY better.

    Holla at me on Facebook if you want to geek out about the h/j to dressage conversion.

  27. yessss!!! i’m only just starting to learn dressage – but it’s done incredible things for my feel for the horse and the kind of gaits i need for jumping!

  28. I was going to throw out there that you get a chance at a ribbon for every test, but coming from hunterland you get a chance at a ribbon for every class so I guess you’re not as lured in by satin as I was.

    I already told you I think this is a fabulous idea, and I still firmly hold to that. Bobby’s stifles would literally just fly off of his body never to be seen again if we didn’t work so hard on his dressage. I definitely think it will help Simon out, and who knows–maybe a nice strong butt will make those flying changes a thousand times easier in the jumper ring!

  29. To the sandbox!! Dressage is the best, and I honestly never get tired of it. There is always something to learn and I never feel “done”. That actually sounds awful if you’re the kind of person who likes to accomplish strict goals, but for me it works.

  30. I actually got Tristan to be a dressage horse after one too many jumping crashes/concussions. So I totally, totally hear you on that!

    It turned out that Tristan was NOT a dressage horse, and an eminently safe and sensible jumper, so we gravitated toward eventing, but dressage is actually the equestrian sport of my heart. It rewards all the things I love about riding.

    My one piece of advice is to at least have a lesson or two with a dressage trainer to talk about riding the test. It is a slightly different set of skills than just getting the right frame and the right movements. There are tricks and techniques to help you show off to your best that are surprisingly simple and useful but not intuitive. (I’m sure there are similar things in hunterland, I just know nothing about them. πŸ™‚

  31. Simon will be an amazing dressage pony! While incredibly hard (at least for me!), I find it so rewarding. And it builds great butt muscles – for the horse πŸ™‚

  32. Doing dressage is never a bad idea. I’ve seen some people go from dressage to h/j and do really well, so I don’t think it will hurt your hunter position. The hardest part will be going from hunter position to dressage position, but you can do it! Plus, hunters usually have good hands which will really help you with the dressage work. I hope you do it πŸ™‚

  33. I think it’s a great idea! Besides, jumping is often called Dressage with ‘bumps’. What could it hurt?

    I know dressage has helped my mare with developing her rear end. She’s rocking a sweet looking, sexy butt now like she never has before. Enough so that we have started jumping which she absolutely LOVES to do as I’m finding out. Besides, you can always go back and forth. It’s not like you, your horse or both have to only jump or only do dressage.

    I’m sure you’ll post about it and share pictures….. Looking forward to hearing about it.

  34. When I went from hunterland to dressage, I was like “this is hard and it sucks!” but I discovered something awesome. The more you and your horse accomplish, the more addicted you become! I love how it cross trains with jumping. It really engages your horse’s mind as well during flatwork. Try it. Don’t give up for a while. I did “I haz dressage saddle and think I am dressaging” for almost 6 months before I decided to try a real lesson. My first lesson my trainer was able to get me to do all these super cool things. I really really enjoy the challenge.

  35. i think it’s great! I’ve always said when i could totally become a dressage queen when I’m done jumping. Something about actual real dressage where you are in such harmony and on another level of communication with your horse is extremely appealing! Plus-all the big jumping riders always say dressage will not only improve you and your horse but it’s a necessary part of jumping. So go for it and have fun!

  36. Do it! Dressage cross training is so good! Just don’t get stuck in the sandbox like I did and come back to the jumper ring only to find everything looks scary.

  37. Dressage is the best! JenJ should hook you up with her trainer and you could do a freestyle to music with her and Paddy.

  38. A good foundation on the flat is a good foundation.. Sounds like fun πŸ™‚

    We do “dressage” in our flat with my trainer πŸ™‚

  39. I think dressage is a great, strong foundation for jumping all the things… so at the very least it would help Simon in that aspect, no? Also, I say screw it, life is too short – try new things if ya wanna!! Excited to follow along for this inkling. In my next life (or when I am old, and rich) I want to do dressage.

  40. YES DO IT!!!!! I think that dressage training can really benefit any horse, any rider, and any discipline. I tend to have a weird little stigma that hunterland and dressage/eventing are just the most different things EVER, but then I read GM quotes sometimes and I’m like, “huh…that sort of sounds dressagey…”

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