Build the correct foundations early in training...”


Dressage Training Tips

3 Renowned Dressage Trainers That You Should Learn From

Jane Savoie For me had the strongest positive influence when it came to matters of the mind. Our thought process when riding is built on mental images and thoughts. It is so important to be able to process the positive and the negative issues.

Dressage TestJane Savoie’s book, That Winning Feeling, gave me the tools to take control over my thoughts during my riding and horse training career.

Jane is a renowned Rider, Teacher and Trainer. She has an extraordinary inspirational talent for teaching and shares so much information. Early lessons included the, Half Halt Demystified Videos, a great explanation for all riders. Jane has a wonderful website,  She gives so much great information and it is totally Free!

Kyra Kyrklund Brings an enormous amount of expertise as well as talent to the sport, she is such a gifted Rider and Trainer .

She gained so much from her education in Germany and Scandinavia and put it all together to develop her very own teaching method. Kyra outlines the right and the wrong way of doing things.

Accomplished is almost an understatement. Kyra has trained and competed 14 Grand Prix horses, participated in 6 Olympic Games, World Equestrian Games, and this list is to only name a few of her achievements.

Kyra has a wonderful selection of DVD’s for all to enjoy

Walter Zettl Was born in Czechoslovakia. At a young age of 21, Walter was awarded the German Federation Gold Riding Medal, the youngest ever to receive such a prestigious award.

At the age of 25 he was awarded the highest level of Teaching Certification, Reitlehrer Certificate to add to his accomplishments.

With his extensive experience, he brings his quiet teaching methods to the sport of Dressage, he has an innate ability to read the intricate body language of the horse to enhance the understanding of good timing.

I have enjoyed his work through his book, Dressage in Harmony and his DVD Series, A Matter of Trust.

Always bear in mind that the information you receive in the form of Books and DVD’s may not be the information appropriate for your horse at that time. Ongoing Education is wonderful and necessary for advancement, knowing how and when to apply the information is the recipe for success. Use your own judgment when viewing or reading new material.

Does this dressage training tip make sense to you? If you have a question, please ask it in the comments below!

Want more dressage training tips? Learn more in my book It’s All About The Love.

Happy Riding!

photo credit: cmaccubbin

A Dressage Lesson, Connection versus Collection

This horse is evading the Connection, the muscles under the neck are tense and he is leaning slightly on the Right Rein.
Photo, Working in Collection; a higher frame with energy creating suspension in the movement.

Dressage RiderThis is a topic that has often created confusion in not only the Dressage world but also in other disciplines too. It is often perceived that, when the horse is working in a frame, that is, head down position, the neck is somewhat arched and the picture is pleasing to the eye, that the horse is working in a collected frame. The fact of the matter is that the horse has accepted the connection from the rider to the bit, and is conforming to the request to drop his head and work in a nice outline. This outline is often the beginning of the rest of the training which can ultimately lead to the work that will create “Collection”; Connection is a prerequisite for ‘Collection”.

The levels of Connection also vary. Through the levels of training, the connection itself will normally improve as the horse begins to accept the aids that are used in conjunction with the connection to the bit.

This state of submission allows the rider to bring more energy into the contact (Connection) which will eventually give you the feeling of “Collection”, a higher energetic frame. This means that the horse has lifted his ribcage using his abdominal muscles which in turn, raise the Withers that raise the shoulders and carry the neck in a light energetic way of going. All the while, the horse has found the ability to coil the loins and drop his croup enabling him to take and carry more of the weight of his own body on the hind legs allowing for more thrust creating suspension in the movement.

Creating “Collection” is a process over years of training, appreciating the fact that the fitter and stronger the horse gets, the more “Collection” can be requested, ultimately leading to movements like Piaffe and Passage.

Young Dressage RiderSome horses object to submitting into the “Connection” early in their training. They can evade the contact in many forms. This often develops into crookedness which in itself cannot be corrected properly without the acceptance of the contact by the horse. It is not unusual for a horse to be allowed to travel with its head slightly tilted to one side because when the rider tries to straighten the problem the horse disapproves of the request by throwing a temper tantrum. If this issue is not addressed, “Collection” in later training will be hard to achieve.

Build the correct foundations early in the training of your horse to make demands of life easier as the work becomes more challenging.

Does this dressage training tip make sense to you? If you have a question, please ask it in the comments below!

Want more dressage training tips? Learn more in my book It’s All About The Love.

Happy Riding!

photo credit: DVPonyClub, JAMART Art Photography


Best Dressage Photo
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The Canvas is 20 inches by 24 inches, stretched and mounted, ready to hang.

Mastering The Canter

Controlling the weight distribution and energy, you can teach your horse to shift into a better Balance.

Many riders spend a lot of their training time on the horse working in Trot. This gait is often used to warm the horse up. Due to this fact, some riders do not become comfortable with the Canter. The other reason that riders often struggle to influence the Canter work is often related to the change of foot falls from one Gait to the other, from Trot to Canter. As the Rider works to find a better seat in the Trot which has a two beat rhythm, the sudden change in the rhythm to the three beats of the Canter can make the rider feel out of balance. This feeling is often much more uncomfortable when transitioning from the Canter back to the Trot, more so when the horse breaks into the Trot rather than waiting for the request. All of these issues can create tension but the Rider needs to find a way to work through it and make it better.

During the early years of training your horse, the horse whilst young will have a tendency to travel on the forehand, more of the horse’s weight is carried over the two front legs rather than being distributed equally over the four legs, this is how the horse is built by nature. To add to this issue, the Rider also sits more over the front legs adding a bit more weight to the forehand. If this was a stationery “See Saw” or also known as a “Teeter Totter”, one end of the contraption would be extremely weighted down whilst the other end would be pointed up to the sky. This gives you an idea of excessive unequal weight distribution.

A skilled rider will learn to influence the horses balance, meaning that the horse will gradually learn to adjust the amount of weight he carries over the front two legs and shift the carrying power on to the hind legs. This is where the pushing power lives, the larger muscle mass of the hind quarters will become even stronger and will eventually be able to help carry the weight and elevate the front end to lighten the forehand.

This influences the Canter work tremendously. When the horse has learned to coil his loins and sit slightly, the Canter feels up hill and is very easy to work with. As the horse tucks his hips under, the inside hind can reach more forward under the the horse’s centre, allowing the ribs and shoulders to be elevated and thrust upward and forward giving a clear moment of suspension.

The same rules apply when it comes to suppleness. You need to be able to flex and supple your horse in the canter in the same way that you would in the trot. Riders are sometimes reluctant to do this due to the fact that the horse will often break into the trot when the rider has tried to flex or bend the horse. Perhaps the flexing aid was misinterpreted by the horse or the horse just used this as an excuse to drop out of the canter. Just try to make sure that you always add energy into the suppling rein otherwise you are riding the horse from front to back instead of back to front, always keep the engine running.

In the higher levels of Dressage Training, most of the work is done in Canter, Pirouettes, Half Passes, Flying Changes; all of these movements require a good balanced quality Canter. This “Gait” should always be a work in progress.

Want more dressage training tips? Learn more in my book It’s All About The Love.

Happy Riding!

photo credit: Dannerzz

Dressage Training For Hunters and Jumpers

The benefits of Dressage Training go far beyond the sport of Dressage. For those in other sports like the Hunter and Jumper world, Dressage Training can enhance the quality of the Jump as well as the flat work. Taking the time to learn and teach your horse suppling exercises like Leg Yielding, rein back and well balanced 10mtr circles in canter can give you all the extra skills that make the difference between winning and losing in the show ring.

Smartblood Wins AgainFor a lot of riders in the exciting world of Show Jumping, the dressage exercises which can take quite some time to perfect, and might not give the instant gratification or the instant thrill of the jump but the long term benefits are huge.

Teaching your horse new movements is like taking your horse to the Gym and teaching him to use his muscles in order to strengthen and coordinate better. This brings more power and ability to turn more efficiently which will help produce a faster time against the clock.

The exercises also will bring both horse and rider into a new level of communication and understanding, just imagine after you have learned the art of leg yielding you will be able to straighten your horse on approach to a jump as well as help his balance and even be able to adjust his balance to keep him off the forehand and be less likely to get buried at the base of a fence.

Gaining the ability to balance your horse is a skill that will allow for greater achievements. This skill normally has to be learned as the balance of the horse, stride or rider can be lost and gained in a split second, and some riders will not even feel what happened. Having achieved a better understanding of how the balance works, the horse and rider will be less likely to lose confidence.

Your jump stride is only as good as your canter stride on the ground and being able to improve your canter on the flat, making it elastic and adjustable allows for better placement for the jump itself.

During your Dressage Training you will also have the benefit of learning how your position influences your horse’s way of going. Strengthening your own balance in the saddle will also improve your horse’s confidence as well as your own. Always remember, it is the having the ability to use the combination of Aids simultaneously not just one or two, that brings Great timing into play, this is the main ingredient of a Winner!

Adding all of the extra skills as well as the Supplying exercises can also keep your horse from getting back sore and stiff. This in turn can reduce leg or joint injuries.

Want more dressage training tips? Learn more in my book It’s All About The Love.

Happy Riding!

photo credit: carterse

How to Know if your Horse is Dressage Material

I think that it is safe to say that all horses are capable of becoming a Dressage horse. Lower level dressage just means “Training”. Upper level Dressage mean’s “Training beyond the ordinary”. Each level has its own competition therefore is available to all.

DressageDressage Training teaches the horse different levels of obedience, it is not a beauty contest in the ring; it really is an obedience contest. Certain criteria like “Gaits” or how the horse moves are definitely scored and can make a difference in the overall score, but it is only one score out of many scores in one test. Horses that are gifted with big, elevated and expressive movement will score higher on that one mark. Those of us who don’t own extravagant movers will inevitably try to make up the difference on the obedience factor.

That said, I have not come across a horse that could not learn the basic movements. Not all horses are made for the upper level movements, perhaps due to conformation restrictions which can make some of the movements too difficult. Some horses cannot cope mentally, due to the fact it is too difficult to handle the amount of submission required and can be Quite stressful. At times, the extremely talented horse does not score or fair well in the lower level competitions, their talent will not become evident until they reach the upper levels. Perseverance is worthwhile!

There is no hard fast rule, the main thing is to know that you are teaching your horse in a way that develops the mind as well as challenging the body. Some horses will exceed all expectations due to the fact that they have more “Heart” than talent and a determined rider can take that horse much further without talent than a non committed rider can take a talented horse.

I have found that the quiet minded horse seems to take information in its stride. If your horse is the type to be mellow and is less likely to become upset, this type of horse can often take the pressure of the sport much easier. It is up to the rider and trainer to know when to push and when it is okay to step out of the comfort zone because that is where information is learned, we rarely learn new things when we stay in our comfort zone. The key is not to restrict your hopes and dreams about what level you can achieve. Take one step at a time and you could be on your way to training your horse to Grand Prix.

Want more dressage training tips? Learn more in my book It’s All About The Love.

Happy Riding!

photo credit: JAMART Art Photography

5 Things to Look for When Selecting a Dressage Trainer

Do You Know What To Look For In A Dressage Trainer?

Anyone in need of a new Dressage Trainer/Instructor these days will find many opportunities to research the possibilities. Most people have access to the internet where you will find an abundance of information.

Winners CircleSome details that you will probably consider is the location, especially the distance that you are prepared to travel. Some dressage trainers may travel to your facility but others will expect you to trailer to theirs. This can take up a big part of your day when you consider the preparation time it takes to get your horse loaded, travel, unload and warm up etc. Some trainers also may need a commitment of two or more lessons per week. This can become costly, financially as well as costing your time.

If you are considering going to shows, you might want to check to see if the trainer will attend the shows to coach you, again you will probably want to find out ahead of time how much this will cost, since the shows often take in the whole weekend. Some of the Trainers in large facilities may not coach unless they have enough students showing at the same time, they may not attend schooling shows at all.

Even though it might seem quite exciting to train with some of the top dressage trainers, it is worth remembering that they may not have the same enthusiasm to teach the lower levels. The lower level work takes a lot of repetition and requires patient teaching skills. Some of the top Riders/Trainers do not take on lower level students. Do not be discouraged, there are many Instructors that can get you to the level you need and if you like at that point you can move on.

Make sure that your trainer will get on your horse on a regular basis. This is the only sure way to make sure that you are all on the same page. I am certain that what you see is not always what you feel, even horses fake it!

It is crucial that you have good communication with your dressage trainer. Most of my students like to go over their lesson with me at a later time or another day; I always try to make time for them as it is an important part of their learning.

Do you have any specific questions on how to select a dressage trainer? Want more dressage training tips? Learn more in my book It’s All About The Love.

Happy Riding!

photo credit: barbourians

Is This Riding Tool Ruining Your Dressage Training?

For all horse and rider combinations, pursuing a specific discipline, the correct equipment is necessary in order to progress.

In my experience, the number one cause of lack of progress is ill fitting equipment, mainly the saddle.

When the wrong fitting dressage saddle is used your horse can become so uncomfortable and this in turn can and usually does cause behavioral problems. This often shows up in the form of bucking, rearing and sometimes the horse will flatly refuse to work.

A generous horse may offer to work up to a certain point but as the demands become harder, if the saddle is pinching the shoulder area or the gullet is too narrow and is pinching the spine and the connective tissue, instead of sitting on the muscle, the horse can no longer work in a relaxed manner to the best of his ability.

His mind will become distracted; sometimes cause the horse to spook.

The easiest way to empathize with your horse is to think of it in this way: imagine that you have a small stone in your shoe. At first you will hardly notice it, you are aware of it, but if you are sitting around not doing much, it won’t bother you that much.

If you have to walk or run for a mile or two, you would probably become so uncomfortable that you would have to stop and remove the item that is bothering you. Your horse may just be trying to relay that information to you about what is bothering him. If your horse is having behavioral issues check your tack.

A dressage saddle salesman is not always the best person to ask, they may have an ulterior motive. Have a knowledgeable dressage trainer check it for you.

Dressage saddles can be very expensive. If you are not in the position to buy a new one, maybe wool- felt pad will work on a temporary basis. Just make sure that it has an open channel for the spine. Wool felt will form to your horses back, it is also breathable.

When buying a pad, squeeze the pad between your fingers and thumb. If your finger and thumb can touch then there is no cushion value to the pad, you will need more density.

Does this dressage training tip make sense to you? If you have a question, please ask it in the comments below!

Want more dressage training tips? Learn more in my book It’s All About The Love.

Happy Riding!

photo credit: smerikal

What To Expect from a Dressage Lesson

What Do You Expect From Your Dressage Lessons?

Whilst taking a lesson from your dressage instructor, it is important to always remember that he/she is there to help you and your horse achieve greater things.

One of the most important things to be aware of is that the foundations take the longest to achieve. The foundations mean that you and your horse can communicate well through all of the basic commands. Being able to walk, trot and canter on command is crucial to be able to move forward.

If any of the basics are missing or they are not accomplished well, you Instructor will have to go over them with you before you can move up to new movements.

Your Instructor will help you with “Timing”. Timing is a crucial application of aids at the correct moment. This is only achieved with experience. Your Instructor can bridge the “timing” gap for you by telling when to apply your aids and how to apply the aids. Over time and with practice this will become second nature to you as you begin to feel and recognize how, when and how much you need to apply your aids, then you will have achieved your own timing.

At times your Instructor will see things that you do not yet have the ability to feel. Try to always trust and use the information that is being given as sometimes the tools in dressage do not make perfect mental sense until you feel them work physically. I know that this might take you outside your comfort zone, but this area is where most of us have the ability to learn and use new things.

The higher the level that you and your horse are at, the more experienced Instructor you will need. Remember, just because your Instructor may ride at the Highest level, this does not always mean that they can teach or train you at that level.

You will need an Instructor that has trained horse/horses to the level you are at or above. You need someone that can help you create the buttons, or fix them if they are not working, not just someone who knows how to push the buttons so to speak.

During your dressage lesson try to take in as much as you can and then ask questions later if possible. Remember that you are paying for this time and you might be wasting crucial lesson time chatting instead of gaining good and maybe new information.

Want more dressage training tips? Learn more in my book It’s All About The Love.

Happy Riding!

How To Stay Motivated When Your Dressage Training Is Slow Going

Dressage Training Takes Time!

This subject I think is one of the most important issues. Dressage riders at all levels will hit a “brick wall” so to speak at some point.

Human nature sometimes works against us, if we can’t find a way through or something appears too hard, we will often give up.

This is more prevalent in our sport and often horses are passed on just because the answer to a problem was not visible enough.

To become an accomplished Dressage rider takes commitment and self discipline, not to mention patience and perseverance!

If this stuff was easy we would all be at the Olympics! It is not easy and every achievement you make in this sport deserves a Star.

If you actually stopped for a moment and looked at how far you have come, no matter what the level, I think that you would be quite impressed; nothing is that easy so everything is an accomplishment.

The problem seems to be, to me at least as an Instructor, most riders always seem to be looking how far they have to go, not taking into account how far they have actually come.

Using this mind set will rob you of the journey that you are on and take away all of the joy that you should be feeling. It is a journey after all and yes it is okay to want to get to Grand Prix, but you should learn to enjoy the good, bad and indifferent on the pathway of learning.

Every time you come across a major obstacle on the pathway of dressage, use it to learn. Learning to ride Dressage is like peeling an Onion, Every time you peel off a layer there is another layer to learn.

This is what keeps us coming back for more. We will never know it all and each horse that we ride should teach us something different as we all learn and feel quite differently as individuals.

There is always more than one way to do the same thing, learn as many ways as you can and put it in your “tool box” as you never know when you might need a different tool.

This Sport challenges the mind as much as the body in both Horse and Rider. It is a gift to all who are given the opportunity to create beauty and a dance between two. The journey is yours to carve out, enjoy!

Want more dressage training tips? Learn more in my book It’s All About The Love.

Happy Riding!












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