Things you should know before having dressage lessons

Competing at dressage
  1. Get used to being on a circle. You won’t be moving sideways at the greatest of ease any time soon. The circle is your friend, embrace the circle. Don’t go large around the arena – this does not go down well. If you have enough grasp of spatial relations to be able to ride a circle that is circle shaped (unlike me) this is a bonus.

  1. Stock up on arnica and anti-inflammatories. You will use and abuse muscles you didn’t know you had. These will not just be in your legs.


  1. More leg is the answer to most things. Can’t hear your trainer? – more leg. Instructions not working? – more leg. Horse ignoring you? – more leg.



  1. If you think you are putting on all the leg you have be aware this will not be accepted as an answer. You have more somewhere – learn to find it before you pass out from exhaustion.


  1. Don’t worry about not being good at sitting trot. Sitting trot is the least of your worries. The dressage guru is going to make you realise that you don’t actually sit or use your arms, legs or ass correctly in rising trot. This is called being consciously incompetent. It means that you know that you don’t know – as opposed to being blissfully ignorant. This stage tends to last a long time.



  1. If you are using headsets make sure to find out if yours is one way (you hearing) or two way (you hearing and speaking) before starting the lesson. Your trainer won’t appreciate hearing you mutter ‘I don’t have any more f**king leg’ on a two way system.


  1. Using ‘your legs’ or ‘hands’ is no longer enough. Be ready for a new level of coordination. You need to be able to move both legs and hands at the same time in a different way. It is a bit like the ‘rub your tummy and pat your head at the same time’ challenge.


  1. Be prepared to repeat and repeat things without physically or mentally snapping until you get it right. Some movements might seem easy until you break them down and try to execute them perfectly. While repetitive training can be entertaining when you are watching someone else have a mental breakdown about going down the centre line 20 times, it is not as much fun when you are in the saddle.


  1. Learning curves are awful. They should be called learning ‘phase of hiking up an impossibly high hill while sweating buckets and gasping for air without being able to see the top’. There is no way in advance to know which stage of training you or your horse will get stuck at. Working through a learning curve can feel like it will never end but one day, for no apparent reason, something will just click and you will wonder why it used to seem so hard.


  1. If you are going to invest – invest consistently and be prepared for the cost. Training sporadically makes it much harder to see results. Training consistently avoids falling back into bad habits and facilitates progress. One way to cope with the expense is to remember that improving yourself and your horse will do far more for your prospects in the competition ring than spending half your salary on the tack shop and covering everything in bling.



All content produced on this site is my own original content. Please do not reproduce in any format without my prior permission. Thanks, L 


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