How To Ride Dressage: Getting Started
With dressage you proceed at your own pace. You can learn it simply for the pleasure of it, or with the intent to ride competitively. The best way to learn dressage is to take lessons from a qualified instructor. Some instructors have lesson horses that will help you learn the sport; some will require you to have your own horse.
The advantage of lesson horses is that they will help you learn what you need to do. In fact, a good "schoolmaster" horse is worth its weight in gold because they are such kind and patient teachers. The downside is that you will not be able to practice between lessons.
If you own or lease a horse, you have the freedom to practice on your own. Any reasonably trained horse that is sound, of good conformation and is able to move freely can become your partner in this sport, at the basic levels. If you are training your own horse, the work you do together will develop into an incredible experience throughout the years.
In any situation, and at any level, a good way to learn how to ride dressage is by video. It's one of the most helpful learning tools ever offered to dressage students, from the most respected dressage trainers, judges and riders from around the world.
How to Ride Dressage: Progressing Through the Levels
Dressage instruction consists of a series of steps :
- Training Level (rhythm, suppleness, acceptance of the bit)
- First Level (thrust & suppleness, straightness)
- Second Level (impulsion & engagement, collection)
These levels cover the basic principles of dressage, and the goal is to accomplish proficiency in each before progressing from one level to the next.
At each step, some aspect of your horse's development is emphasized. As you learn how to ride dressage, you progress at your own rate of learning. You and your horse can't fake the basics in order to proceed to the higher levels and movements.
Each level is associated with a series of riding tests that are used to give you feedback on how well you and your horse are progressing. Your instructor can score you on these tests, but generally you ride the tests before a judge at a dressage show or schooling show. The judge will give you detailed feedback on what's working well and what needs work.
The tests consist of riding a number of dressage movements and schooling figures, and the horse is scored on qualities such as forward movement, balance, suppleness, rhythm, obedience, and so on. You can memorize the test in advance or you can choose to have someone call the test for you (tell you each action to do at each place in the arena).
How to Ride Dressage: Anyone Can Do It
Whatever you've heard, don't think that dressage is only for certain breeds of horses or levels of riders. Also, don't believe that your trainer must be a gold-medalist and you need to take educational trips to Europe!
One thing that will supplement your instructions are dressage videos that are specifically designed to help you. Good videos are well-edited, easy to follow and applicable to the level you are currently working in.
If you and your horse:
- Are brand new to dressage - never had a lesson but want to pursue it
- Ride on your own more often than not
- Have begun dressage training and you want more guidance in-between lessons
- Already know how to ride dressage and are ready to graduate to the next level or perfect the level you are in...
In fact, if you have a trainer, suggest these dressage videos to him or her as well – you'll be surprised at the outcome.
You can watch them over and over, 24-7, whenever you need them - right from your computer. Enjoy!