I dressaged and lived to tell the tale

Last night was my first dressage lesson in about 10 years. My feelings toward it have not changed but it’s something that has to be done. So, I sucked it up with only a minimal (for me) amount of whining.

After a little warmup we started by trotting on a circle over a fan of groundpoles in both directions. That really helped give me and Henry the feeling of lifting and pushing with the inside hind. Similar to this diagram but a little tighter spaced and another pole or two. Great exercise. I need this in my life all the time.


Then we got to work. First I rode my test through once (for Saturday it’s BN Test A, which I didn’t actually bother to fully learn before my lesson because pfffft preperation smesheration. Sorry Lisa.) then we talked about things to improve and I rode it through again. It was much better the second time but there were still a few movements (mostly the medium walk-free walk-medium walk, the trot to canter transition and canter circle to the right, and the last turn up centerline) that needed a lot of work. We spent some time on just those specific movements, with much improvement. Putting it together is still pretty difficult and I definitely have my work cut out for me on Saturday. It’s amazing how much harder it is to do things in a 20m x 40m space. I feel much better prepared though and have tons of things to work on over the next few months. The good moments were enough to give me hope for both of us.

I have no pictures from last night sooooo here's an old one.
I have no pictures from last night sooooo here’s an old one.

My brain was super fried when I was done, so as soon as I got off I jotted down some notes in my phone lest I forget. These were the main points that stuck with me.

– Don’t be afraid to be bold when coming down centerline. Make an entrance.
– Half halt. No really: half halt.
– Tempo tempo tempo. Even and calm, don’t rush.
– On the 20m trot circles think “leg yield”. It helps shape his body around the circle.
– Light easy aids into canter, don’t be in a hurry.
– Always be thinking one movement ahead and BE ACCURATE.
– Make sure to have an obvious change of rein length from medium walk to free walk and back to medium.
– Trust the free walk, open hips and thighs to follow the motion and breathe.
– To the right when he falls heavy on his inside shoulder, lift the inside hand and my own shoulder (we both lean this way).
– Horse needs more shoulder fore work in general.
– Make sure to give plenty of outside rein when making turns onto centerline to allow him to really bend through the turn.
– Halt at X. Hey idiot self, X was back there! Every… damn… time. They really should mark that with spray paint or something. Just sayin. A big red X would help me a lot. Or maybe just a stop sign?

Not a bad collection of notes for a little over half an hour of lesson. Obviously we have work to do!

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be sitting in the corner rocking back and forth in fetal position until my brain recovers, which quite honestly could be never.


21 thoughts on “I dressaged and lived to tell the tale

  1. YOU WILL BE FINE. Promise. BN A is a super, super simple test and it does actually flow and make sense – easier than some jumper courses for sure! When coming down centerline I always try to keep B or E in my peripheral vision so I hit X when I’m supposed to. RELAX AND HAVE FUN! Dressage is not the devil. 🙂


  2. Dressage all the things. Like ALL of them. A few tips that are applicable for any test from a glorified DQ who doesn’t even show anymore (that makes me credible, right?):

    -Similar to when you said leg yield on a circle… baby leg yield EVERYWHERE. You’re right, 40×20 is super tiny, so make use of every single foot. Leg yield sideways into EVERY corner, on EVERY circle, etc.
    – I literally ride in shoulder fore almost non-stop, especially to the right. I honestly think it is the most beneficial exercise EVER.


  3. I give you mad props for not only willingly doing a dressage lesson, but also entering an event and competing in a dressage test! You have much more skill (and tolerance) than I do! But as long as you and Henry have fun, you’ll be fine.

    And then we’ll welcome you back into Jumper Land with open arms 🙂


    1. I’ve had him in a nathe for about a month now and it’s working pretty well for him so far. Luckily it’s dressage legal. I tried him back in his old eggbutt the other day and he felt a lot chompier in it and wanted to escape behind the bit a little too much for my preference. Nathe it is.


    1. LOL definitely not. I just want to not have a super embarrassing dressage score (under 40 would be great) and jump all the jumps on the first attempt. Hopefully that’s doable. This will be asking a lot of him, he’s never had to go in the ring (or out of it) and jump things in competition that he’s never seen before, nor has he done any dressage. And of course he’s only been XC schooling once. Bravery is all I ask for!


        1. I don’t think Henry is necessarily the issue, it’s the monkey on his back that we all should be worried about… 😉 If I ride him right, he’ll be fine. If I don’t… well…


  4. ugh i hear your pain – currently learning the same test for an event this weekend and it’s uh, well… it’s not great. sounds like you got some excellent pointers from the lesson tho – i’m totally stealing some of them! 🙂


  5. #1 is so true, it makes a great first impression if you look confident and bold. Also, I agree with you in that last one, I’ve missed X several times in my life. It’s never fun when you just rode the best test of your life and you miss the damn letter! I hope that your brain recovers soon 🙂


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