Releasing My Inner Dressage Queen

dres·sage /ˈdresäZH/

Definition: the art of riding and training a horse in a manner that develops obedience, flexibility, and balance.

From a young age, I was told I would be a dressage rider when I got older. I’m built like one — all leg — and I’ve ridden like one. Previous trainers never gave me a true foundation in dressage, though, so the ‘dressage queen’ in me never emerged. Until now!

Once I stepped into the eventing world, I knew it was time to clean the dust off of my dressage saddle. I asked my trainer if our lessons could be strictly dressage for awhile and she happily obliged! (Little did I know how much torture she was going to put Piper and me through.)

alright y’all, I’ll just say it…

Dressage is hard work! Long legs, hands together, seat back, outside aids. I looked like a sack of potatoes while Piper trotted around like a giraffe. Needless to say, we both have a lot to work on.

Our big thing right now is keeping Piper in a forward rhythm while properly using her body. For the young horse, it’s hard work! She evades this in two ways: running with her nose sticking out (in front of the vertical) or tucking her chin to her chest (behind the vertical). Both of these cause her to hollow in her back and lose hind-end engagement, which we don’t want.

In front of the vertical: nose poking out, back hollowed
Behind the vertical: chin to chest, back hollowed

So what are we looking for, exactly? Forward momentum and swinging gaits. Willingness to try to stay on the bit with proper hind-end engagement. Staying straight in our bodies without over-bending. Keeping in mind that Piper is only five and is coming off of a work-free winter, we’re starting easy with what we ask of her.

I ask, we get a few good steps, she falls out of it, I ask again, so on and so forth. There’s no punishment for not holding it; she’s still learning and it’s all part of the process. It can be a lot for young horse, but we’re getting there!

Closer to on the vertical: engaging hind end, rounder back

I would love to hear your stories, tips, exercises, etc for dressage riders! Drop your favorite dressage knowledge in the comments for me and the other readers – and maybe pick up some new tidbits for yourself, too!

XOXO, Emily + Piper