Dressage Horse Training: Interviewing trainers for my Dressage Mastermind Group

Hello Everyone,

It’s a different experience learning dressage as a “side-hustle.”  What I mean is those of us so busy with families, kids, jobs, etc are possessed by this drive to learn an art that is all consuming in itself.  I love teaching.  Whether it’s flying, riding, biology, speaking–I just enjoy the “aha” moment people have when they really grasp the topic.  I also enjoy learning.  I can remember struggling through my third calculus class (the one where a calculator offers no help) and having to accomplish the homework sets three times.  For me there was no middle ground.  I didn’t kinda learn the math, I either owned it or it owned me.  In my book I review the different ways people learn–kinaesthetic (hands on), verbal, visual or read/write.  As we get older most of us move towards the middle and can learn multiple ways.

An interesting point is pilots tend to be strongly kinaesthetic learners and I think this is what many dressage trainers prefer as well.  The challenge for we dressage enthusiasts not able to ride 4-6 horses a day is time.  Even is we do prefer a hands on approach to learning, there just isn’t enough time in the day.  So, one thing that helped me this spring was to write down my daily riding plan, in detail.  A few years back at the USDF Trainer’s conference I got to watch Steffen Peters teach and the thing that resonated with me is how every step of his ride mattered.  He still did 45 min but in that time period he had all the transitions, leg yield, shoulder in, etc because there was not even an extra circle.  I found that when I wrote my plan down I was able to hit on all the exercises I wanted and didn’t spend time remembering what I wanted to do or if I needed to adjust to the horse, I knew what I was deviating from to accommodate for the mental space of Donzer or Ava.

So, now I’m looking to build my mastermind group for dressage.  In my business I have a team of experts I work with to include CPAs, Attorneys, Health Insurance experts, etc.  I realized that I could create the same thing for my dressage journey.  In my business I don’t expect myself to know everything, I always have a mentor/coach and I’m always adding new relationships.  Why don’t we do that with riding?  In the business world it would be crazy to expect one person to be your be all end all.  Why in dressage do we expect one trainer to have all the answers?  Why do questions of loyalty arise when all you want to do is keep learning?  Why is the primary way to learn the model of a lesson where the student quietly listens and the trainer talks?

I’ve drafted my way ahead for the rest of this year and I’m meeting with trainers to find a good fit.  Ideally I want a relationship with a trainer to be long term where we work together and then bring in outside ideas as needed.  I want a trainer that will watch a video I’ve seen and help me understand what I’m looking at and why it may or may not apply to what we’re working on. I want a trainer that doesn’t get irritated when I ask why we are doing X when this other trainer taught me Y.  I want a trainer that will help me fine tune my training plan–not throw platitudes at me like “it takes time,” “your trot needs to be better,” we cannot just work on fun stuff.”  OK, How!? I agree with all those statements and want the roadmap written down because I don’t sit on 4-6 horses each day so the roadmap becomes part of my physical DNA.

Bottom line, when I’m clear in my head about what we’re trying to do, Donzer and Ava pick up on my mind’s eye and continually surprise me with how in tune they are to me.  When I’m in a lesson riding around unclear on the intention, then there’s no picture for Donzer and Ava to tune into so we progress more slowly.  I was able to audit a clinic taught by Julio Mendoza and he had a range of students from training level through Grand Prix.  It was amazing to see how he approached flying changes from the prerequisites all the way through one tempis.  I have the most clear picture in my head of where I am going and am perfectly content to work on my canter leg yields understanding how this strength and balance will ultimately lead to ones.

I will continue to share my “aha’s” so someone else may learn from my struggles…

Good Riding,


Author, Out of the Saddle: 9 Steps to Improve Your Horseback Riding

Out of the Saddle

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