Dressage Horse Training: Learning how you learn

Hello Everyone,

I had an insight about how I learn that may help some of you out there as well.

The Background:  I started on a new relationship with a trainer that involves using a written plan for my lessons instead of just showing up and “seeing what’s happening.”  I was thrilled to find a trainer willing to include a written plan in conjunction with the traditional rides. So, we booked a double lesson for the first time so we could have time to talk and share expectations for how this interactive process might work.  This first lesson was amazing and I was able to take my lesson home and incorporate the feel into my rides at all the gaits and transfer to Ava as well.  The next two lessons were regular 45 min lessons and I realized that the experience was sliding back into the receive/listen only mode for me and I was stressed about the limited time to soak up the information so I was going home not really sure what we were doing.

The Information I Need:  I realized that I need a few key pieces of information to really progress in my work.

  1.  What is the trainer seeing?
  2.  What is the trainer going to fix?
  3.  Why did you (the trainer) choose the exercise you did?
  4.  What is success for today?

Let’s discuss half-pass for example.  We have all watched a beautiful Grand Prix half-pass on YouTube so we know what it should look like in the ideal.  First I need to know what Donzer and I are doing because I’m doing my best to make the ideal thing happen.  Are our shoulders in or out?  Are the haunches leading?  Is there enough bend in the ribs?  Do I just have a neck bend? Am I sitting too much to the outside?  There are so many possibilities that I need my trainer to help clarify what our issues are to correct.  A typical approach to half-pass is to start on the diagonal and then bring the haunches.  In my 45 min lesson we did several of these and because I was really not clear on the issue my trainer was seeing I rode each half-pass slightly different and tried to suss out what the trainer thought was better.  On the way home I was just highly frustrated because I had no clarity on my homework and no way to access what better would be.

The Take away:  I discussed with my husband, Kris, what was the difference between my first lesson that I was very happy with compared with the lesson I was very unsatisfied with and we agreed I need more discussion time.  I am not a purely kinaesthetic learner so I need to understand the what, why and how to accomplish the movements.  I realized that a lesson that was at least 60% discussion with 40% riding the pattern was probably ideal for me.  I really do well learning in a clinic when I can watch the trainer give multiple lessons so by the time it’s my turn to ride, I am very familiar with the trainer’s style and the theme that’s emerged for the clinic.  In fact, if I had to choose between just riding or just watching, watching would be better for me.

The Solution:  The beauty of my current relationship is that we began with open communication.  After sharing my thoughts, we have agreed to go back to 2 lesson blocks so we both have time to discuss and then practice the topic.  And, I will provide a short read-ahead for my trainer so he knows what I’ve been working on and how it’s been going from my perspective.  This allows time for my trainer to think about some exercises that will be most effective.  So, of course, we still look at the horse/rider that shows up to the lesson but we have a framework.  And, if we are not able to pursue the planned lesson, then it is also productive to understand why and what was missing.  Looking forward to my next lesson.

Good Riding,

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

Out of the Saddle


















































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































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