Some riders think dressage is not for them. They think it’s boring. But the fact is, if you want to enjoy your horse more, you can’t do without it. Dressage is useful. A supple horse is more fun to ride. What’s the fun of hunter trials or even a simple hack if the horse pulls your arms out all the time? Or he doesn’t react to your aids?
Eventers and showjumpers are doing dressage all the time, only they call it flatwork. Actually, it is very much the same. In the end it helps them to jump higher and better. And it prevents injuries.
A showjumper may not care about a perfect half pass, but if he can make his horse go sideways on a slight touch of his leg, he can correct him easily if he’s going for a fence. And a supple horse will be able to jump higher.
Dressage is an exciting game
I want to explain to you why dressage is not boring. If you know what you are doing, if you understand what’s going on and you know what to do to improve the riding, it becomes a lot more interesting. I want to teach you to think about what is happening, to find solutions by doing exercises that help solve the problem, or even inventing new ones, so your riding becomes even more fun. ‘If you can’t go through the front door, try the backdoor’ said a very wise instructor to me once. I never forgot. If you see dressage as an exciting game, a puzzle to solve, an hour in a school will go by before you know it. And in the end you will have a healthier, more supple horse.
Dressage isn’t about riding competitions, although they can be a lot of fun. Riding a test is just ten minutes of the lifetime you spend with a horse. Competitions should not be a purpose in itself. If you train your horse the right way, you go out there to get a second opinion, to find out where you stand. It should help you to learn what’s going well and what needs some more work. But it is not necessary to go to competitions to enjoy dressage.
If you do go to a competition, always remember riding is about having fun. Don’t let your ego take over. Don’t go if you can’t do the required movements at home. It is not going to happen by miracle, especially not when you feel some tension because you know deep down inside you are not able to do a certain exercise. Stay home and train until you can. So you can go out one day and show what a great horse you have.