Learn how to structure your dressage training for your horse to help develop them correctly. Learn daily schooling ideas and weekly schedules.
In this article, I’m going to share with you some tips on how to structure your dressage horse training so that you can improve and achieve your dressage goals.
Dressage is one of the most beautiful and challenging equestrian disciplines out there. It requires harmony, precision, and finesse between the rider and the horse, often referred to as ballet or gymnastics for horses. It takes a lot of hard work, dedication, and a solid training plan to master dressage.
Step 1: Structure a dressage warm-up
A good warm-up will be based upon your horse’s current strength and skill level. Start with a 15-minute walk to allow your horse to relax and loosen up. Then, progress to trotting and cantering, gradually increasing the intensity and duration of each gait as the horse warms up.
Step 2: Train the dressage basics
Start with simple exercises such as circles, serpentines, and direction changes to work on the basics of rhythm and suppleness. These exercises will help to improve your horse’s way of going and continue to warm them up
You can also work on transitions between gaits, which will help to improve your horse’s impulsion, balance and strength. As well as their reaction to your aids.
Step 3: Focus on structured dressage movements
Once your horse has mastered the basics, it’s time to focus on specific movements. If you look, through your dressage test book you will discover the different levels of dressage. Each with progressively more challenging movements.
Begin with running through a basic level one, prelim test and gradually move up the levels as you feel your horse develops. Each level adds in new movements to test and develop their strength. Find a test that sits around the level you feel you currently are, and learn the test movements patterns.
Then practice those test movements and patterns. See if you can discover your weaknesses and where to spend more time developing the strength and skill required.
These movements might include leg yield, shoulder-in, haunches-in, half-pass. Each of these movements requires a specific set of skills and techniques, so taking your time and working on them gradually is essential.
If you’re not sure how to ride or train these, this is what our entire site is dedicated too.
Learn exactly what goes into training these movements and how you can apply the exact structured system to your training at home.
To work on these movements, start with simple exercises such as leg yield along the wall, shoulder-in along the quarter line, and haunches-in along the wall. Once your horse has mastered these exercises, you can progress to more advanced movements. But never underestimate the power of working on the basics.
Good dressage training structure will continually adjust according to your horse.
Always looking for feedback from your horse and ensuring they are happy in their work.
Step 4: Incorporate Collection and Extension
Collection and extension are two essential elements of dressage that requires your horse to use their body in a specific way.
Collection refers to your horse’s ability to shorten their stride while maintaining impulsion and balance.
Extension refers to your horse’s ability to lengthen their stride while maintaining balance and energy.
To work on collection, start with simple exercises such as transitions between gaits and circles. These exercises will help develop your horse’s ability to shift their weight onto their hindquarters, which is essential for collection.
To work on extension, start with exercises that lengthen and shorten your horse’s stride. These exercises will help to develop your horse’s ability to maintain their energy while lengthening their stride.
Step 5: End with a Cool-down
Once your training session is complete, it’s important to cool down your horse. This will help prevent muscle soreness, reduce the risk of injury, and help your horse recover from the workout.
A good cool-down should include at least 5-10 minutes of walking, stretching, and relaxing.
Step 6: Consistency is Key
To make progress in dressage, it’s essential to have a structured training plan, follow a consistent routine, and train your horse regularly.
Be patient and give your horse time to develop and learn. In Vanessa’s free guide, she shares her exact weekly training schedule and how this changes for each horse depending on the level it is at.
You can download her FREE Guide here
Step 7: Listen to Your Horse
Listen to your horse and adjust your training plan accordingly. If your horse is struggling with a particular movement, it may be necessary to go back a level and work on the fundamentals that build upon each other with each new movement.
If your horse is tired or sore, it’s important to take a break and allow your horse time to rest and recover.
Step 8: Seek Professional Help
If you’re new to dressage or if you’re struggling with a particular movement, it may be helpful to seek professional help. A qualified dressage trainer can provide you with guidance, structure, feedback, and support.
Find a highly recommended trainer, or reach out to your local dressage club and find out who your local trainers are.
With the power of online now though, don’t just settle for the closest person, get the best trainer you can and one out there doing it. This is why we love the power of online training. No matter where in the world you are based, you can gain access to professionals. People who truly are masters of their craft.
Vanessa has spent over 10 years training with the best in the business, and being in New Zealand didn’t stop that. Dressage doesn’t have to be isolating, you can get the support and guidance you need to excel with your horse.
Discover all the top tips, from how to build your dressage training structure, warm-up exercises, how to teach your horse new movements and even how to overcome training issues when things don’t go to plan.
In Vanessa’s online program, you can access over 4 hours per program, 16+ hours total across all four of her programs. You get to watch exactly how she trains young four year olds through to advanced and Grand Prix horses.
Check out all her online programs here
Want to learn more about dressage training structure or how to get started with dressage? Check out these articles.
We also have our sister site, Dressage Rider Training. Here we dedicate a whole website and training system to helping you as a rider. Learn all about rider fitness and uncover the four key elements to our DRT system.
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