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pjrush

Wp To Dressage?

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I recently bought a Western Pleasure trained mare that I would like to retrain as a dressage horse. She is a very sweet horse that is easy for me to ride. She is very responsive and willing which is the one of the reasons I bought her. She has not been worked regularly and is out of condition. She was shown at one time as a HUS. The person I bought her from was riding her in a Tom Thumb (groannnn!). Fortunately, this young woman had very kind hands and stayed off her mouth.

I have two goals 1) to get her back in condition and 2) to get her used to contact again. Until I know this horse better, I hesitate to introduce her to contact under saddle (my momma didn't raise a fool!) I am using the Korsteel version of the Herm Sprenger Ultra KK Egg Butt Snaffle. My solution has been to start with very light longeing sessions. I am using a leather longeing cavasson with the KK-type bit and side reins very loosely at this stage, so that the only contact on her mouth is what she takes herself.

I started last week with 5 minutes of walking in each direction and then 5 minutes of trot work in each direction. The trot work I break up with walk-trot transitions. I did this for three days and then gave her two days off with the intention of starting this week with three on and two off until I have extended the working time in each direction to a total of 10 minutes (20 minutes total). At the same time, I am increasing the time, I want to add more contact with the side reins so that the transition to riding contact is gradual.

The first three days were uneventful. Toward the end of the third session she was starting to relax into a training level frame on her own. Am I on the right track? Is this going to be too much longeing?

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it could become boring if you keep doing the same thing, and especially if the sessions become longer as you have planned. i'd change it up if i were you, put down obstacles like cavellettis, set up a slalom line with little cones and start ground driving. i like spaghetti and meatballs, but if that's all i ever got to eat and more and more of it, by the fifth day i'd be pitching a fit.

you can also take her out of the arena, up and down hills (great for condition). have her back down a hill as well as go forward (also great for teaching her to watch where she's going and to pick up her feet). circle around trees, step over fallen branches, go through ditches, look for the most irregular terrain you can find. i think a good rule of thumb is that if what you're doing is fun, interesting and challenging for you, it probably is for her as well. (and this will get YOU fit too LOL).

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Nick-

You answered my question! I was concerned about having these sessions become boring as I condition and acclimate her to contact. I have done some ground driving, but not much. Starting in the arena might be a good option before taking our show on the road. I welcome other suggestions too!

Thanks!

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A horse will seek a certain amount of contact and typically go down and on the forehand if you allow it, but remember everything you do is training of the horse. Certainly you are not going to want to "crank" the contact up; however, even if you treat this horse like a green horse, trotting the horse around in loose side reins isn't going to do much of anything, as the horse isn't going to working really anywhere. You need to have the side reins at least where the horse has contact with the side rein; however, the caveat with that, is if you do not have the experience with them, you need someone with more experience to assist you. The logic behind this being that your horse is not going to learn or understand contact, until it experiences consistant, correct contact, but the key word here is consistant AND contact--it has to be there. The horse has to be correctly round for this to have the correct effect.

I completely agree with Nick--taking the horse out and varying the work is so important when you are doing your training. Getting and keeping the horse mentally fresh throughout both training and retraining is something that you have to keep in mind. You have nothing if you do not have a fresh and eager horse. Trotting hills, hacking out is fantastic for the horse's mind. Each of the horses here typically goes out in the field after work and is out of the ring totally at least one day a week. When my horse is home, he trots hills for fitness and for fun.

From bringing up both re-trains and younsters, I just cannot see the purpose in easing into contact unless it is to ease your mind or unless your hands or bad. Mostly, if you start where the horse has true contact, it is not a big deal to the horse.

And with riding, a person with good hands is not going to hurt a horse's mouth. The horse should "bite down" and take the contact nicely. For example, when you pick a horse up from a free walk it ought to come right onto the bit, nice and round and while perhaps the rider may need to half-halt, or two to help, but then the rider can release and the horse marches on nicely w/o the rider hanging on the horse's face, all the time the contact remains established. Contact is not about a hard hold, or a hard hand on the face of the horse. If you have that feeling with the contact it is incorrect. The horse must be soft, like a nice gentle handshake, and be responsible (within the rider's guidance & riding--balance and half halts) for holding himself up. The reins are not a 5th wheel for a horse.

In the directives of Training Level it says the horse must accept contact of the bit, so the horse is going to have to be round.

Certainly, if you want to make the change gradual, and your reason are because she was a western pleasure horse, that is certain plausable enough. Her being a riding horse as opposed to a green horse; however, should give you a headstart and you should be able to move along quite nicely. Do, however, if you do not have experience with sidereins get assistance, and certainly if your work is confined to the arena or to longing, move out and do some of the work suggested by Nick. It is very important to the horses mental well-being.

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My concern is to make the transition gradually - new bit (Tom Thumb to my KK), contact (none to light), new environment (recently moved to new home with me), change in equipment (Western to dressage) - alot of changes all at once and she is still young at 6 years old. So, those is my major concerns - not to overload her with too many changes at once.

I am familiar with side reins, so I am not concerned about that, but again I don't want to ask too much at once. My instructor cautioned against doing too much with her too fast because she isn't conditioned to work the way I normally do - an hour to an hour and half with the usual warm up and cool down periods at each end. So, I am wondering how slow or how fast to proceed. It's been awhile since I've worked with a young one... I really appreciate the input!!

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I think she should be used to new equipment and a new place within a couple of rides. A week max. It's not that different- still a girth, saddle, bridle, rider. And she is 6, not a total baby. I would introduce a light following contact and working gaits from the beginning.

I also think an hour to an hour and a half rides are too long. I once heard, "if you can't get what you want in 45 minutes, it's unlikely you are going to get it." Lessons for me may be an hour, but a lot of walk and talk about theory. My personal rides are 35-45 minutes, including walk and warm up, but not walk cool down (10 minimum). The younger they are, I tend to keep it closer to the 35 minute mark. Not much attention beyond that, and they get tired.

Are you just longing? Or longing then riding? With the young ones, and learning about contact, I would longe with side reins both ways, walk and trot only, then hop on and ride for about 15-20 minutes, working on forward, steering, and a steady soft feel of the mouth. Then hack around a pasture or something.

So basically ditto what nick and PMJ said.

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That's sort of what I am doing now. Last week it was just three days of short longeing sessions and then the weekend off. This week, short longeing, maybe 5 minutes of walk-trot transitions in each direction, then in the saddle for 15 minutes or so at this point. I want to build up the time in the saddle. She is out of shape having not been ridden much in the last 3-4 months. Three days on and two days off.

When I rode today, I had moments (maybe a couple of minutes) of calm, following in a training level frame, then she would get fussy about the bit and toss her head up and down - I pushed her forward, then she seemed to settle again. So that is my strategy for now... when she starts getting fussy about the contact, just push forward. Is this the correct tactic to use in this situation?

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Couple of minutes is good! I remember when I had my first STEP on the bit with my youngest TB. Then the next day, it was a couple steps, and went from there.

Forward is good, just don't push her beyond her balance. Use your judgement, it seems pretty solid and I think you have the right ideas.

Any pics or videos?

I love taking pics of the youngsters because they change so much and so quickly.

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Here's a link to a video of her former owner riding her, Western natch:

When this was taken, about three weeks ago, Annie hadn't been ridden in 3-4 months and had never been in this arena until they hauled her there for the video. She pretty much takes everything in stride - except her new bit and contact...

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