There are so many training “methods” out there today, it sure can confuse most riders. My advice to you is to “put your common sense cap on.” Western Dressage is new and many clinicians are all about the subject so they can keep their business alive, or use it as way to bring in new income. I worry about some clinicians, as most don’t have any credentials showing horses, judging horses, or college degrees.
So, how do you get the right training and lessons to keep progressing in Western Dressage? I suggest that you find someone who has positive past credentials and has had experience showing horses that they have trained.
Also, find an instructor who has a passion for the horse and teaching riders. Don’t choose someone who teaches without a subject to the lesson and can’t explain “why” they are teaching you something. You have to be able to understand and recite back to the instructor what you got out of the lesson and why they taught you want they did.
A good instructor should always:
1. Teach with a clear voice and never shout or insult a rider.
2. Teach with a passion for the horse and always try to bring out the willingness in the horse by the rider ‘riding well.’
3. Be on time!
4. Never be talking on the cell phone while working with students or giving a lesson.
5. Have a lesson plan and explain the lesson at the beginning: what they are going to teach and why.
6. Have a summary at the end and ask the riders questions about what they learned.
7. Never do a lesson that is more advanced for riders so they fail at the lesson.
8. Never do the same lesson and use the same language over and over each lesson.
9. Have the arena ready with good footing for the horses and set with cones, jumps, obstacles or simply set for the lesson plan.
10. Speak loud and clear enough so riders can hear them.
After your lessons, it is up to you to be an independent student. You have do your homework. You must plan to practice, continue to learn through books or DVDs and follow the Dressage progression. Only read books or watch videos from top trainers who teach dressage principles and follow classical dressage, even if you ride western.
Dressage Principles are sound, logical, and proven training techniques that are universal and have been successfully practiced for centuries. No matter what breed of horse you ride, his level of knowledge, your level of skills or what saddle you ride in, you have to progress with your riding and the development of your horse properly.
Set goals and discuss them with your instructor. Between lessons you have to take your education in your own hands. You can achieve this by reading good books on training and becoming completely familiar with the dressage tests at your horse’s level.
Dressage tests are written with the systematic training of the horse in mind and are a great tool for anyone looking for practice, whether or not you actually show. Knowing your tests at your horse’s current level and the one above gives you a logical guideline for mapping out your schooling sessions. They help you achieve your goals because they are designed to move you up the levels systematically so you encounter the least possible amount of resistance from your horse.
Don’t forget to enjoy the journey! We have all had times where we feel that we aren’t making progress. At some point, we will reach plateaus and get stuck, making us feel discouraged for all our hard work and practice. A lot of riders get frustrated because they are at a plateau and they think they are not getting better. Trust me: at the plateaus you are still making progress while you are practicing! So rather then get discouraged, enjoy the plateaus. They are normal and a part of the journey to getting better with the sport. Only through practice and repetition during your plateau can you get to the next step.
Check out our books to help you practice and work your way through the levels. Have fun building yourself into the best student you can be for you and your horse. Don’t ever forget to video yourself riding as well.
Also, we would love to have you come ride with us. We love to share our dressage backgrounds and knowledge with you. You can join us at our Ocala, Florida, farm or at one of our Ride Well Clinics on our USA Tour at a location near you.
For more information on these training materials and more, as well as clinics, please visit www.lynnpalm.com or call us at 800-503-2824.
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This article was printed in Performance Horse Digest, Volume 9, Issue 1