Only stable in the Clarksville area where students have the opportunity to learn on upper level dressage horses
Perhaps in Europe it is not so difficult to come across school masters, but in Tennessee it is very rare to be able to learn on horses competing in upper level dressage. Often riders try to progress in dressage with their own horses who are new to dressage. Unfortunately, it is almost impossible for these riders to move up the levels, because they don’t know how it should feel; the blind leading the blind. I noticed a remarkable improvement in my riding after a six month stay in Portugal where I rode almost only advanced dressage horses. Serendipity Stables has four horses capable of showing at 3rd level, one of these has shown at Prix St. George and has an easy piaffe and passage.
Sometimes explanations are not enough for the student to understand what is wanted. I will demonstrate movements on my horses while I give a lesson and explain exactly what I am doing every step the horse takes so the student can have a clear image of the movement and how it is achieved. If the student is riding their own horse and having difficulty I will swap horses with student so that they can learn how it should feel on an experienced horse and I can train their horse. Once I feel that both horse and rider have learned the exercise then I allow the student to ride their own horse – this time with much more success in the exercise.
Dressage involves focus and tremendous amount of ‘feel’ for the horse. Even if the rider mechanically applies the aids correctly if they are not thinking about it the right way or are slightly tense they may not get the desired response from the horse. I try to use descriptive images to get the rider’s body to do what the rider wants it to do. Sometimes saying “relax” is just not enough, but if I say “imagine your legs have grown so long they are dragging in the ground” it might allow the rider to stop gripping with the leg, allowing them to find a deeper, more secure seat. (I highly recommend reading Centered Riding.) I have recently made a notebook on dressage which contains many images to aid the rider in finding the right ‘feel’ of a certain movement, so just incase describing an image isn’t enough I can show them the actual picture.
I am crazy about horses and love dressage. I want every horse-enthusiast to be able to experience the joy of dancing with a horse, only thinking what would they would like and the horse achieving this effortlessly.
Any Horse Can Learn Dressage
Most trainers agree that dressage is beneficial for any horse (which is true); however, most reserve the upper levels for warmbloods alone. I believe the average, backyard horse can reach Prix St. George and possibly Grand Prix. I have worked with horses naturally built hollow, downhill horses, horses with long backs, horses with small hindquarters, and horses with a variety of other reasons why some trainers would say this horse could never be a dressage horse. I am currently showing these ‘disadvantaged’ horses in upper level dressage and they are winning. The loose, swinging movement desired in dressage comes naturally to warmbloods, but changing a smaller moving horse into an expressive dancer is one of the most rewarding processes I have ever felt.