This blog has MOVED!

Please visit for the most updated content. All these posts and more can be found over at the new URL.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Why I'm loving Dressage

Dressage seems like the complete opposite of Endurance, but I think that is where it's strength lies. It's the perfect cross-training sport for Endurance

1. My horse is not getting sweaty but I'm building strength anaerobically. Endurance is mostly aerobic (and usually very sweaty!).

2. Trail riding can be technical, but I haven't ridden any trail, Tevis included, that required the focus and precision that riding a 20 meter circle correctly requires. I think this mental focus of dressage will help Farley stay mental sharp and fresh, even when doing technical trails or longer rides such as 100's. I'm exercising her brain!

3. I'm building muscle that will allow her to carry herself better up and down hills. It's hill training for those of us that don't have hills! I couldn't believe the amount of effort it took for her to carry herself correctly at the canter on a 20 meter circle. It's sheer strength.

4. I'm giving her a chance at a better life if I can't keep her. Not only is she is safe and sane 100 miler horse (and yes, she will be), but she can do 1st and 2nd level dressage (and yes, we'll be doing that too). How many horses out there can you say that about?

5. I may not chose to ride in dressage position on the trail, but at least I can make a conscious choice on my position based on reasons instead of "I can't help that this is how I ride".

6. I think 2 or 3 different activities with Farley is good for us both. For me it prevents burn out and lethargy. For her, it will keep her mentally engaged and learning (important for arabs especially).

7. I think there are some misconceptions regarding endurance in the dressage/traditional english world and vice-versa. Farley is a sweet, willing mare whom I think could be a good ambassador.

Does anyone else have any thoughts? Anyone else have a favorite cross-training activity for an endurance horse?

This will be my last post for ~2 weeks. I'm going on vacation - a real vacation - to Nebraska to watch the National Cavalry Competition. No computer, no internet, no phone, no else (person or human) to have to care for. Bye for now!


  1. I agree, dressage is extremely beneficial for endurance horses (plus horses in ANY discipline). To me, it's crucial that a horse learn to carry themselves balanced and efficient, and there's no better cross-training discipline than dressage to help.

    I find my dressage lessons take more out of me and my horse than trotting down a mountain trail for the same amount of time. It requires a lot of focus and precision from both the horse and rider. I feel that the two disciplines help each other out a lot.

    I'm glad that you and Farley are having such a wonderful time and learning a lot. To me it only gets more fun as you progress into learning lateral work and increasing collection.

    I love to see the change in a horse pre and post starting dressage basics. In my own horse, the change was tremendous in a period of a month, and only got better the more we incorporated it.

    I love dressage because it's practical wherever you are, as you trot down a wide trail, why not throw in a few leg yield strides as you go for fun? Or practice your transitions? That way you're still out having fun, but you can toss in some fancy moves and really tickle yourself with how good a team you've become.

    Have a great vacation, you deserve it!

  2. Wow...have fun on vacation! The USDF did an article last year on the cav competition and what great fun it is! As for dressage and endurance...I actually know a lot of riders who do both in my area. One does well over 1,000 miles a year, and while she has not shown dressage I have watched her lessons and she is a solid 2nd level schooling 3rd. Another just found endurance a few years ago because she was sick of just riding in circles as she said. Now she and her horse have never looked better in dressage and she is even trying for the WEG endurance team! I am going to be helping out at my very first endurance ride (is that what you call it?) Nov 1st. It is only a 25 mile ride, and I cannot get there until the afternoon, but I am really looking forward to learning at least a little bit about it. I always wanted Gen to do endurance, but obviously that will never happen. Who knows, if I have a lot of fun helping out my poor fat spotted pony and I might have to train to do the 25 mile ride next year.

  3. yup.. i did /do dressage lessons with gazi and it's good for body, mind and spirit.. for both of us :) and while you're not in saddle as long as a trail ride sometimes.. tis a workout like you say

    happy trails

  4. Though I'm not trying dressage (just don't have the right gear all mine is western) I'm finding lessons to be very challenging, mentally focused, and much more interesting than I would have expected. Mel, my instructor had us doing repeating circles last week, and it was very difficult, so we have been working on getting "bend" here at home. It is a refreshing change for me after doing nothing but beating down the trails hard for the last couple of years. I have so many things to correct that I have to THINK all the time, I'm lovin' it! ~E.G.

  5. I agree that dressage is the VERY BEST THING for cross-training an endurance horse! Also, although I don't love dressage, my mare does. I think she gets a sense of accomplishment from learning and perfecting her circles...and of course, cantering in a circle is HARD!!!

    BTW, Endurance Granny, I take my dressage classes in my endurance saddle (a Specialized). I rode in my old dressage saddle while the Specialized was being built, and my posture and position improved *dramatically* when I started doing arena lessons in the endurance saddle that was built to carry me properly for 100+ miles!

    There are quite a few folks doing "cowboy dressage" these days, so don't count yourself out just because you love your western saddle >g<

  6. I'm currently doing the dressage in my endurance saddle by arabian company. it looks english, but it's definately not a dressage saddle. It's working out just fine. If I was taking lessons on Minx I would ahve probably used my Mcclellen. I think the concepts in dressage could be used with any saddle that fits the rider and horse and puts the rider in a balanced position.

  7. You're also both learning how to position yourselves correctly, as well as building a GREAT level of communication.

    Plus, if done right, the dressage can be used like physiotherapy for your horse, building up muscle in ways that other styles never come close. I've seen horses who couldn't carry a rider due to poor muscle come totally around after dressage - and that was started from the ground.

    Dressage is a great cross trainer.

  8. I board at a barn that has several endurance riders (and hopefully me again soon too). We all cross-train and do dressage, jumping and some reining to keep things mixed up. We stay engaged as well as our horses.
    It's great way to keep the horses in shape during winter too.
    With my older horse that I do dressage with, sometimes when she gets too speedy on the trail, if I collect her up and put her in a dressage frame, it mellows her out and keeps her mind on something else.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.