Obviously, no dressage-inspired blog would be complete without a lengthy ramble on “what dressage means to me.” Blah blah blah etymology training pyramid… Actually, my experience with Dressage-with-a-capital-D can be summed into three main chunks.
1. Pre-horse-ownership. I began my riding career with lessons at your typical hunter type lesson mill barn. Relatively speaking, I got a late start — my first real lesson at 13 — so I’ve spent my whole riding career beating myself over the head because so-and-so is X years younger than me and Y times more skilled, giving a self-esteem coefficient of negative one zillion. Pro tip: this is not helpful. Anyways, my riding at this barn, which we’ll call Barn F because I try to be a nice person and not name names online, largely consisted of put bridle on already-saddled horse, W/T/C/reverse/jump a line of Xes/your 30 minutes is up thank you see you next week. As such, I gained some decent basics, but not much else. Here is an approximate breakdown of my dressage experience at this point:
2. College. I spent a good 4 years as a PDCS (Professional Depressed College Student), so that left me plenty of time to read the entire internet and learn even more about this whole dressage thing. I also had a brief stint taking lessons and showing with my school’s IDA team. IDA = Intercollegiate Dressage Association. Where colleges compete in, you guessed it, dressage. Collegiate horse shows, if you are not familiar with the concept, involve getting on a horse you’ve never seen before and getting either 10 minutes (IDA) or zero (IHSA — hunt seat eq and Western) to warm up before entering the ring. Given that this was a) my first experience showing and b) my first time taking dressage lessons, it didn’t go so well. I looked, as one might expect, like a hunter rider being totally confused as to how she landed in dressage tack– not an inaccurate assessment.
My understanding of dressage thus became as follows: