western pleasure to dressage, 4 year old filly

Discussion in 'Horse Training' started by sarah_eq_1990, Mar 4, 2018.

  1. sarah_eq_1990

    sarah_eq_1990 Registered

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    Hi everyone, I am going to look at a 4 year old 16h double registered AQHA/APHA filly this weekend. Original bred to enter into a Paint Breed Futurity, but the owner had an extremely unfortunate health problem, and it didn't happen. She has had 60 days professional western pleasure training, then was hauled to some open shows and just rode around and was rode on and off at home. I saw videos of her job and lope from last year, then she sat all winter. Job was extremely slow, typical western pleasure horse and lope was much more forward, head a bit high, just hasn't slowed down yet into that western pleasure style. Now I would like to buy her and start her in some low level dressage and jumping training with my trainer. I want to do low level (training level, MAYBE 1st) dressage and short jumping, 3' would be maximum but probably not even that high. I also want a quiet dependable mount with a good attitude that can trail ride and is easy to maintain, thus my interested in a AQHA, I think it would be a fantastic breed for what I want. my real question is, how difficult do you think it will be to go to dressage training now that the filly has been started in western? I personally think that she is young enough and hasn't had enough training to make it really difficult or impossible, bu just looking for other opinions who have trained dressage horses before. Any advice or opinion is welcome, success stories even better haha
     
  2. slc

    slc Senior Member

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    It depends on your level of experience. How many horses have you switched over from Western Pleasure to dressage? And how much dressage experience do you have?

    Sounds like you already know the horse needs to move a lot faster in the jog, it needs to be a trot, and much more forward with a quicker tempo and a longer reaching stride.

    She also needs to take a contact with the reins, the contact is very different from in Western Pleasure. She should learn to do that in a couple weeks if you don't try to set her head or knock her off the bit. Let her pull a bit. Let her stick her nose out, forward.

    Cantering and trotting on trails, especially uphill, helps them to find that contact and open up to a longer stride. Expect her to put her head up, down and here and there trying to find out how to connect with that contact. The real key of course is lessons with a very good dressage instructor.

    Don't work the reins back and forth (left-right in quick succession), don't try to 'set' her head at all. Use a dressage-legal bit - probably a loose ring snaffle with a mouthpiece of average thickness, 3 pieces in the mouthpiece, the center piece being sort of a fat little pillow shape. Make sure your hands are very steady and quiet. Follow her head and neck motions with your hands at a walk.

    Many people forget about the walk, but the walk is really important and very different from Western Pleasure to dressage. In Western pleasure the walk tempo is extremely slow compared to dressage. In dressage she should walk like 'her tail is on fire.' Always think of the walk as a 'working' gait where you are trying to get somewhere. Really make it march along. Beware of making the walk TOO fast, as if yu do, the horse will stiffen up his back and get 'pacey.'

    Encourage her to take a big stretchy, long striding walk. You can use your legs to encourage a big walk by squeezing with your leg each time the horse's shoulder appears to come back toward you on that side. Use both legs - squeeze your left leg when the left shoulder comes back toward you, the right leg when the right leg comes back toward you.

    Since the horse already has her head up and goes faster in the lope, at least the tempo (hoofbeats per minute) is probably pretty good, but the balance might not be so good. A lot of Western horses that lope fast with their heads up are actually very stiff and poorly balanced at the canter. A good dressage instructor can help you there, and show you how to get your horse to 'stand up' at the canter by using your outside rein, inside leg and not bending his neck too much to the inside of the ring or circle.

    And incase this process is new to you, here's a tip - don't keep trying to get the horse to put her head down low. "Long and low" or "stretching" comes much later, and even then, is a brief exercise in dressage, not a constant position. It's only done for a few seconds, and then the horse needs to have his head back up.

    There will be a lot of figures to work on in dressage lessons. If you are new to dressage, get a look at the dressage ring and the letters, and get a look at a dressage book to see how to do your figures (circles, half circles, serpentines, etc).
     
    Last edited: Mar 4, 2018
  3. sarah_eq_1990

    sarah_eq_1990 Registered

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    Thank you for the advice! I have never switched a western horse to dressage, and I have only basic dressage training under my belt thus far (mostly hunter/jumper my whole life and would like to try eventing, thus the switch to a dressage/eventing trainer! I have insanely long legs and so far, I absolutely love dressage work, it lets me ride like I have always wanted to, with long legs and less forward body position. A lot of the more basic dressage concepts and figures I have worked with hunter horses before so the concepts and maneuvering are not new to me). I will be boarding and continuing to train with my dressage trainer, and might even leave my horse for 30 days with her for a basic training session before I even ride. Your right, the horses lope is unbalanced at this point in her training, the current owner says she is willing to slow down but she would rather keep a more forward pace, which makes her sound encouraging to me. I really wanted some advice and ideas if this was something that can be done or not before I show my trainer, I really like the horse but I don't want to waste anyone's time (or my money) having my trainer look at sometihng that wont make at least a decent prospect. Thank you!
     
  4. slc

    slc Senior Member

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    The trainer needs to get a look at the horse before you buy. She is not going to be a happy camper otherwise and if she's a good trainer, she'll have good reasons for not being a happy camper.

    She will need to look at the horse and see if the horse has some issues that might make jumping and dressage, even lower level work, very difficult for her(which means she won't stay sound for long) - these are:
    • A heavy front end build - this means the front legs that are markedly shorter than the hind legs, there's a deep, thick meaty shoulder, low girth line and low set neck with a lot of mass low on the neck.
    • A very straight hock, what some people call 'post-legged.' I'm seeing a lot of that when I look at horses
    • A 'stiff' hind quarter with stifle and hock set too far back, along with a steep short croup that is not flexible. Often seen with a rather long weak loin.
    • A thick, heavy, massive body and slender legs with small feet.
    How the horse moves is important. You can tell a lot by just watching the horse move when it's loose in the indoor arena, pasture or paddock - if the footing is good. Beware the horse that stumbles a lot, and beware the horse that has to chuck its head up abruptly to pick up a faster gait, or the horse that puts its whole neck down abruptly to stop.
     
  5. sarah_eq_1990

    sarah_eq_1990 Registered

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    Thank you, I'll keep this in mind, and make sure I get a few more videos to show my trainer.
     
  6. Alsosusieq2

    Alsosusieq2 Senior Member

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    Post some conformation photos and request vids of him walking/trotting on a lead. If there are some posted, my device is being wonky.

    Any sound horse can do dressage, it just depends on their conformation and natural gaits to a great deal, how talented they'll be eventually. The walk and canter you can improve, but they are the ones you're stuck with IMO.
     
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  7. EnglishRider234

    EnglishRider234 Senior Member

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    If the horse is western pleasure bred she may not want to or have the extension needed for dressage.

    My guys “extended trot” is quite laughable and I wouldn’t even attempt to show him English.

    A western show horse that has been trained properly will be extremely moveable. Shoulder, hip, face, any part of the body you want it can be moved. IMO you shouldn’t have a problem doing low level dressage as the basic body and speed control should be there. But if the horse is truly western bred you most likely will not be happy with the movement for a dressage horse.

    But, it totally depends on the breeding, conformation and movement of the horse. I am only speaking from experiences with true western horses I have had I the past
     
  8. StraightandTrue

    StraightandTrue Senior Member

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    I don't think you'll have too much trouble if you're only wanting to do low level stuff. 60 days of training isn't long at all so I'd just bring the horse on the way you would any green broken horse. The main areas you will need to work on are contact and getting the horse moving forward actively/with energy. You want the horse stretching forward into the contact, and stepping under and driving with his hind legs. But geez, if you're only wanting to do low level stuff and trails you should be able to do that on just about any horse and still have fun with it. Yeah, the horse isn't going to have amazing extension or floating movement that's desirable for dressage, but you can still have a go. Just bear in mind that even if you get this horse going at his best, you probably won't be competitive with the horses who are bred specifically to do dressage. As long as you're ok with that then go for it!
     
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  9. slc

    slc Senior Member

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    One very much needs the dressage horse to NOT be 'extremely moveable' in that way.

     
  10. slc

    slc Senior Member

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    There's no guarantee this horse won't be competitive.

    It depends on what 'competitive' means. Horses are not doing an extended trot at this level, they aren't even asked to do a medium trot. Many a class has been won on accuracy on a horse that 'doesn't have the amazing extension or floating movement that's desirable for dressage'.

     

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