Keen to have a go at Dressage training in West Sussex, but don’t know where to start? We’ve got you!
1) Choose your Dressage horses for sale in West Sussex wisely
When you are starting out in dressage, it’s important that you are paired with the right horse. Reliability is the key here. You need a horse that isn’t going to be too nervous, sharp or fizzy in the warm up or in the arena — after all, you want your first experience to be a happy, confidence-boosting occasion.
In terms of size, you want a horse that is compact and not too big — he should fit you. He also needs three correct paces — a good walk where you can pick up a lot of easy marks, a correct and rhythmical trot and a rhythmical canter that doesn’t turn into an irregular four-time gait.
You definitely don’t need to spend thousands of pounds on training when you are starting out in dressage, although you do need to have a basic understanding of what the judge will be looking for. That way, you can set your own personal goals.
Your current instructor will no doubt be able to help you here. Once you have become hooked on dressage, you may then need to think about investing in lessons with a flatwork professional, but it all depends on what you are trying to achieve.
3) Start with unaffiliated dressage
Unaffiliated competitions are a great place to start if you are new to dressage. Such fixtures are generally low key and friendly and having a positive experience will boost your confidence. However, all venues are different and to familiarize your horse beforehand, especially if he lacks experience, it may be best to attend a clinic there or hire the arena for an hour or so.
If you do well in the basic tests at unaffiliated level, that will give you an idea whether you are ready to progress to affiliated competitions. However, don’t have unrealistic goals for that, as the judging will be harsher.
4) Choose quality dressage clothing
If your horse is comfortable and can use itself in your current general purpose or jumping saddle then it may not be worth investing a lot of money in a dressage saddle for the time being. As you progress and do more flatwork, though, a dressage saddle will put you in a better position and will also give the horse more freedom to move through his shoulder.
Another important item of tack is a well-fitting bridle, which, like everything else, should always be clean for the competition. I also use white brushing boots while my horses work in, but if your horse isn’t used to these, avoid putting them on for the first time at a competition.
Buy the best-quality riding clothing for yourself that you can afford. A smart navy or black show jacket or a showing jacket that is neat and fits well will do the job nicely. Personally, I prefer white breeches, but others favour cream or beige. Gloves, plus a tie or a stock with a pin, finish off the look nicely. Your own personal presentation says a lot about the time and care you have invested in getting ready for this fixture. First impressions do count.
5) Follow the British dressage rules
There are several things that you aren’t allowed to have at a dressage competition, such as a martingale. Brushing boots, which can be used for warming up, should be removed once you have finished working in. You can ride your horse in a fly veil if the tests are held outside, but ensure that he has no ear plugs underneath.
Bitting is a complex issue, so check BD’s rules if you are heading for an affiliated competition, or the show’s own rules for unaffiliated competitions. For a horse with no issues, my preferred bit is a thin, plain loose ring snaffle with a lozenge, which is kind on the mouth and well within the rules of any show.
Be courteous at all times — even if you don’t agree with your dressage mark, the judge’s decision is final — and ensure that you are on time. If you arrive very late, you will probably be eliminated.