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7 Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your Dressage Lesson by Dr Cesar Parra

Every rider, no matter what level of expertise, can benefit from a professional lesson, especially with the right preparation and attitude. These tips will help make sure your sessions are as productive and enjoyable as possible.

1. Ask what the lesson will entail

It’s always advantageous to know what the lesson will entail ahead of time. Don’t be shy to ask the instructor what will be covered, how much time will be spent on certain exercises, and what fitness level is expected of both you and your horse. You should especially do this if you’re working with an instructor you’ve never taken a lesson from before.

If after hearing more about the lesson you worry that the level of exertion and expertise required are either too much or not challenging enough for you and your horse at your current state, you can communicate this to your instructor and he/she will be able to adapt the lesson plan to your needs ahead of time.

2. Prepare

Make a checklist of everything you need to bring with you, and gather it all together ahead of time. Make sure to inspect everything as you pack to make sure all is in good working order.

A few hours before you go, check the local weather and traffic conditions. The last thing you want to do is ruin your lesson because you were too cold or hot to focus on the tasks at hand.

3. Arrive early

Dressage requires a certain level of relaxation and poise. You aren’t going to start the lesson off in the right state of mind if you’re rushing to get everything ready at the last second. Plan ahead so that by the time you arrive at the facility you have plenty of time to spare.

This will also give your horse more time to adapt to new surroundings if you’ve travelled with your horse to the lesson. At a minimum, give your horse 15 minutes of between getting ready and starting the lesson. This will ensure that you and your horse are ready to go right at the start time, saving you from wasting the first bit of time getting ready. Remember, your instructor will not compensate by allowing the lesson to run late; this would disrupt the rest of the days lessons.

4. Warm up

Arriving early has another perk: it allows you time to warm up. Warming up before your lesson will help you and your horse get focused, as well as give you time to evaluate any immediate issues you notice that you might want addressed during your lesson.

5. Don’t set unrealistic expectations

While you may feel eager to conquer new challenges with each lesson, if you haven’t mastered the basic steps and transitions that came before, you’re not ready to move on. Your instructor will progress the lesson at a pace that matches your ability to learn, perform, and master. A good instructor will never rush through steps just because you want to try something new or more difficult. Each move in dressage builds off of the foundations of what came before it. You’ll need patience and perseverance to succeed.

6. Ask questions

Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification on anything you don’t understand. You’re not going to perfect anything if you don’t understand the mechanics of what you’re doing. While some of us shy away from questions out of fear of sounding silly or being judged, you’re going to get the most out of your lesson if you take full advantage of your instructors expertise. Towards the end of the lesson, check in to see what you should continue to work on alone before your next lesson.

7. Practice on your own

Practice shouldn’t be limited to lessons. If you don’t apply the things you learn on your own between lessons, you’ll likely forget them by the time you get back on your horse next. Commit to a regular practice schedule and stick to it.

Final Thoughts

Practice makes perfect, but making sure you’re capitalizing on your practice time to the best of your ability is what’s going to push you to that next level in dressage.