Do horses 'enjoy' dressage?

Teddybully

Well-Known Member
Joined
17 September 2009
Messages
170
Genuinely interested to know what peoples thoughts are.

Having spent a brief time at a top dressage yard on livery (till I could take no more) I really felt a lot of the horses were just plain miserable.

Surely the majority of the moves required are totally unnatural to the horse and so I don't understand what the 'point' is of it all? Is it to show off what humans can make equines do with enough repetitive 'training'.

Most of the horses I saw were daily in draw reins (youngsters of 3 up) being 'made' to perform under pressure.

I'm probably talking the higher levels but while I understand riding in general may be seen as unnatural, if a horse would gallop and jump in the wild he must be happy to do it under saddle maybe a little - but dressage seems to me (not the first to say it) 'circus tricks'.

I'm posting so that my thoughts may be changed as I just can't help but somewhat dislike dressage. I show and do workers but have no issue with it - why is that??

 

Katie__Connie

Well-Known Member
Joined
5 September 2009
Messages
2,942
Location
Leicestershire
I was watching some dressage on tv a few weeks ago.. cant remember what it was from... but I was thinking the same thing.
I know making them jump etc is unnatural too but they seem to at least have fun doing it... ? Interested to hear others views
 

Moggy in Manolos

Well-Known Member
Joined
8 March 2006
Messages
12,705
Location
South Glos
It is amazing to see the partnership between horse and rider, it must take some serious work.
As to whether horses like it, I have no idea, I should think they would be happy in their lives without it, as with alot of the other demanding aspects of riding that we can ask of our horses.
 
Joined
27 November 2008
Messages
2,058
Location
Kent
No. Just doesn't give me the buzz I like of XC or hunting. I like to go fast, and jump big (where sensible of course, I'm not reckless!)
I can understand the point of dressage though. The moves are meant to mirror natural movements, in fact I saw a horse piaffe totally of her own accord today in the field, but I do agree that at higher levels it is sometimes distorted.
What I don't like is some dressage riders attitude, and interestingly I have experienced it most as a medium level of dressage. Some dressage riders will do nothing but school their horses, no hacking, no jumping, no variety basically. The thing I can't stand is when people refuse to turn their dressage horses out at all incase they get injured. I see it as very selfish, putting their own wants infront of the horses needs and desires. But, thankfully, I have only found this in a tiny minority of riders.
Although it's not for me, I understand and respect it totally, good on those who love it!

Edited to add: either I am going insane (quite possible!) or the title used to be do you enjoy dressage, as that is what I have answered! Anyway, the answer remains pretty much the same. Just need to add things in the first and last paragraph.
Para 1. No he doesn't, we both like to go fast and jump big, hence why we have bonded so well!
And last para, although it's not for me or my horse, I understand and respect it totally, good on those, both horse and rider, who love it!
 

rosie fronfelen

Well-Known Member
Joined
5 February 2009
Messages
2,430
Location
welsh hills!
do horses enjoy anything? do they enjoy flat racing- learning to jump off stalls, do they enjoy NHracing, being made to jump hurdles and fences? who knows- horses for courses, i say.
 

Taffyhorse

Well-Known Member
Joined
30 January 2009
Messages
808
Location
Surrey
Well I got my Sec D as a 9yr old and he'd done nothing. Since then I've been schooling him - we're only working at Prelim/Novice and hardly likely to challenge for a place at London 2012 but he loves it.

He's learnt basic movements like shoulder in, quarters in, leg yield and we started doing travers and half stepping. his attitude to schooling is brilliant and with each new 'move', once he's got the idea of what you want (he's a bit sensitive and can get worried if he doesn't understand) he really experiments with the movements - after he'd learnt shoulder in, he insisted on performing it almost everywhere i.e. turning down the centre line became 'no no no Mum, shoulder in down the centre line' or past a spooky object hacking.

I nuture this interest in him and don't put too much pressure on him or try to teach him too much at any one time as like I said he can be sensitive and I prefer to leave him hungry for more :)

However, I'm sure in some top yards where the horses are there to do a job rather than someones 'pet' (and I dont' mean that in a derogatory sense) or hobby its probably a bit different but as I haven't been on a top dressage yard I can't really comment.
 

carthorse

Well-Known Member
Joined
24 January 2007
Messages
11,555
Location
west mids
Rafi is good at dressage but enjoys jumping much more. He has a fun life as well as competing in dressage. He is turned out 6 hours a day with his mates and hacks out and jumps. I feel sorry for horses that have to stay in stables and then are just 'trained'. We don't use draw reins at all but know that loads of people do.
Unfortunately not everyone thinks their horse should have fun.
 

mainpower

Well-Known Member
Joined
30 May 2008
Messages
1,648
Location
Biggin Hill
If you show, do you not school? Dressage is training, just with another name. I do believe that top level dressage horses are put under immense pressure, but then I have known a top SJ'er to throw himself on the floor in his retirement home when he was asked to load into a lorry...
from my own perspective, I ride my horse at Elementary level, we hack and do a bit of low key jumping for fun, and when we "Enter at A" his ears prick right up and we often have comments such as "horse and rider enjoying each other and their work". So my answer is yes, I believe they can enjoy it.
 

Teddybully

Well-Known Member
Joined
17 September 2009
Messages
170
It probably was the time at the top yard that made me think more about it. Maybe it was more the lack of variety they had in their lives that made their daily 'draw rein session' seem excessive.

I've just never seen such 'sad' looking horses.

Yes Mainpower I do school and do use basic dressage moves to do so. Like I said I think I mean more the high levels of the competition rather than horses that are classed as 'pets' who have a varied life.
 

Roody2

Well-Known Member
Joined
2 January 2009
Messages
685
I think it depends on the horse and not just what the rider is teaching it/ asking it to do.

The YO where I am has an extremely talented youngster who very clearly relishes going in the school and showing off / learning new things. When he is not worked he is a pain in the backside and gets into all sorts of mischief!! In that respect I would say that horse does enjoy dressage.

However, I know of horses (including my old one) who hated it, couldn't stand going into the school and when at a competition would 'die' as soon as you entered the arena.

I do agree IME that some yards seem very regimented and don't always appear to give the horses the natural variety that most of us would want for our horses.

(just to annoy some people) have you seen Pat Parelli's wife doing dressage bareback in a halter on one of her horses - piaffe/passage etc. The horse must either be brainwashed
or enjoy it to some extent (preparing for the Parelli lovers/haters backlash now)....
 

Orangehorse

Well-Known Member
Joined
25 November 2005
Messages
11,657
Dressage in its purest form is supposed to develop the muscles and joints of the horse to enable it to carry a rider easily and to obey the rider's aids quickly and without tension. In theory a horse schooled for dressage should have a long and sound life.

Trouble is, once dressage stops being a end in itself and becomes a competition, the human angle takes over and it just becomes another way to win rosettes, hence the draw reins and other tricks.

As to if horses enjoy it - I guess some do. I once rode a horse that I was supposed to take hacking, which was a real battle, he would hardly put one leg in front of the other. "Some dressage horse" I thought, not exactly quick off the leg or moving forward.
Then I got to ride him in the arena - different horse that floated over the ground saying "don't I look pretty with my ears pricked and my toes pointed."
 

horsesfornow

Well-Known Member
Joined
31 December 2009
Messages
54
I have a ex dressage horse and you can't get him in a sand school he will start bucking but with hacking out he loves it.

I think all he ever did was dressage ever single day!!
 

not_with_it

Well-Known Member
Joined
14 April 2002
Messages
4,019
Location
Yorkshire
So have you never seen a horse passage in the field?
or even an extended trot? It is natural to them otherwise they wouldnt be able to do it at all.

I think it has more to do with how the horse is kept. If they are stabled 24/7 and only brought out to work then that is probably why they look miserable.

You say that jumping is natural but my horse hates jumping yet she loves learning flying changes and extended trot. She is happy and relaxed when working but then its only an hour out of her day, the rest of time she is playing out in the field.

I love watching relaxed horses listening to their riders.
 

Roody2

Well-Known Member
Joined
2 January 2009
Messages
685
just found this, not parelli but similar sort of playing - part dressage, part spanish riding school, part circus tricks.

Mostly done free from tack with the handler only carrying a stick.

I'm not saying this horse hasn't been schooled to death with every contraption under the sun - who knows how it has been trained!! But the first part does demonstrate what horses can do essentially on their own without a rider, double bridle or a pair of draw reins.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WifqrScyX...PL&index=50
 

bex1984

Well-Known Member
Joined
21 February 2007
Messages
5,745
Location
Leicestershire
My pony hates it. The minute he enters the dressage arena he switches off and makes it very clear that he is not having fun. However this is a) because he has to be in a snaffle, whish he is not happy in and b) because we only do walk and trot because he doesn't do left canter.

However, he enjoys schooling as long as he gets to do lots of different things...changes within the pace, transitions etc and he loves learning new things, at the moment he's learning leg yield. having spent a day watching elementary level dressage I could see him enjoying that because there's so much more for his brain to focus on (although we'd be rubbish at it...apart from we'd have no problem getting counter canter on the left rein


He enjoys showing and definitely shows off for the judge, I think in dressage he doesn't feel the need to show off because the judge is hidden away in the car!
 

Sol

Well-Known Member
Joined
30 May 2009
Messages
4,133
Location
Shropshire, England.
Depends on the horse, surely?
Do people enjoy dancing?
I don't... but I enjoy dressage!


I had a mare that never appeared to like 'dressage' but as far as flatwork, if you really got her thinking, she was very VERY capable and would do just about anything even as a 5yo.
I think it would be difficult to say that horses like Blue Hors Matine didn't enjoy it?
Even Totilas, despite showing some tension - how many people ride to enjoy it but still get tense?

I think a horse will get sick of anything if it does it day in, day out. Wouldn't you?
 

dwi

Well-Known Member
Joined
19 February 2006
Messages
4,510
Location
Middle England
Daisy doesn't at all. She will do it but its not her thing. She has the presence of a jacket potato as soon as you enter the arena like "Do we have to?"

She would much rather jump, her little ears prick up and she gets all excited.

That said, there was a horse on my old yard who did enjoy dressage. She was really built for it and just loved showing off what she could do.
 

soulfull

Well-Known Member
Joined
25 July 2007
Messages
6,507
Location
Staffs
I think same as people some do and some don't

Beacon HATED IT !! In fact it was more than that he REALLY HATED IT. One day I took him past the SJ to get to the DR I could see him looking at his legs with No boots, i'm sure he was thinking no way, we can't be, she knows I hate it. Got to the warm up area managed 2 circles in trot and he took off with me, ran past the dressage arenas straight back towards the yard LOL

I did try one more time after that in the indoor, he took off in canter 3 times and I ended up going down the centre line apologizing to the judge and leaving
I gave up after that. My average scores when I did manage to finish the test were mostly under 50% lol

So yes some really do hate it
 

rara007

Well-Known Member
Joined
2 April 2007
Messages
27,699
Location
Essex
TBH I'm pretty sure Pip ejoys dressage
He is only novice/elem but he does like showing off
No one tells him he isn't a big moving WB but a normal 13.3
 

sperks93

Well-Known Member
Joined
25 October 2009
Messages
88
Location
Gloucestershire
I was offered a working pupil position at a top yard, I went for a trial day there and I must admit I was a little taken a back by some of the horses' routine. One of the reasons I decided to stay at school is because the postion included livery for my own horse. Both my horses are dressage horses, one at Medium and one at Inter 1 and they both really love their work, but I think this is down to the way I keep them. They are turned out every day, (except cases of extreme ice) they have been out in the snow and mud! I don't school all the time, I have often have training, but I hack out too, when there is no snow they each get atlest 2 hacks a week. I feel it keeps them fresh and helps them enjoy life. At the dressage yard, they do no hacking, no turnout atall during the winter and only around 2 hours a day in the summer. I didn't really want either of my boys to be kept in this way as I think they'd hate it after the life they have at home. I must say though, when my trainer had her top yard, her horses were treated exeptionally. Big, light, airy barn, beautiful daily turnout and not to mension fab hacking along the cotswold way. I took one of my boys there for a training weekend and he loved it! My trainer, also a grand prix rider, is also against excessive use of draw reins and hates to see them used when they are not needed. So in some aspects TubbyTed, I guess I would agree but the majority of top riders take fab care of their horses, I know I do! I am a huge fan of the sport and I personally think that dressage is magical and I love every minute of it and the horses do too. I mean you only have to see the look on Totilas' face when performing and being applauded to see how much he loves it!

xxxxx
 

tabithakat64

Well-Known Member
Joined
16 October 2006
Messages
5,941
Location
Herts, UK
My cob enjoys basic school movements in walk and trot, collection and extension and lateral work apart from turn on the forehand and right canter when all the toys come out of the pram.
The cob I rode over the summer got so excited over schooling she'd jog the whole way to the school


I think most horses enjoy dressage/schooling as long as they are fit, healthy and trained sympathetically.
There are also those that enjoy showing off when out competing as others have mentioned.
 

TGM

Well-Known Member
Joined
3 April 2003
Messages
15,960
Location
South East
If done properly, horses shouldn't hate dressage at all. Unfortunately, however, to some people dressage means getting the horse's head down, whether that is by use of draw reins or sawing on the bit. Of course, if a horse is in discomfort during any activity, then he will come to dislike it.
 

Tiffany

Well-Known Member
Joined
25 October 2007
Messages
6,923
Location
Derbyshire
I'm sure like in competitive sport if the horse or person is trained correctly and fit enough for the job they'll enjoy it more.

Not all trainers train in the same way. I prefer the more natural and maybe longer approach although I'm not trying to make money out of bringing on, competing and selling horses. I haven't got the experience either.


I can certainly tell if my girl isn't enjoying doing something.
 

M_G

Well-Known Member
Joined
25 November 2002
Messages
4,473
Location
Nr Peterborough
Very good question... I think at lower levels yes the horses can and seem to enjoy it, but I have often asked the same question when I see the higher level dressage horses (they look dead in the eye, kinda switched off and with no interest) .. It makes me glad that I am just a numpty rider and will never be at the top levels
 
Top