Dressage Training Articles

by Shannon Dueck

Shannon DueckShannon Dueck is a contributing author to the monthly ShowChic ChicTimes.

International Grand Prix trainer and competitor Shannon Dueck is a Pan Am Games Individual Silver Medalist, and has competed at both WEG and the World Cup Final. She has trained with Bert Rutten of the Netherlands, Kathy Connelly, Lars Peterson, Hubertus Schmidt, Robert Dover, and most recently, Wolfram Wittig in Germany.


Stretching Your Horse Correctly

It’s commonly heard in the first few minutes of my lessons both at home and while away at clinics: “Don’t let your horse fall flat on a loose rein and think it is correct stretching”. It’s commonly heard because it’s a common mistake. In an effort to warm up their horse correctly (haven’t we all heard we must stretch before hard physical exercise?) riders let their reins be loose and floppy and allow the horse to run on the forehand and/or lazily drag his hind legs through the footing for 10 or 15 minutes. [Read entire article]

The Importance of Ground Manners and Training

Most of my articles deal with the specifics of training a dressage horse: Shoulder in, travers, medium trot, In front of the leg etc etc. While I may have addressed how important consistency is in training a specific reaction, I have never addressed the need for impressing manners and respect on the ground with every horse long before ever putting a foot in a stirrup. [Read entire article]

How to Use Corrections Correctly

Every dressage rider I know would like to be effective while being affectionate to their horses. We all desire our horses to be wonderful dressage partners because they want to work with us, not because we make them. We don’t want force to be in our vocabulary, we are in this sport because we are passionate about having a relationship and willing partnership with this powerful animal. Unfortunately sometimes our desire to love and be loved by our horses diminishes our ability to be effective trainers. [Read entire article]

Travers (Haunches In For the Non-French)

Recently I wrote about the all important Shoulder In, which is, bar none, the most important exercise to be mastered. Right after this is the Travers (or Haunches In). I will guarantee that if you and your horse can master these two exercises in all gaits you can pretty much train all the way to Intermediare 1 successfully. [Read entire article]

Shoulder In: The Most Important Exercise In Dressage

If you have been learning dressage for any amount of time I know you have heard this phrase! Shoulder In is so important that I don’t even think of it as a movement anymore, rather it’s a way of riding. Being able to easily place and keep a Shoulder In throughout a movement determines how engaged our horse’s hind legs are, how mobile the shoulders are, how balanced they are on all four legs, and how easy it is to truly have them straight. [Read entire article]

Making the Most of Your Clinic $$$

During the heat of the Florida summer I travel all over teaching clinics - it’s my bread and butter when many of my clients head for more northern climates. I love teaching so it’s always fun for me, and it’s a great way to make new friends all over North America. As I sit in the Palm Beach airport I am musing on how riders can get the most out of their clinic dollars. Clinics are generally more expensive than regular training - if you are careful about which clinics you participate in and how you approach the lessons you can maximize your learning and feel good about spending this extra money. [Read entire article]

Training the Tempo

I have written in the past about the importance of a pure rhythm in the gaits of the dressage horse - a four beat walk, a two beat trot and a 3 beat canter. After teaching many lessons this past season on improving impulsion and engagement in my student’s horses I think it’s time to address the topic of correct tempo - which is crucial the development of any dressage horse, regardless of level of training. [Read entire article]

Korona The Schoolmaster

Korona owed me nothing as a teenager, together we had represented Canada at major games and competitions for years and he was trying his heart out at GP each and every time. He was a relatively normal mover (except for his brilliant canter), and I was trying too hard to make him into something he just was not. Some horses are meant to be 75% GP horses - if they are trained and competed by the very best - but most are not. [Read entire article]

Training Korona - in Europe

I left the column last month with Kees and I arriving at the training yard of Bert Rutten. I found Kees there as a three year old, and now we were both returning when he was just about to turn 10 years old. He was routinely achieving mid to high 60’s in international Grand Prix classes on the east coast, but we had always been told that the competitions in Europe were a completely different beast. [Read entire article]

Training Korona - Beginning Grand Prix

I came home from Holland knowing that our next competition would be Grand Prix. What is amazing to me now is that I had no idea what a big step it was from Intermediare 1 to Grand Prix, and that innocence is probably what got us there so quickly. We all know about Sport Psychology these days, but back in 1999 I had not figured out how important mindset was to achieving goals... [Read entire article]

Training Korona - The Middle Years

Korona arrived in Massachusetts at the end of August in 1997. Thank goodness he was such a good eater - the trip took over a week from Vancouver, and he still looked great stepping off the truck. A lesson I have learned over the years is that top competition horses should be good eaters and drinkers - picky horses tend to lose weight and condition during the stress of traveling, and I believe are more prone to ulcers and colic as a result of their anxiety... [Read entire article]

Training Korona - The Early Years

This month I am not writing a training article, instead I am going to tell you a little about my first and dearest International Grand Prix horse Korona. It is only a few months since I lost him, and I miss him terribly every day. He was an amazing horse and I hope his story will inspire you. [Read entire article]

Riding and Training the Walk

Does this sound like the most boring of topics ever? I hope that doesn’t turn out to be true, because correct training at the walk is pretty vital in good dressage training. I have been told in the past not to train the walk - advice I followed, and while I succeeded in not messing up the walk, I also found that I was unable to improve it at all, and I was missing a big chunk of knowledge that can greatly enhance a horse’s submission, throughness, and gymnastic ability in all three gaits. [Read entire article]

Stretching over the Back - How and When?

There is a stretchy circle at trot in Training and First Level dressage tests - this is designed to test if a horse is correctly working over the back and seeking the contact. This test of connection is incredibly important, and should never be glossed over or ignored in the complete training of the dressage horse. [Read entire article]

Leg Without Hand, Hand Without Leg - Concepts for Great Transitions

Transitions within the gaits are really important, but transitions between the gaits are usually more difficult and more revealing about the quality of your training. In hindsight this article should have been written first, but 20/20 and all that, right? [Read entire article]

Developing a Good Half Halt

I hear all the time that riding half halts correctly is the basis for training the dressage horse correctly, but I am going to take a step back from there and say that actually riding transitions well is the basis for training the dressage horse correctly. Learning to ride transitions teaches the rider what a half halt should accomplish, and performing good transitions ensures that a horse responds correctly to the half halt aids. [Read entire article]

Thoughts on Training with “Feel”

I have heard many people say that dressage training should maintain the purity of a gait, but I think it should do much more than this. A good trainer should be able to improve each gait with increased engagement of the hind legs, increased swing and suppleness of the topline, enhanced balance and lightness, and more cadence and impulsion. [Read entire article]

What to look for in a Dressage Prospect

I began writing an article about developing the gaits of the dressage horse (which is a big part of our goals in training), and then a better idea came to me - I should talk a little about exactly what we should look for in a dressage prospect. A kind of “Wish List”. There are three things to consider when choosing a dressage prospect: talent, soundness and trainability. [Read entire article]

Finishing the Single Flying Change ... Sort Of

Continuing on from last month’s article on starting the flying change, I decided to put my thoughts down about how to improve the quality of the changes. A good flying change is much more that switching canter leads. A good change has energy, balance, and throughness for expression. A great change is also completely straight, uphill and big. [Read entire article]

Starting the Flying Change

This movement really has the potential to separate a lower level dressage horse from an FEI horse. There are many instances of horses that never get a flying change confirmed, and without it they are a 2nd level horse forever. [Read entire article]

Training the 6 Year Old Dressage Horse Part one – Lateral Work

The past few months I have discussed training the young dressage horse from start to 5 years of age. The first two to three years of training build a foundation for every well trained sport horse. [Read entire article]

Training the 5 Year Old Dressage Horse

Continuing on from last month’s article on what we want a 4 year old to be doing, this month I am talking about what we should do with a 5 year old horse who is destined to be a dressage horse. [Read entire article]

Training the 4 Year Old Dressage Horse

I wrote last month about starting the young dressage horse, and the importance of a youngster getting a really positive beginning. But what guidelines should we follow and what goals should we shoot for with a 4 year old sport horse? [Read entire article]

Starting the Young Horse

It is a privilege and responsibility to train a young horse – this becomes clearer to me once again as I am the lucky trainer of a wonderful young Oldenburg mare named Ledajah. [Read entire article]

Recovering From Olympic Fever!

Wow, can you believe it’s over? It seems like the dressage world is in 2D again, rather than the 3D spectacle we have had for the past two weeks. [Read entire article]

I admit it: I’m Afraid of Dressage Judges!

Yes. It’s true, I am. They seem to have all the power to make or break my day, my week, my year! And for sure my husband Lorne is wary of what they can do to me, as he is the one who gets to keep me company after a tough ride or an unfortunate weekend. [Read entire article]

How to Be Successful in Dressage – Part One

This is a fun article that is a result of my talk at ShowChic in April – I spoke about my experience training with Carl Hester, but then the conversation turned to “How can we all feel successful in Dressage”. [Read entire article]

How to Be Successful in Dressage – Part Two

Last month I wrote about the importance of goal setting for achieving success in dressage. Goals are undeniably important for us – long term goals allow us to dream, short term goals allow us to achieve, and if you string enough short term goals together they draw us a map for our journey. [Read entire article]

How Fragile Horses Are!

I’m going to digress from a training article this month and talk a little bit about how fast things can go south with our precious horses. A healthy and sound horse is so powerful and beautiful it’s really hard to imagine them ailing or weak. [Read entire article]

Lungeing – How to Use it as a Training Tool

I love writing these articles, but coming up with a topic is hard for me. I asked around last week at the horse show for topics, and someone suggested lungeing. [Read entire article]

How to be a Good Trainer (Even if you can’t ride like Steffen Peters)

Last month I wrote about the benefits and pitfalls of full training. This month I want to write about how to keep progressing (or at least not regressing), regardless of how often you get coaching from your favorite trainer. [Read entire article]

Full Training – Why? Or Why Not?

I run a smallish training facility down here in sunny Florida. Because it’s a small private facility, all my clients are in training with me, but some are in full training and others are in partial training. [Read entire article]

What do we really mean by “Collection”, and how do we get IT?

I remember well my first attempts to ride collection when I was a teenager. I was moving up to the Medium level of dressage with one of my event horses (Medium is what Canada used to call 3rd and 4th Level) The level required “collected trot” and “collected canter”. [Read entire article]

Some Thoughts on Purchasing a Dressage Horse

I am not in the business of buying or selling horses, but I do have some good and bad experiences to draw on when I am advising people about spending their money and losing their hearts to a beautiful new dance partner. [Read entire article]

Training With Carl Hester – The British Perspective

I have been asked to expound on my experience this summer training with Carl Hester in Great Britain. If you are unfamiliar with Carl, he just got over 80% in the GP at the CDI5* in Hickstead with the lovely stallion Uthopia – and deserved it. His student Charlotte got over 77% with Valegro at the same show. [Read entire article]

What I learned in Great Britain Part 2

Last month I gave an overview of my time in England at Carl Hester’s gorgeous yard, and this month I thought I could impart more specific tidbits about horse care that I learned over in the Old Country. [Read entire article]

The Importance of Rider Fitness

Great dressage riders and trainers may have different training philosophies and different strategies when it comes to their horses, but all of them have one thing in common, and that is a high degree of personal physical fitness. [Read entire article]

Are You Drilling the Movement or Developing the Movement?

What is the difference? Drilling a movement has negative connotations, because much of the time riders and trainers are repeating a poorly executed movement over and over again. [Read entire article]

Can I Learn How to Ride Dressage from Online Videos?

I have often been asked this question, my opinion is both “Yes” and “No”. Full disclosure here:: I do have training videos on one of the popular websites, so that must mean I think they can be useful. [Read entire article]

Managing Soundness in Dressage Horses

For this article I am getting off my dressage training soapbox and getting onto a different topic – that of management to help keep our horses sound and performing well. [Read entire article]

How Important is Balance in Dressage?

The answer is easy: incredibly important. It’s crucial to all aspects of good dressage for both horse and rider. [Read entire article]

Use of Arms and Hands in Riding Dressage

It’s that time again, and I have been searching for a subject to write about this month. I hit on one subject that seems to come up again and again in lessons I teach – how to obtain the correct feel in the rein aids. [Read entire article]

Natural Horsemanship Vs. Dressage (or can we do both??)

There is often discord between so called aficionados of “Natural Horsemanship” (NH from now on) and those who love to ride dressage and love these big warmbloods. I think this is an unfortunate state of affairs, and in my opinion many people in all equestrian disciplines can learn a ton from the top trainers of NH. [Read entire article]

How to Make Your Horse “In Front of the Leg”

Last month I wrote about what we mean by the term “Forward” or “In Front of the Leg.” It doesn’t matter if you are walking on a long rein at the beginning of your ride or training canter pirouettes towards the end of the ride, if you are mindful of keeping your horse easily in front of the leg at all times every part of your ride will be easier. [Read entire article]