Now that I've gotten that first post out of the way, I figure I should explain who I am, my situation, and what I'm hoping to accomplish here. That blank sheet of paper just makes things all the more difficult, it seems.
My name is Corey. I am 23 years old, I live in North Dakota, and I ride dressage.
I haven't always lived in North Dakota. I grew up in Oregon where I started riding with an amazing dressage trainer and was very active in my local Pony Club. I attribute a lot of the independence that allows me to keep training and trying to the education that I got from Pony Club, along with a very large chunk of my general equine education. When I was 18 I went to college in North Carolina, studying Therapeutic Horsemanship at St. Andrews Presbyterian College. While I was in school I got to ride every day, learning everything I could from the school's dressage horses and instructors. I rode on our Intercollegiate Dressage Association (IDA) team and managed to qualify for nationals once. By my senior year I was apprenticing as an instructor for the lower level dressage lessons and was officially the assistant coach for the team. I was also teaching plenty of therapeutic riding in the Ride-Like-A-Knight program and earned my registered level instructor certification. I graduated with big plans and grand dreams which, for one reason or another, haven't panned out quite like my fantasies. Those are stories for another time, though.
After graduation, I caught up with an old friend from high school. He was returning from his first deployment and changing duty stations from Yokota, Japan, to Minot, North Dakota. One thing led to another, and this is apparently an old flame that never really died. After almost a year of long distance while I bounced around trying to find the right job, I made the decision to join him up North. My plan was to find a job for now, buy myself a young horse and start training. I was hoping I could find a few clients just to keep me sharp in that direction, but mostly I decided I needed to focus on my own training for a while.
Come to find out, there isn't any dressage in Minot, North Dakota. The few people I've met while here who even know what dressage is usually respond with "A dressage rider? What are you doing in North Dakota?" Not particularly encouraging.
Nevertheless, I was determined. As soon as I managed to land a job in the cake department at a local grocery store, I started my horse hunt. My budget was limited, and I knew the chances of finding something that was actually bred for sporthorse disciplines was slim to none. After a little searching, I stumbled upon Indigo, a 4 year old paint mare. She was green-broke to ride, well put together, and had decent movement. She was also very sensitive and had an the intelligent attitude that I thought could really make her sparkle in the show ring if I could get her to want to work with me.
So that's where we are. Indigo and I have been together for about a month now, and I've been riding her for about two weeks (had to order a new bridle, the one that I've used on all of my thoroughbreds up until this point didn't quite fit and the tack stores around here give me funny looks when I ask about flash nosebands). We're still working out a lot of young horse kinks, like the whole bucking thing, but we're getting there.
What I've found disturbing while looking online for support in my journey to train my horse is the incredibly elitist can't-do attitude coming from a lot of dressage riders. So many people seem to think it's not even worth bothering to try to train an off-breed horse by yourself. What? This can't be right. There has to be other people like me who, for one reason or another, don't have access to the fanciest horses and the highest quality training. Whether it's that you can't afford to put your horse in regular training, you don't live near any quality dressage instructors/trainers, or you simply aren't interested in showing but you enjoy riding dressage for the sake of dressage (dressage is derived from the french word for "training", you know), I don't think you're alone. I think that there are a lot of us out there who may not fall into what has become the stereotype for this sport, but who are still soldiering on teaching our own horses about contact and impulsion.
So this is my journey of "DIY Dressage". I'll be recording my adventures with a confident and self-possessed little mare, as well as my quest for further knowledge on training her and bettering myself as a rider. I'll also be looking for ways that I can cut costs without compromising quality, and things that I can make or build myself whenever possible.