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At what age do most FEI/ Olympic Dressage Riders start studying Dressage?

I was just curious about this as I’m a teen - been riding for 8 years - but I’m just starting Dressage, and I’m wondering if (assuming I worked really hard, got really lucky, and somehow found a way to pay for tons of training and a good horse) I’m young enough to plausibly still have a competitive National/ International career - or at least to compete at Grand Prix Level.

What do you guys think?

Background question: When did YOU start riding dressage, and what are your aspirations in the sport?

I can’t answer your title question.
Why don’t you ask whoever you are training with now?

I started riding dressage over 25yrs ago & schooled my OTTB to 3rd Level before I stopped regular lessons & lost interest in competing.
Now I enjoy working with my current horse, who came to me with at least 3rd Level training in his past.
I am working with a trainer so he (horse) & I can get in sync. The recent direction to biomechanics is making both our jobs easier. Less really IS more.

I ride for pleasure and prefer doing clinics to showing.

Yes, you have tons of time to reach any of those goals. Debbie McDonald was 50 when she rode Brentina on our Olympic team. Read about her here: http://www.equestriancoach.com/coach/?tid=10
There are a number of nationally known riders who started dressage in mid-life and are still competing at what I’m sure you will think is an “advanced” age!
It takes a lot of time and dedication, the stars have to align and some good horse(s) have to be with you. And there are also life events that will have to be balanced along the way

I rode all my adult life, showed hunters for a while, did some carriage driving, etc. Took my first dressage lesson at about 50, competed at PSG about 7years later. Bought a younger horse that was ready to be a good PSG/I-1 horse, and capability to move on. Sadly she has had one problem after another - injuries, surgeries, layoffs and its simply not to be. So now figuring out the next moves…

Good luck to you.

You could try looking up people’s bios on line. I would say most people didn’t start heavily studying dressage until they were a teen or later. Occasionally you see a 10 year old that pulls off a nice 2nd level test (I’ve never personally seen this, but know they are out there), but “studying dressage” before your a teen gives a person very little extra help over someone that doesn’t.

Wasn’t Debbie McDonald in her 40’s when she did her first dressage test and obviously she’s been to two Olympics including being a medalist.

And then others will say they were on a horse before they could walk (but has that fall helped their dressage career?)

The oldest Olympian at the last Olympic Games was a 72 year old dressage rider, you’ve got time! :slight_smile:

Just off the top of my head, most seem to peak in their 30s and 40s, while plenty are competing at the Olympic level well beyond that. You are positioned very well, I think, in terms of your age.

Junior Riders and Youth riders are riding FEI level. If they can achieve FEI level at their age I’m sure you can with good instruction.


I will certainly ask my trainer once I find one… haven’t been able to find an Instructor with a Schoolmaster in my area.

Also - I’m really interested in equine bio-mechanics… any resource suggestions/ books I should read?

Don’t want to be a “Debbie Downer”, but finding a trainer with an upper level schoolmaster is possibly harder then riding a GP test. The few trainers I know that have school horses are lower level horses - Tr/1st, maybe 2nd level. If you want to work towards riding higher quality horses, the better route is to find someone that will take you on as a working student - and realize it could be a few years before you are on any of the higher trained horses, and you’ll spend a lot of time working on non-riding stuff - grooming, mucking, etc. Having said that - the more horses you can ride, the better your long term education will be.

Many International Dressage riders started in their adult life - some came over from jumpers or eventing.

There are a lot of good books out there - but books are just the start - you really need to see and feel real horses to get a true understanding of biomechanics. Just as you need to actually ride to learn how to ride - books are just a small part of the formula. Having said that, Mary Wanless is a good start for biomechanics - a little quirky, but a good place to start reading. And look for clinics, symposiums, etc - people like Heather Blitz are wonderful for biomechanics info.

Yes absolutely. “Schoolmaster” wasn’t really the right word… I’m just looking for an instructor with lesson horses that are proficient through third level. The trouble is that all the good instructors here will only teach you on your own horse and mine is ony barely rideable at the moment. Besides which I really would like to ride a variety of horses and not just my own…

First find an instructor that can assure you good solid basics, and explain why they are what they are. While it is hard to start with a green horse, depending on you and the horse things can move along rapidly, or not with good instruction.

Teachers with horses available at a solid second and third are going to charge you more because they have a lot of time and effort bound up in that horse.

To answer your original question, one of the most prominent, Robert Diver, started in early teens, was a graduate A in the USPC,which meant he was also very competent over fences, and began focusing on dressage in his late teens.