New dressage rider

Hello! Brand new dressage rider (switched disciplines)
Do you show in white polos or bare legged? I have a baby who I’m raising carefully (straight lines in the canter, emphasis on being straight…) and hopefully will be doing some hill work when the ice goes away.
Anything anyone could tell me about the “culture shock” of changing to this discipline? Also I’d love all the videos you can send of training level tests/ tests in general. Also all the pictures please.



You are not allowed any leg wraps or boots in dressage competition.


Absolute must is to read the rule book for your area so you understand what the permissable tack / attire is. Google USDF Dressage Rules


Make use of Youtube for videos and Google images for pictures…

As suggested above, please read and familiarize yourself with the rules. If you have questions about any of the rules, we are more than happy to help clear things up.

The “culture shock” would depend on what your former discipline was.


Assuming by the question/s that you are not using an instructor?
Maybe consider working with one that is actively showing, with students that are doing well, that can show you the ropes to give you a firm start.

No need to reinvent the wheel, your horse will thank you. :slightly_smiling_face:


What discipline are you changing from? For example, if you’re coming from Eventing, there’s very little difference from the dressage phase there. But if you’re coming from Hunters, welcome to the wonderful world of ride times and rhinestones!

A coach/trainer should be walking you through most of the basics before showing. You can also go watch or even volunteer to get a feel for how it works and how horses/riders are actually turned out in your area.

There are TONS of tests on YouTube. Including some with comments/scores included, which might be helpful for you.


check your rules for the canadian federation

The USA (USEF) rule book for dressage is almost a dressage 101 and very detailed including, as mentioned, permitted tack and attire. If I understand the rules in canada are much like the US but best check with your federation.

agree with others that it is a good idea to try to get with a Dressage trainer for guidance and fellowship.

Overall Dressage tends to be more laid back. when you have a ride time you are able to plan your day backward and be efficient with your grooming tacking and warm up. There is less hang up about conformity attire " the latest thing" and more focus on just riding and presenting the horse. Some people are flocking to the more relaxed attire rules, others will stay with their black coat and white breeches simply because they know , it does not matter.


Here’s the Canadian rules:


I have an instructor but I’ve only had three lessons with them. I’m sure they’ll walk me through this stuff come show season but I’m just excited and want to know everything :slight_smile:


Hunters!! Haha! I’ve had a few lessons at the local dressage barn now (will be trailering in my baby eventually) and wow sitting in the saddle is very different but AWESOME.



Wonderful, you are on your way now.
Picking brains is lots of fun, plenty here to pick.

Dressage basics will really help any riding, are a great foundation for any horse or rider, if nothing else extra skills to cross train, always helpful.

Best luck to you forward.


If you showed hunters you’ll have experience reading show rules and can compare/contrast better than someone who has never been to a show in any discipline.

All your hunter clothes will be fine in lower level dressage tests. No leg coverings and tail not braided. But honestly your first biggest challenge is going to be learning to sit the canter, lots of hunter riders only know how to ride on forward seat.

People do switch between them constantly (eventers) and I think both dressage and jump seat are strengthened by that.


You can absolutely braid your horse’s tail if you want. You don’t see it often in the dressage arena, but it’s perfectly legal. A quote from the rule book:

Braiding of the horse’s mane and tail is permitted.

It’s best to read the rules rather than relying on internet strangers to advise you.

USDF does not make or enforce rules. USEF makes the rules. Here’s a link:


As someone who has done both (and is still doing both with my young horse!) it is a BIG change. There is a lot I like about showing dressage, #1-5 being RIDE TIMES. You know exactly when you’ll be going in the ring, so you can plan your day out according to that, no waiting and waiting and waiting. It makes it so much easier, especially if you’re just trailering in for a one day or schooling show–if you’re lucky you can be in and out in a couple hours instead of all day waiting around.

Your hunter show attire (even field boots!) is totally fine to start off. In a lot of ways, I think now dressage attire tends to be a little more open to rider preference versus the more uniform hunter look you see now (it did NOT used to be this way–when I was younger dressage was all black and white, while there were a lot more colors in hunters with patterened coats and matching shirts etc). You will probably want to invest in fullseats for schooling and showing though–IMO as someone who switches between jumping and dressage saddles regularly, while I absolutely can and have ridden in my dressage saddle in kneepatch breeches, that fullseat grip works as an extra reminder to my muscle memory/brain to keep my bottom in the saddle and not revert to half-seat.

Braiding is also so much faster and easier. I can do dressage button braids in less than half the time it takes to do hunter braids. I refuse to do the unicorn forelock thing though and do a regular hunter-braided forelock :joy:


Ditto what someone else mentioned about YouTube. Lots of people post their show rides and there’s a plethora of training videos.

You’ve gotten good advice already so I’ll just add Welcome!

1 Like

I did the switch about 15 years ago. I strongly second the above suggestion to attend an area show before you actually enter one, first just to watch everything - spend some time at warm up rings. Note how ring steward tells people when its almost their turn. Spend some time watching tests, particularly at the lower levels. Check out the “outfits”. Look at all the different ways people braid. Watch the protocol - when people enter ring after prior rider finishes. The salute action at beginning and end. The bell or whistle which tells you the judge is ready and you have (I think) 45 seconds to begin your test. And so on.
Volunteering can be educational but it would be, IMO, better just to watch at first. You will be a better volunteer once you know what is going on…


Hey there! So you can warm up in polos which a lot of people do but no you cant actually show in them. I didn’t experience “culture shock” it was more of an eye opening experience as in how much I didn’t know and if anything I was even more exited to learn!
There is the link to the tests.

Or boots. Most people I know warm up in boots, if anything at all. They’re much easier to take off quickly, and offer more protection than polos, which offer little or none.