From Pasture to Performance: Alexa Derr’s Training Tips to Keep Your Horse Happy and Willing

Alexa Derr and Versace Competing in the Dressage at Devon CDI-U25 Grand Prix in 2017.
Photo: DMD Photography

Alexa Derr is a rising dressage star and the owner of Vue de Lou Dressage, based in Reinholds, PA. A United States Dressage Federation Bronze, Silver, and Gold Medalist, Alexa has competed at the FEI levels since 2013. She represented Region 1 at the North American Junior and Young Rider Championships (NAJYRC) in 2013 and placed sixth at the Festival of Champions in the same year. An inaugural member of Lendon Gray and Dressage4Kids Winter Intensive Training program, Alexa is an active TEAM & Dressage4Kids ambassador. Fresh off a successful year competing Versace at Grand Prix, Alexa shared her best training tips for keeping your horse happy and willing!

Alexa Derr and Diablo Schooling in the Maxtra Half Pad.
Photo: Stephani Bann

  1. Horses need to feel comfortable in their tack in order to perform at their best. Reduce concussion and saddle slippage by using the Maxtra saddle pads and half pads for every ride!
  2. You should have a plan before you get in the saddle. If your horse comes out feeling great and your plan is accomplished in 20-30 minutes, end the ride and go for a hack or make a big fuss so they know they did something great! Don’t feel that every ride needs to last 45-60 minutes. You’d be surprised just how happy this type of routine makes them.
  3. If you’re working on a difficult exercise with your horse, immediately give them a break by letting them stretch in the trot or canter before trying it again.
  4. Whenever you are stuck on something, take a moment to breathe and go for a canter or hand gallop to get their minds refocused. Once they are happily going forward, bring them back to the movement and try again.
  5. Don’t forget to praise your horses! You don’t always have to make a huge fuss, but praising while they are in the middle of mastering something difficult goes a long way.
  6. It’s important to keep work fun for horses. Changing the scenery by taking them out on trails or hacking in the fields will not only make them happy and confident, but also help strengthen muscles you may not be working in the arena. I am also a fan of pole work or jumping depending on the horse.
Categories: From Pasture to Performance