Growth Comes from the Bravery to Keep Learning

Beginner Riders

Have you ever tried something new? Do you remember the first time you got on a horse?

Starting anything new for the first time can be challenging. You’re nervous and scared. You may even be afraid you will mess up. Dressage is no different. It’s hard and takes time to learn, to become proficient. Even after years of riding, you may not master dressage.

What is Dynamite Riding Academy’s number one tip for new riders? Don’t give up. No matter how hard it seems, and it will seem hard, keep riding! We are here to help you and support you. You simply need to keep showing up.

Beginner RidersDressage is not an easy sport.

But if you love horses and riding, you can accomplish your goals. All it takes is a little hard work. Too often, people want the easy way out, but we know the easy way never gets us to our goals. Think about it, does the quick fix diet work? Does one weight training session make you strong? Nope. You need to work on those continuously to see results. Dressage is no different.

According to author Maxwell Gladwell in his book Outliers*, it takes 10,0000 hours to achieve greatness in any area. It’s a good book and theory but deals with exceptional people in their chosen field.
Have you spent that much time learning dressage? Probably not. By no means does this mean you can’t accomplish your goals. It doesn’t mean to give up on dressage. Instead, it is a means to keep moving forward and keep practicing! It takes time to become great at anything, not just dressage.

If you love horses and aren’t afraid of hard work, keep showing up!

One day everything will click. You’ll get it. You’ll be out there scoring over 70% on your dressage tests. You will be having fun and maybe even helping others reach their riding goals. You can inspire the next generation of riders to keep going.

Remember, hard work pays off. Don’t give up on your dreams, even when it seems impossible.

How do you stay motivated to keep pushing forward in your lessons?

*Jenna is an Amazon Associate and may receive a small percentage if you purchase through this link.

What is Dressage?


I may help Heather with photography, social media, and her website, but I know nothing about riding. I couldn’t tell you the difference between dressage or western. I figure there must be others out there like me and some of them want to learn what dressage is or maybe why they should learn dressage. We get to learn about dressage, and you don’t have to do any of the heavy lifting because I did all the research! You get to sit back, sip your favorite beverage, and learn all about dressage!

Merriam Webster defines dressage as the following:

-the execution by a trained horse of precision movements in response to barely perceptible signals from its rider
-the word dressage is French and means to train or drill.

Think of dressage as a foundation. Any rider can benefit from starting with dressage. If you are unsure which direction your riding will take you, starting with dressage is beneficial for both horse and rider.

dressageThrough dressage, your horse can become more athletic and more disciplined, and you’ll become a better rider. It will help develop your horse’s gait and responsiveness. You will improve balance and create a unique connection to your horse.

Learning the Basics

The pyramid of training is a great framework to progress through dressage. The base of the pyramid is rhythm. You may or may not go sequentially through the pyramid, but it is more helpful to build your training and experience. The pyramid is as follows:

Rhythm – energy and tempo
Relaxation – elasticity and suppleness
Connection – acceptance of bit through acceptance of aids
Impulsion – increased power and thrust
Straightness – improved alignment and balance
Collection – increased engagement, lightness of the forehand, self-carriage

A handy brochure can be found here.

The Test

Dressage tests are a great way to check you and your horses progress. You will be competing against your self to get a better score each time. The tests are done in an arena that is 20×40 (or 60) meters with letter marks at certain spots in the arena. Riders do a formalized sequence and a panel of judges rate horse and rider on a 0-10 scale. To move to the next level, you will want to achieve at least 60% on your tests consistently.

There are several levels in dressage:

  • Training Level
  • First Level
  • Second Level
  • Third Level
  • Fourth Level
  • Prix St. Georges
  • Intermediare Levels
  • Grand Prix

I hope you enjoyed this introduction to dressage! We hope to do more articles on the training pyramid, dressage levels, and various aspects of testing!

What level of dressage are you?

Interested in buying a horse to be able to advance in dressage? Check out our post on buying a horse and get your free worksheet for when you start looking!

Top 6 Tips When Buying a Horse

There is a lot to think about before purchasing your first horse. It’s a considerable investment for a lot of people, and you want to make sure you’re getting the right fit for your family and the horse. Dynamite Riding Academy has put together this guide to help you find the perfect horse for you!

  1. Research – talk to people. Start with your instructor. Ask what they would recommend for you and your needs. Ask other horse friends what they think would be a good horse for you. Make sure to tell them your history with horses. Have you had lessons? If so, what kind and for how long? Is the horse just for you or do you have kids that will be riding too? Head over to google and check out different breeds of horses.
  2. If you aren’t taking weekly lessons, start now. You will need to know how to handle your horse.
  3. Figure out your financial situation and if you can really afford everything that comes with a horse. Maybe once you look at all the costs you decide leasing a horse or joining DRA’s co-op is more for you. Expenses can include board, lessons, competitions, Ferrier, vet, tack/equipment, feed/supplements, bedding, and other miscellaneous costs that tend to pop up when least expected.
  4. Found a potential horse? What should you look for:
    Size – can you mount and dismount with ease? Where do your feet hang?
    Breed – of course, DRA thinks you should get an Arabian, but we know breeds are different so make sure you find the one that’s right for you!
    Age/Experience – find a horse that has the experience you want. Do you want to compete? Find one that has shown. An old mare may seem best but if she’s never been trained now is not the time to start!
    Gelding or Mare – Geldings tend to be less moody and more reliable.
  5. Go meet the horse! If possible, take someone with you like your riding instructor or a trusted friend with equine experience. Be sure to handle the horse on the ground. How does the horse react? Are they calm? Will they let you approach and remain calm for grooming? Ask the seller to ride first. If they won’t, it may be a red flag. Make sure to ask about the horse’s history. Trust your gut on the seller and horse.
  6. Lastly, buy your horse! Be sure to have a vet check out your horse before finalizing the sale.

Get your printable Guide to Buying a Horse to keep track of your notes and options!

Top 5 Reasons for Your Child to Ride

There are many benefits to riding. Besides giving your child something to do, besides bug you, they can learn a new skill and make new friends. But these two are just the tip of the iceberg. We’ve come up with our top five reasons for kids to ride. Read on to find out what we think are the most important reasons to ride.

  1. Boost Confidence
    Learning a new skill is a crucial way to boost confidence. With every lesson, your child will build upon previous lessons. At Dynamite Riding, we pride ourselves on making every rider feel comfortable and welcome, which helps build their confidence. We praise riders when they do a good job and are gentle when correcting and teaching proper form. We won’t ever discourage a child that wants to ride. We believe in building kids up, not tearing them down. Children gain confidence every time they learn and conquer something new.
  2. Build Character
    Riding horses is hard. Sometimes you will fall, but at DRA we will help you dust off your riding pants and get back on the horse. We understand everyone struggles, and sometimes, we will even fail. We also know the critical part is how you respond. Character comes from these moments. Growth comes from making mistakes and learning from them.
  3. Teach Responsibility
    We aren’t going to get your horse ready or clean up after you. Owning a horse is a lot of work. If you want to ride, you need to know how to get your horse ready to go. You may even have to muck out a stall now and then. Teaching kids to help around the barn and horses is essential. It builds a work ethic that carries through to adulthood and into their chosen career.
  4. Relax
    Life is hard. Frequently kids are overscheduled or loaded down with hours of homework. Riding gives them a break. They have to put down the phone, stay off Instagram, and have a tech-free moment during a hectic week. When at their lesson they get to forget about their fight with a friend and connect to the horse. A horse who will love them even if they don’t wear pink on Wednesdays. In fact, adults could benefit from riding as well!
  5. Health & Fitness
    Riding is excellent for both your child’s mental and physical health! Horses can help reduce feelings of depression and relieve stress. Horses are very attuned to our emotions and can sense what we are feeling. Physically your child will get a full body workout. They need to have strong core muscles for balance. Their posture and balance will improve. Also, all the barn tasks (mucking, grooming, etc.) will give an excellent overall workout. Being fit and healthy brings us back to number one in building confidence.

What do you think is the top reason for kids to ride? Do you agree with this list or have a different suggestion? Leave it in the comments!

Meet Heather

Heather McWhorter is the explosive leader behind Dynamite Riding Academy. She truly believes horses can help heal and change lives. But who is she?

Heather is originally from Georgia (in case you couldn’t tell from her accent). She basically grew up in a barn, riding horses. She still remembers the first time she saw an Arabian. It was love at first sight. Heather was eight years, and the horse was all white (grey) & her name was Lacy. She was the most incredible & perfect creature. Lacy was kind & personable; regal & bold.

It was this moment she realized life was going to be dedicated to those incredible creatures.

She was the poor kid at the barn. Her parents couldn’t afford the kind of money horses required, and she had to work her butt off. Heather was cleaning stalls, scrubbing buckets, feeding, lunging, grooming, whatever was needed just to be there and learn. Eventually, her trainer hired her on as a groom. Instead of spending her hard earned money on CDs (remember those?), or going out with friends, Heather invested her money into additional lessons and clinics to learn from other trainers.

Often times, Heather had to travel over four hours to take lessons with other trainers. Eventually, she left high school and went to work fulltime for David Mikosz. He was the best trainer she had worked with and wanted to study his ways better.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t exactly what she had hoped for.

Mikosz told her she would never show any of his horses. At this point, she decided to go back home. Heather spent several years working outside of horses in the mental health field before finding her way back to them. Lucky for us, she found her way back to horses.

Now Heather’s dream is to make sure that everyone who wants to ride gets that chance.

She believes horses saved her and give her life meaning. She wants to share that with others. Heather’s focus is on beginners because she knows how hard it is to see the superstars while you struggle to even get on your horse. She knows how essential the basics of proper form are. No one needs to feel stupid or down on themselves for learning. Students are trying something new and different and should be free of judgment. We all have attempted something new and failed. But what matters is getting back on the horse (figuratively and literally).

To quote Heather, “Horses taught me never to give up. They taught me to keep trying even when you can’t possibly think of a solution. Just keep working; keep going to the barn, keep taking care of the horses, keep striving to be better today than yesterday… as long as you do that, you’ll be ok… just don’t STOP. Even if you can only move at a snail’s pace, just don’t give up!”

Dynamite Riding Academy and Heather believe in being yourself, trying something new and failing. Yes, failing. Because how else do you get better?

Meet Your Lesson Horses

At Dynamite Riding Academy we have three fantastic lesson horses. You can’t go wrong with any of them. All are perfect for beginners.

First up, meet Omega a Bay Gelding. At 20 years young he has retired at the top. Omega is a multi-national & regional champion Dressage horse. He is trained up to the fourth (4th) level of dressage. (Mashant x ECatharine) 

Justice is probably the sweetest horse you will ever meet! He’s a chestnut gelding, and former main ring Hunter Pleasure Scottsdale Top 10 winner as a Junior horse turned Dressage Horse. Despite being such a good lesson horse, his main ambition in life is cuddles. All the cuddles. Justice loves his mama. And he also loves his peppermints. (Justify x Secret Wish)

Melody is a gray mare with multiple regional and national wins! She was a National Champion Sport Horse in Hand Mare, Dressage type. Melody has shown to 1st level. Melody is currently staying at Bar A to help Missy! (MFA Hullabaloo x Final Khorus)

Who is your favorite DRA lesson horse, and why? Let us know in the comments!

Have your own horse but don’t have time to ride very often? Ask Heather about having your horse participate in our Beta Riding Co-Op Program. Great for busy-body senior horses still in need of a job, albeit a less strenuous one. Lots of love, fun & quality experiences await!


Where to Shop

Where do you shop for riding gear?

As a small business, Dynamite Riding Academy loves to shop at other local or small businesses. We love to support smaller and local businesses because we feel strongly about connections, family, and community. We strongly encourage our students, riders, and friends to support these businesses as well! Of course, sometimes convenience trumps all and we have to order online because we are so busy teaching!

Our favorite local places for our everyday needs is Scottsdale Livestock & Karsten’s Ace Hardware on Dynamite. They carry the important items that we need like hay, grain, supplements, first aid, farm essentials & grooming supplies, etc.

Tack Solutions , located in Phoenix, (but you can also shop online) is a great starter saddle & other tack spot. They offer consignment so you can buy & sell your essentials reasonably. You may also get some farm fresh eggs while there!

For online shopping we love SmartPak. They are the place to go for your horses need and you can also do a little shopping for your pup at the same time!

Although not a local place, it feels like it is: Schneider’s Saddlery. You can order everything you need there! Based in Ohio, they have that midwest friendly feeling to their website & their line of Ultra grooming products have been long time favorites of Heather’s.

We asked our Facebook friends for their favorite places to shop and put together a few more places for you to check out on your own!

  • Greenway Saddlery
  • Tack Et Cetera
  • Shopper’s Supply
  • Horze
  • Dover Saddlery
  • Dressage Extensions
  • PS of Sweden

Remember, we are here to help you. If you don’t know what to buy, be sure the ask Heather. She can help you figure out what you actually need to buy versus what places may tell you you need to buy. You don’t have to go fancy or expensive if you are just starting out. The key is finding items that you find comfortable and can wear/use while riding.

Where is your favorite place to shop?



Beginner Riders – Safety First!

Beginner Riders

Beginner riders should first learn safety.Beginner Riders

Safety for both our beginner riders and horses is something we at Dynamite Riding Academy take very seriously. We want out students to learn and grow without injury. We aren’t trying to be the “mean” instructors, although sometimes we may need to be strict. We get beginners may not have much experience around horses yet and that is what we are here to help with!

We require all beginner riders to wear safety gear including a helmet, long pants, and boots with a small heel (1-1.5″). We don’t expect you to spend hundreds of dollars on clothes for your very first lesson and will provide helmets for your first two lessons. You can start off in jeans if you don’t have riding pants.

Dynamite Riding Academy’s Top 10 Tips for Beginner Riders:

  1. When you first meet your horse, stay to the front. Approach slowly and with confidence and extend the back of your hand for the horse to sniff. Horses need to greet you, just like we do with other humans.
  2. The barn can be an exciting place to be but it is important to remember that horses can scare easily. Be sure to speak in a low calm voice and avoid sudden movements. THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NO RUNNING IN THE BARN.
  3. Hydrate – especially here in the desert. Our summers get hot and you can work up a sweat in a short amount of time. With the dry winters, you may not notice you are losing electrolytes so don’t forget to drink water during the cooler months as well.
  4. Ask your instructor! You may find you have lots of questions during lessons. Listen to your instructor and ask questions during breaks or at the end. You don’t want to talk over your instructor so always wait for them to finish explaining before asking your questions.
  5. Once on your horse, relax, remember to breathe, and watch your posture. Many beginner riders forget to breathe because they are so nervous. Keep this in mind and if you catch yourself holding your breath, release it! You should be sitting up tall with squared shoulders and heels down. Always watch where you are going, not your horse!
  6. Be sure to cool down your horse by walking for about 10-15 minutes or until the horse’s neck is room temperature.
  7. ALWAYS come to a complete stop before dismounting.
  8. Balance is extremely important in riding. A strong core will do you more good than gripping reins, saddle horns, or legs. Horses can sense your tenseness and any kind of gripping will send that message to the horse. Again, make sure you breathe and engage your core!
  9. Ride more than once a week if you want to improve and feel more comfortable. As they say, practice makes perfect!
  10. Lastly, and most importantly, HAVE FUN!

Dynamite Riding Academy Welcomes Beginner Riders!

dynamite riding academy

Dynamite Riding Academy is the go-to spot for beginners!

At Dynamite Riding Academy we pride ourselves on putting the rider first. Each and every rider receives personalized lesson plans. We constantly evaluate our students to determine their needs. We match each student to the horse that best fits their needs and riding level. We know not all beginners are the same!

dynamite riding academyOur goal is to make every student feel like a member of the family at Dynamite Riding Academy.

At Dynamite Riding Academy we strive to make every rider feel safe and secure. This is the reason we require helmets, long pants, and boots. But for us, safety goes beyond what you wear. Our instructors are there to make sure you are doing everything correctly from grooming to mounting to dismounting and everything in between to keep you and your horse safe.

We work hard to support your riding goals whether that’s to have fun and learn a new skill or to eventually enter shows and competitions. We are here to celebrate your wins, no matter how big or small and help push you through your struggles. We want to see you succeed and become your best self. If you are having problems with a concept or move, we will focus on it in your lessons until you are confident and comfortable with it.

Our goals are to make you a well-rounded rider. We want to give you a basic toolset to pursue whatever riding discipline you choose.

A solid base is always a great place for beginners to start.

Dynamite Riding Academy focus is on beginners, that is our specialty, but we understand most riders will grow and want to move up the ranks, which is why we partner with Missy Gilliland Dressage if you choose to advance your dressage skills. As sad as it is to see students graduate to a more advanced level we feel a sense of pride knowing we’ve given you a great base to work from.

We know many riders want to show or compete and we are working on several options to give our riders those options. We want you to show off what you’ve learned and how far you’ve come with your riding!

We hope you choose to ride with Dynamite Riding Academy and look forward to helping you grow.

Contact us today for a visit and meet our hard working horses.

Tell us, why do (or did) you want to learn to ride?