Dressage Rider Training Reviews
Read these dressage rider fitness program reviews and testimonials below. These are from riders just like you who have completed the program and then sent me these photos and comments.
Hi Nicola, I enjoyed all the DRT programs you made because they had a good combination of different movements /exercises then conventional exercise programs. There was always something new to learn each time I participate. I also like that it is simple-3 days a week.
I gained more insight about my assets and liabilities when it comes to being in the moment. It was great to hit the pause button on your program and reevaluate what I was doing while performing the exercises. I learned that I can change and break down my patterns which will definitely help with my dressage journey. I also enjoyed reading about your own journey with life.
I liked the DRT3 program because of the myofasical concept which is atypical in most exercise programs. Exploring is important to me to help keep the mind and body fresh in learning.
I like your positive encouragement comments with some fun humor along side. The simplicity of the program is helpful in not taking ourselves too serious. This can make all the difference in our perception and interpretation of our journey with our horses. Thanks for all your hard efforts and I am looking forward to doing it all again.
Hi Nicola, the DRT program has helped me so much. I love how easily accessible the exercise videos are and it has helped me become more stable and balanced in the saddle. There is still more for me to work on (a lot more) but that’s what I love about this program, is that I can keep on going. The mindfulness, advice and articles are super helpful and I write down certain things that I always go over to remind myself. One of my favourite’s and definitely suitable for me:-
Don’t overthink it and definitely don’t let perfection get in the way of progress.
Thank you Nicola.
Have loved the DRT1 training program. Over the 12 weeks I have found myself becoming more aware of my body and my balance. My balance has improved out of sight and by doing the yoga regularly I am much more flexible. Can’t wait for DRT 2 to start.
I’m very grateful for the program, Nicola. The exercises strengthened my core and seat and I felt more balanced and connected in my riding. I would recommended DRT to anyone wanting to improve their strength in the saddle.
Hi Nicola,This is me and my 6yo mare Zara aka(big bird),
I have thoroughly enjoyed DRT1 and it has showed my weaknesses and what I needed to work on, not only has it made me stronger and made a big difference to my riding it has also helped with the back pain I have suffered with for years ! I think anyone that rides would benefit from this course.
This program has helped me not only with my strength, balance, flexibility and stamina but also with my confidence. I recently got back into dressage after 30 years of mostly trail riding. I was quite dismayed at how I’d lost muscle tone and balance. DRT sounded like it was just what I needed and it was! Sitting trot is much easier, my trainer constantly comments on how much my seat has improved and when my horse spooks and jumps a bit I don’t lose my balance but just keep on going. I plan on continuing with DRT2. I’m sure my horse appreciates it too.
Hi,This program was exactly what I needed! My core strength and flexibility have improved significantly and I feel great!
Thank you! Looking forward to DRT 2
Hi Nicola, Just wanted to say that the DRT2 Program has been really making a big difference in how I feel both mentally and physically. I felt the DRT1 program was great and I had noticed improvements with my posture and stability but the DRT2 has helped me improve even more. Even family and friends noticed that my posture has straightened and my stomach flattened. On my horse I have been more aware of noticing my body position and started really feeling my seat bones and how I was moving with him. I have also become more confident on my horse, I think because I feel more centered and my stability has improved. Thank you for this great program.
Hi Nicola, Thank you so much for your help through this program. The 20min workouts are super easy to fit in around work and riding and I’m definitely feeling more balanced and centered in the saddle. Thanks!
Hi Nicola, I was able to perform all of the workouts and exercises in the program with the exception of one. I’m still unable to kneel on the Swiss ball. I can maintain balance on all fours but am not confident to balance on my knees. On the last strength workout, I asked my husband to stand in front of me so at least I would know what it felt like and was able to balance for a few seconds. My new mission is to balance on that ball no matter how long it takes! I will also repeat all of phase 3.
The program has definitely helped me improve my balance and mobile strength. I was able to complete my regular lesson with my trainer without feeling overly tired. I now feel like I’m helping my young pony balance himself instead of hindering his movement. My seat is deeper and his canter departs are getting better. I’m excited about our progress! Thank you for a wonderful experience. Attached are some pictures of us.
Darcy Sun & Gus
Dear Nicola, Your program is fantastic. I always kept myself in shape, ate healthily and have a disciplined lifestyle. (obviously, its all because of the horse! hahaha). So adding your program, where you strengthen and keep flexible explicit, in favour of us crazy horse people and make us workout specific the muscles, we need for our sport, is a real treat! My balance improved. My strength and focus improved. I feel blessed to finally find myself in an awesome barn, with correct and horse-friendly training and a supportive team. It took a long time, and now, signing up for your program is the icing on the cake. Thank you so much for your passion, your love, your knowledge and for sharing it with us! I’m looking forward to DRT2!
I am much more flexible. I can use my legs and communicate more effectively with my horse due to this program.
I am an AQHA Select Amateur rider. This is a pic of my horse, KM BORN TO BE BEST and myself at the All American Quarter Horse Congress
The program helped me to reconnect with my body and made me mindful how to keep balanced and safe in the saddle.
I’m almost 60 and an “adult returning to riding” not fit and carrying too many extra Kg. The program helped me get stronger and fitter and with that came confidence in the saddle.
The things I said I couldn’t do, I am doing. Like going deep in the sea! Was too scared and unstable to do this before!
And even trying a little jump over a log! Amazing.
I’m more balanced in the saddle and in my everyday life with a skip to my step!
Nicola, This program helped me with my balance. I was leaning to the left in my saddle. The swiss ball is an excellent tool. I am only doing the low level work outs. I am 62 yrs old and am trying to get back some of my flexibility. I tend to get tension in my lower back. I am trying to do the stretches and strengthening excercises everyday.
Thanks for the program. I got the thumb drive so I will be able to keep doing the work outs. Pictured is me and Prince my 14 yr old quarter horse who was rescued from a kill pen, he is a lovely mover! I have had him for almost 3yrs. Thank you again,
“DRT 2 may have saved my life. Not in the literal sense, though I did stay on my mare during a big spook and I’m sure credit must be given to my better balance and strength. No, DRT 2 helped me through a breast cancer diagnosis and recovery. I got the diagnosis just before week 1, so it was several weeks before I was cleared to exercise. All I could do was breathe, which I’d learned to do very well through DRT 1! When I was finally able to get to the mat, I was anxious that all the good work of DRT 1 was lost, but that was not so. DRT 2 starts slowly, building (or rebuilding, in my case) on what went before. It took a few more than 12 weeks to get through it, but each week I felt my strength and confidence returning. Confidence in the saddle and confidence in the new normal of life after a devastating diagnosis. Do this program, no matter what your physical or mental health. An added bonus…through the Facebook group I found a cancer warrior sister who helped me through the whole dang journey and is now a friend of my heart.
Thank you, Nicole. You have changed my world.”
I have ridden enthusiastically, but poorly, all my life, and spent most of those years wishing I was a better rider. 18 months ago I stopped wishing, and started to do something about improving myself via the DRT programme. What a revelation, and how many years I have wasted!
I fell in love with Dressage Rider Training because of the philosophy and unique understanding Nicola brought out in all the exercises. It’s tailored for the rider. It allows me to go at my own pace.
I have only done DRT 1 and still only the first 4 weeks of sessions, I keep going back to and starting over and moving forward through again and again. It’s because they are what my body needs now and have helped me make the break through on the independent spine and seat that I needed now!
I am 58 years old, I do not compete. I am a full time IT Project manager and work in an office. I owned my own horse, Haze (you can read about us in the book The Breath of Horse Crazy: The Love Affair Between Women and Horses, Chapter – Baron’s Hazey Shade).
Haze had to be put down at 28 in 2016. I made a decision, along with my husband, that we would not buy another horse. My goal was to take lessons on various horses and gain the confidence to ride more than just one horse.
My first mistake was to think that continuing to ride would keep me fit too. I was “wrong” ! Dressage Rider Training program and Nicola’s insight into the body, the horse and our connection has shown me the truth in the phrase “Be fit to ride, not ride to be fit”. I currently lease a mare named Moose. She’s a thoroughbred / draft cross. She’s 15 years old, ex Eventer and was out of shape and came to our barn. I started DRT and began working with Moose and my trainer. My trainer noticed a huge difference in my strength, my independent seat and my balance ! I’d ridden 3 other horses for her over 4 years, but starting DRT and on a fresh new horse it happened ! My canter became more consistent. I now I have the ability to help Moose balance and move forward. I am no longer a rider that always interferes with the horses forward motion. I am learning to be a better rider to help the horse achieve a better balance and strength too ! I love not feeling like I am a burden now to be carried but that I can help lift the horse !!
Hello Nicola, I thoroughly enjoyed DRT despite painful arthritis. When the rider uses her core, so does the horse (even the fluffy pony). Would definitely recommend this programme xxx
For me DRT3 really consolidated all the DRT1 and DRT2 work along with challenging me that bit more. Its that step up and without 1 and 2 you wouldn’t be able to do it so helped me realise just how far I have come.
All 3 programs are worth their weight in gold. I started not having a core, let alone knowing how to engage it and use it effectively! The programs have not only helped me in the saddle but have also helped in my everyday way of doing the jobs that come with looking after a horse, property and household. Stuff is just easier. I feel stronger, stable and much more able. I noticed the difference after DRT1 and DRT2, but I feel that it is DRT3 that has really cemented all of that and made the biggest difference.
My horse, Declan, has been troubled with feet issues for the last three months & I’ve only been able to do light riding with him. But, in this case I’ve been even more glad that I’ve had DRT2 to keep me going & keep my fitness at least somewhat up! I think we have his feet issues under control & we are hopefully getting back into full work now. Even though he is out of shape, I am in pretty good shape thanks to DRT2 and so am finding it easier to help him work correctly again! So thank you so much for creating and sharing this wonderful program with us all!
I can’t say enough good things about the DRT program and creator/trainer, Nicola Smith. I’ve just completed the second level of the program, DRT2, and am ecstatic with my progress. My balance, strength and flexibility have all improved tremendously since the beginning of the program. The progress seen from the workouts combined with my weekly horse “homework” have transferred to the saddle and improved my riding. Being more balanced in the saddle with a stronger core helps my horse complete the tasks I’m asking him to do instead of having to work that much harder because I’m not doing my part. I feel strongly enough about this program that I think every rider should go through Dressage Rider Training, no matter the discipline. That being said, even though my original goal was to improve my riding when I started the DRT program, I’ve found the benefits of this program go much farther than the saddle. Daily activities have become easier and my posture has become so much better! Even if you are a non-rider, this program would be extremely beneficial – just leave the horse homework part out! Nicola’s instruction is fantastic and she has a way of correcting you at just the right time, almost like she’s right there working out with you. Finally, I live in a rural area and our internet service is not the best. I mention this because I love the fact that they understand not everyone in the world has the ability to stream videos easily and offer the program on a USB drive for people like me. I’ve purchased the USB drive for both DRT1 and DRT2 and it has been wonderful not having to watch that spinning circle waiting for a video to download.
I turned 60 in May, and you do a lot of reflecting at this age. For quite some time, I felt my riding was not progressing due to a number of issues both I and my horse were having. I was stuck in training level/ some first level work and I was not having much fun riding. It became work, an obligation. And I thought I was in shape, but clearly I wasn’t and I had to figure something out or I was never going to be able to move forward.
I came across DRT looking for exercises to help with a sciatica injury. So I thought why not commit to the DRT program and see what happens. I enrolled in the DRT program in May of 2019 and I can’t say enough good things about the program. Nicola is an amazing virtual coach. The 20 minute work outs, 3 times a week are perfect with added homework and wonderful reading material. Each week served a specific purpose in building you up to reaching the 12 week goal. I have a stronger core which I now realize how important that is if you want to be a great dressage rider, I have more stamina, and I have the correct balance and relaxation required to allow my horse to perform at his best. I had none of these 12 weeks ago. I was never able to ride without stirrups effectively so I never did ride without them much less post and cantor without them. I comfortably and effectively and often ride without my stirrups in all gaits. My trainer, for the first time feels we can start more lateral work and upper level work. The very best part of all is seeing how positive my horse has responded! Thank you Nicola, my trainer thanks you, my horse thanks you more. I am looking forward to DRT2!
– Shannon Kinney
I’m Kathy Theissen and have been a farm owner for 40 years. I’m a gold medalist and have taught many students to the highest levels. I’ve been teaching Shannon Kinney for quite a few years and I’ve seen a huge change in her riding since she started this program. She is much fitter and more effective in her riding. This program has been a huge benefit to her riding and helped me in my teaching. I wish all my students would commit to this program. Thank you. – Kathy Theissen
I started up DRT 2 in may and almost finished week 3 . But – so much happened and the training was a bit irregular , so I decided to start from the beginning again. Now I`ve finished week 4 – and I enjoy the program so much ! You`re doing a great job – and it always makes me in a good mood to see your smiling face on the screen and showing and explaining so good how to do the exercises . And to feel how it really works on important muscle groups and other structures that are necessary for riding good .
The coretraining is the easiest for me . I struggle a bit more with yoga and rider strength – but I`m working on it ! My hips are very stiff and I also have some pain in this area . I also have arthritis in the hip joints , but it doesn`t feel as this is the main problem . I go to a Physiotherapist – and he also approve of the DRT program and thinks it`s good for me .
DRT3 is my favorite program—perhaps because DRT1,2 got me in shape for the challenges of DRT3. First, I love the micro focus—the smaller movements, the quieter routines—mixed with some really challenging core and fitness workouts, especially weeks 11 and 12. And the yoga (which is new for me in DRT) is paying off in balance and my awareness of where my body is. Now, I feel if I’ve dropped my shoulder, if I’m straight, if I’m leaning too far back in the canter. So often dressage becomes about the advanced maneuvers: changes, tempe, half passes, etc. No one emphasizes the core strength, flexibility and grace needed to DO these maneuvers. I was told so often to get my horse forward! But I didn’t have the solid balance and stamina to ride forward on a big warmblood. For me it was the gradual gains of a good physical form that paid off in confidence and skill. I have gone from being a rather clumsy, uncoordinated piece of cargo to a rider who can “ride every stride.” At least for a few strides! Great feeling! We cannot all be Olympic team riders, but we can ride our brave horses with great affection and lightness. Thank you for helping me be a better partner. Now, my horse looks up, whinnies and trots to the gate when I call her name. We are both having great fun.
Thank you again. Starting over with DRT3 and working backward through all three programs…I have a lot of miles yet to ride.
With affection and appreciation,
Nicola, I thoroughly enjoyed DRT 3. It was helpful with balance, breathing, and quiet strength. The riding without stirrups for homework has helped with confidence and communication with my horse through posture and balance (instead of nagging her with my hands)
I greatly appreciate all the time and effort you have put into your classes, as well as the articles and education
Thank you so much!!
Sharon and Charm
I think DRT3 was the perfect “step-up” to more advanced concepts after completing DRT1 and DRT2. I enjoyed how the program held one accountable and built upon the previous training. Even though each DRT program can be done as a individual, I think its true benefits come from completing it as a whole set. I have seen a big difference in my stability, posture, and core strength which manifested itself in some stellar performances this horse show season. Not mention my horse is much happier!
Thank you for all your hard work! I am looking forward to repeating these programs to maintain my riding fitness!
I am so pleased I found DRT and have enjoyed all of it; the exercises; motivational and educational side, covering nutrition and mindfulness. I have learned so much and my riding has improved too because my body has been made stronger and more supple ! I am 61 yrs old and have found a new enthusiasm for my hobby. I have scoliosis and inevitably am uneven in the saddle, but I am better than I was!!
I know, if I keep it up, I am equipped with the tools to keep me enjoying my riding for the rest of my life
Thank you so much for spreading your knowledge all around the world
Hi all I wanted to share with you the amazing DRT journey I have been on which has blown me away. Exactly a year ago today I started DRT1. I had no idea whether an online fitness course would be any good and seriously doubted whether I would be able to motivate myself. I found the first half of DRT1 hard, constantly ached and felt weak. After week 6 I questioned whether I should repeat the first 2 phases. My routine was to do core early in the week and yoga and strength on Sunday one after the other. I work full time in London and spend 4 hours a day commuting so fitting it in was a challenge. After week 6 of DRT1 I thought I would carry on regardless which was a complete mindset change. What I learnt was consistency is key. I started to find things getting easier and stopped aching. Even if the reps were hard I forced my way through them even if I was shaking at the end of it. Without thinking too much about whether it was beyond me, I then did DRT2 and have just completed DRT3. I am now so strong in my body and flexible and my riding has improved immensely. My instructor regularly comments “wow look at that core” and has taught me to ride with my seat. Sadly I don’t have my own horse as I don’t have time around my current work and family commitments but will definitely get one down the line. The one thing I could never master was balancing on the swiss ball, that was until week 12 of DRT3 when I realised I could finally do it! I am so so grateful to Nicola Smith for devising this incredible programme and am waiting with baited breath at what she has up her sleeve next!! In the meantime, I’ve just started Morning Yoga which is very gentle but a great way to start the day. I’m on holiday right now but brought my mat, foam roller, mobility ball and resistance bands 😂). I am also starting the Thrive programme for something a bit different and will then repeat DRT2 and DRT3.
Katy Law, Surrey, UK
I have loved DRT 2. I have found most of the workouts challenging and some really tough, but I have always been able to do them, even if I am muttering “oh no you must be joking” as you cheerfully announce another set!!
What I am most pleased with is the effect it has had on my riding – the kneeling on the swiss ball has given me a true understanding of how to stay balanced on my seat, and even on my horse whatever he does underneath me. So, I finally understand how to be the rider I always wanted to be, even if I still have plenty of work to do, now I think I can get there. Thank you, Nicola, it has been awesome.
Attached is a picture of me and Harry my rather cheeky but very lovely dutch warmblood gelding at a recent clinic.
I finished DRT 3 about a week ago and have been mulling over what to say. Like DRT 1 and 2, DRT 3 is an excellent programme that is progressive and gets results. The joy to me this time round was the yoga, I really liked the fascia release work and it was very beneficial to my very stiff and creaky body. I never used to look forward to the yoga components of DRT 1 and 2 as I just could do a lot of it; I’ve never been able to sit crossed legged or touch my toes. But with DRT 3 it was my favourite workout. I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with the resistance bands; I could see the purpose and benefit, but did I enjoy using them……not very much!
You have developed a wonderful programme here, but also an amazing and supporting community which adds to the pleasure. I’m so glad I signed up to DRT1 as it was a leap of faith at the time. I’m sure my horse is too! But it has had a knock-on positive effect on my whole life and attitude. I am now exercising more frequently, with more variety, I’m regularly running 5k, and eating more healthily. All thing I used to do, and enjoy, before having children and a bout of ill health. The DRT programmes have got me back into a routine and I’m definitely a better and healthier person as a result.
I applaud you, the program, Ben for all the behind the scenes stuff, and also your lovely animals which always were a pleasure to see popping up.
Best wishes, Jenny
Here I am with ‘Wrangler’ (MaximumCashFromTrash) at a Western Dressage event at Sport Of The Horse in North Carolina. The program Nicola has provided has helped me reestablish a regular exercise routine with the proper exercises to strengthen my entire body, balance and support my confidence. The short 20 minute routines made all the difference. The diversity of the three focus areas of core, mobility and riding continues to provide me a means to continue strengthening, not just maintaining even after the first 12 weeks is done.
Thank you Nicola.
Darlene Yudell and Wrangler.
I am just about finishing up (late) on DRT3. I want to thank you for the huge difference it has made in my riding. Last year we were struggling with 4th level. This summer I have been competing PSG and just earned my USDF silver medal. As an amateur with a full-time job and just one horse to ride, the extra strength, flexibility, and reaction speed that I have gotten from DRT has allowed me to reach the next level. My horse likes how much more evenly I sit and the greater clarity of my aids (even though my rogue right leg still swings forward from that tighter hip flexor. Grr!)
Feeling strong and happy! I just finished the last week of Dressage Rider Training Program* Phase 2. This was another 12 weeks of core, yoga, and rider strength exercises designed to improve all the muscles we use when we ride. But really it is so much more.
I feel fit, flexible, and strong. There is an obvious pay off in the saddle – long rides in Iceland were no challenge at all – but also in everything I do. I am very glad that I began this program with Phase 1 in January and stuck to it. I’m looking forward to Phase 3 in September. In the meantime, I’m going to repeat all the workouts I found especially challenging until I know that I’ve nailed them!
* I do not ride dressage but as most riders know, dressage requires a lot of strength and coordination in order to make it look effortless. The exercises in this program carry over to any riding discipline.
What I liked best about this program is the progression through each level. I love that it is different every week and sessions are short enough to fit into a busy life.
I have been doing the DRT1 program, haven’t finished all the sessions yet as have repeated some, also behind with ridden homework as it is winter here and I don’t have an arena. But already I am 100% more aware of my riding position and am trying really hard to be more stable and in control. It is quite a change after 30 years SJ but this program has made me feel more confident and in control of my fizzy Irish x mare. The photo attached is before the program, I see that I tip forward but it was a good day and we got 69.8% in level 2
Hi Nicole. Your program helped me in a way you might not have expected! Got through the first four weeks and couldn’t get farther even with repeating the first four weeks! What the heck?! … Did a little thinking and investigating and in late October I’ll be getting my second new hip. Looking forward to restarting the program as part of my rehab. Definitely saw a difference in my riding. Starting to ride at 65 is no small physical adjustment, but your program, even the few weeks I was able to do and repeat several times, made a wonderful difference. Thank you! Sincerely, Wendy Barr
It is incredible how quickly this program worked for me. I started riding Dressage earlier this year. I was definitely struggling with my leg position (especially with my right), control and balance. I finally realized that I needed to become more physically fit. Not only to help myself, but my horse as well.
I started your program in May and in June I competed in my first Dressage schooling show. I felt so strong, confident and balanced. It was amazing. We even managed to snag a 4th place ribbon. I have now completed the 12 week DRT program. I cannot believe how quickly it went by, or how much I looked forward to the routines and, more importantly, how effective the program is. My barn mates and family have commented on how much fitter I am. I can ride entire lessons without stirrups now (and actually prefer to!). Please note I’m 58 and work in an office. Riding 3 times a week was my only exercise until I started the DRT program. I look forward to continuing with this program and enjoying your very kind and encouraging way of teaching.
All the best,
Linda Gonzalez & Harry Potter (my horse:)
After completing DRT 3, I could tell that I wasnt having to work as hard in the saddle. My body just seemed to know what to do intuitively so I could keep my mind focused. As I have mentioned after completing DRT 1 and 2, I initially started this program because I was suffering from some vestibular and chronic pain issues that years of physical therapy just wasn’t helping anymore. Now after completing DRT 3, I feel as though I am 80% symptom free and I feel my body getting stronger and more balanced every day. I’m back riding my horses and mule again, and I am able to trim horses and mules as I once did. This program is well worth the time and money and I honestly believe it held a crucial part in restoring my quality of life. The website is filled with great resources to access during the workout journey, and I really appreciated the timeliness of responses to all my email questions.
The photo is me and my 19 year old Warmblood x TD Bertie, he is now 19 years old and I’ve had him since he was 6. I am a 51 year old who has been riding since the age of around 6 year old, I was a pretty much self taught rider until I was in the 30’s and have done lots of various discipline’s from showing, jumping, x country, and dressage. But dressage stuck when I had my son, I though it would be best to save on any broken bones and self preservation kicked in too! Over the last few years with menopause appearing I found that my energy and fitness levels dropped quite a lot, and I was constantly tired.
Running a business with my husband and a now 16 year old son, looking after four horses at various points (now down to two) was taking its toll. I found DRT on Facebook a couple of years ago and kept looking at it and all the lovely comments and feedback it was getting and now this year I felt like I could cope with doing it myself, this was the best decision I have made. Not only do I feel stronger, healthier with the amazing diet plans I feel more alive than I have in a very long time. I am really enjoying my horse again and he’s happy working too! We are now in line with our goals with a Dressage show booked for the end of August, so thank you Nicola and your team for your amazing work and persistence, patience and the huge push you guys have given me, I cant thank you enough xx
I signed up for DRT1 to get back in shape after family crises forced me to take a nearly two-year hiatus from riding. I was completely out of shape and at a point where I thought it might be time to give up horses. It felt unfair to ride my mare because I was so off balance and tottery. DRT looked daunting, but I thought “If I can get through this, I can get back in the saddle.” For me, DRT was a miracle.
The program was a lot easier than I expected. Your support and guidance along the way were wonderful. DRT’s phased fitness-building program gave me more energy and strength than I’ve had in years. I feel more flexible, balanced, supple, and relaxed in the saddle. My confidence is coming back and riding is fun again. My Icelandic mare and I haven’t tried a dressage test yet, but it is our new goal.
Regular exercise with DRT hasn’t just helped my riding. I feel better all over. This program has been life changing for me, and I cannot wait to start DRT2.
Thank you so much for this terrific program.