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xrmn002
May. 18, 2011, 11:22 PM
So I have been working with some big name riders and trainers, and their comments got me thinking of the progression of dressage riders and timeframe. What constitutes a "beginner"? At what point is one considered a "good" or experienced rider?

Here's where this stems from: I was recently given the opportunity to train with a BNT that is hard to get time with. I felt like I wasn't good enough to bother so I didn't. He later saw me riding my horse and commented that I was a "very good" rider and he would like to work with me. I don't think it was motivated by money as I am training with him for a minimal fee and was already planning to have him work with my horse himself.

Anyway, we had our first ride tonight and he called me a beginner. This completely confused me! Can beginners be "very good" riders? Is this because I haven't shown higher levels or cannot train on my own horse? I asked him about timeframes and he commented that "dressage" takes a lifetime.

Anyway, it just got me thinking about how we define our experiences and abilities. What do you think?

Petstorejunkie
May. 18, 2011, 11:30 PM
dressage takes lifetimes to learn
you probably have good basics and show promise.

Velvet
May. 18, 2011, 11:31 PM
First, dressage DOES take a lifetime and you NEVER stop learning from your horses and your teachers. NEVER.

Second, his terms are relative to his abilities (the trainer, that is). If he is a BNT that has trained many horses and riders, you probably are a beginner. He probably sees talent, but the distance between, say, training a couple of horses to Second or Third Level and training a horse to be nationally (let alone internationally) competitive at Grand Prix is comparable to having someone say that they can climb hills in the Blue Ridge Mountains versus climbing Everest. In that case, you are a beginner.

Be glad. You probably will not have to unlearn a lot of bad habits. You also have someone who is able to see that you have talent and wants to help you get there--and they have a realistic perspective (and I'm assuming, approach) on what it will take for you to get there and do it well and CORRECTLY.

Don't be offended. You're still able to climb small (barely) mountains--if you can ride and train 2nd and 3rd. If you can only do 1st and 2nd, then you really would be called a rank beginner, but most people wouldn't say that because it could be construed as insulting. ;)

The problem for most people is the old adage of you don't know what you don't know. When you begin to learn some of the things it takes to get anywhere near the top you'll look back and realize you were not as far along as you had thought at this point in time. :yes:

Enjoy it! Be humble and learn!

xrmn002
May. 18, 2011, 11:35 PM
Thanks!

Velvet- Cracking up at your quote at the bottom!

Bugs-n-Frodo
May. 18, 2011, 11:48 PM
I agree, a lifetime, every time I think I have gotten it, I learn something else. I am training 2nd/3rd level, I have ridden 4th level horses... and in dressage world, I consider myself intermediate, at best. Now, in the horse world in general, I consider myself very knowledgeable. I am a sponge in the horse world, I can't learn enough.

InsideLeg2OutsideRein
May. 19, 2011, 12:00 AM
According to a former trainer about 9 lives.

But really, dressage is eternal learning. And then it all depends on the horse(s) and instruction you have available, how much time you can spend doing it, and how talented, dedicated and physically able to do it you are.

For me it took about 5 years to get even the slightest HINT of what dressage was about. But I started at absolute zero (no horse experience at all) and after two years of lessons and leasing bought a horse who was mostly unavailable for riding duty. Not until schoolmasters came into my life did I make real dressage progress. After 10 years, I think I now have about two or three pretty good hints ;).

And yes, you can be a beginning dressage rider, but be a very good rider, i.e. balanced, in harmony with your horse, and with good feel.

paulaedwina
May. 19, 2011, 12:10 AM
Took me 6 months to get a decent walk/trot transition and to keep it with decent rhythm.

Paula

meupatdoes
May. 19, 2011, 12:21 AM
If you are green as grass and buy a made GP horse and take several lessons a week with a fantastic instructor, it will still take you three or four years to be riding GP, but probably still not training GP.

If you buy a very green horse when you are still learning trot-canter transitions yourself and take one lesson a month, it will take you one or two decades to get to First Level, if at all.

If you buy a Walk-Trot-Canter trained -but not necessarily dressage specialist- horse when you are learning trot-canter transitions, and take two lessons a week with a good instructor and maybe have the instructor do a pro ride a week, you and horse ought to be doing Second/Third in 2 to 3 years.

paulaedwina
May. 19, 2011, 05:59 AM
I am very lucky in that even though I am looking at WTC trained horses to own, I take dressage lessons on a PSG schoolmaster. It would really be challenging to be learning dressage on a horse that is also learning dressage. I'd learned lateral movements and equitation on your regular tried and true school horse (equitation barn) so I know leg yield, shoulder in, etc., but it took me 6 months to be correct enough on that schoolmaster to actually trot. Mind you I've been riding since I was a child, but am new to dressage.

Does that help?
Paula

AllWeatherGal
May. 19, 2011, 09:08 AM
I had been "studying dressage" for 20 years before I rode my first actual perfect 20 meter trot circle on a schoolmaster.

That's the beauty of dressage ... and if you can afford it, NEVER turn down the invitation of a BNT-type you admire, no matter how much you think you're not ready!

JCS
May. 19, 2011, 09:39 AM
If you can only do 1st and 2nd, then you really would be called a rank beginner, but most people wouldn't say that because it could be construed as insulting. ;)


Wait, really? Do you all agree with this statement that a rider at 2nd level is a "rank beginner"? A rider at that level has to have a good seat, independent aids, an understanding of contact and collection, etc... If that's a beginner, what would you call a rider at Training and 1st level?

Velvet
May. 19, 2011, 09:44 AM
Wait, really? Do you all agree with this statement that a rider at 2nd level is a "rank beginner"? A rider at that level has to have a good seat, independent aids, an understanding of contact and collection, etc... If that's a beginner, what would you call a rider at Training and 1st level?


You might want to read things in CONTEXT before pulling out a sentence.

What I said was compared to an uber experienced, international trainer. Yep, in that case you ARE a rank beginner. If you don't know that right now, then you really don't know how little you do not know.

ponysize
May. 19, 2011, 10:11 AM
Even out of context I would still agree with it for the most part. You can still see some pretty horrible riding at those levels.

I would say wt/training is rank beginner and 1st and into 2nd like advanced beginner.

opel
May. 19, 2011, 10:14 AM
Yep, agree with you Velvet. I consider myself a decent dressage rider in the little part of the US where I live. My horses do well at the shows, I can sit and have decent feel.....can train a horse to PSG...been doing it for 25 years....all that jazz. That said, I am eternally amazed every time I venture to europe and see incredible riding from people who are no-name (to my knowledge) but good professionals none-the-less. Somehow, seeing this high level of riding on more average horses really drives home the fact that what we consider good riding in Colorado is RANK BEGINNER on the world stage. And.....that's OK. I still enjoy the journey and still deeply enjoy every step of progress I make. Accepting the reality of the situation makes me more open to knowing how little I do know and more eager to continue to advance. Knowing I'm middling rider on the world stage gives me the resolve to NEVER, EVER sit back and think I've learned it all......then stagnate like many, many riders do.

opel
May. 19, 2011, 10:23 AM
And before I get flamed, I'm not implying that there aren't great riders in the US or Colorado. It's just that I haven't been to as many top barns here to watch schooling and haven't seen our top riders working with more average-talent horses (they usually have very talented horses). Somehow, seeing really good riders bring out everything from an average-talent horse is what really blows me away.

Velvet
May. 19, 2011, 10:29 AM
opel,

It is so humbling to see and be around great riders, isn't it? In the US we often see big fish in our own pond/back yard and think that's the top. NOT! I wish more people would travel to really learn. It's such an eye opener and is really needed to inspire people to reach higher. Bringing in clinicians and watching them work with people in your area who are the area's best is just not the same. Most have worked with each other and some just really never get the big picture and continue to lack certain skills that make the difference between locally good and internationally great. You need to see that to be inspired.

I will say, however, that sometimes taking a break from lessons and just fiddling around with things on your own with a really good horse (that's very well started) is also a big education. You need to go back and have lessons, but during the time when you're messing around, if you have feel and are sensitive to small influences you make to the horse, you can learn volumes. Horses are great teachers and learning to feel without someone telling you at the moment if it's right and wrong can teach you how to find better communication and feel with your horse. Like I said, balance it with instruction, but a small hiatus will let you know if you're on the right track when you later come back to lessons. I think this is sometimes missing when some really good people just lean on their coach and don't also grow in the area of self-checks and balances.

Then again, that's not for beginners as much as intermediate and advanced riders! :D

Behind the 8 Ball
May. 19, 2011, 11:02 AM
I was once told it takes at least 20 years to make a rider, 10 years to make a horse.

I have been riding for 21 and still feel like I have eons to go.

I also go by the axiom - one rider makes a horse, many horses make a rider.

AllWeatherGal
May. 19, 2011, 01:02 PM
Wait, really? Do you all agree with this statement that a rider at 2nd level is a "rank beginner"? A rider at that level has to have a good seat, independent aids, an understanding of contact and collection, etc... If that's a beginner, what would you call a rider at Training and 1st level?

I probably wouldn't use the adjective "rank," but yes, I agree. I'd call a 2nd level rider a beginner *at dressage* on the scale of 1st to GP. I don't think I'd even put training level on the scale, actually ...

InWhyCee Redux
May. 19, 2011, 03:02 PM
I don't think I'd even put training level on the scale, actually ...

Damn, what am I doing then? Simon Says on Horseback? ;)

I thought one of the joys of riding, in any type of tack, is that you're never, ever done learning... something my Schoolmaster reminds me about every other minute.

WILLOW&CAL
May. 19, 2011, 03:51 PM
I agree with Velvet and AllWeatherGal.
If dressage is a journey then Training Level is packing the snacks and 1st Level is getting your foot out the door;)
What would GP be then?

Velvet
May. 19, 2011, 04:11 PM
I agree with Velvet and AllWeatherGal.
If dressage is a journey then Training Level is packing the snacks and 1st Level is getting your foot out the door;)
What would GP be then?

Base jumping into the Grand Canyon. ;)

Or, if you don't like that one, how about my original, getting to the top of a mountain, like Mt. Rainier? Everest is probably better as an Olympic peak to surmount. :D

LarkspurCO
May. 20, 2011, 01:11 PM
With or without the Sherpas?

(And supplemental oxygen.)

AllWeatherGal
May. 20, 2011, 01:28 PM
Damn, what am I doing then? Simon Says on Horseback? ;)

I thought one of the joys of riding, in any type of tack, is that you're never, ever done learning... something my Schoolmaster reminds me about every other minute.

A few years ago, I was sitting with a number of FEI judges who had also competed internationally. We were watching a GP class (yes, they watch tests even when on break!) ... I asked naively, "so what do you do when you get to Grand Prix" ...

I mean, to me that's the end of the path, the destination.

The answer was "you perfect it".

To them, that was just the BEGINNING.

I hope you are enjoying your horse and the opportunity to ride. Especially a schoolmaster. What a wonderful gift! And a rich education, as well ... Nobody's putting you down for being where you are in the journey, just keep in mind that there are many destinations out there, some of which may (or may not) be within your reach.

paintlady
May. 20, 2011, 02:43 PM
I rode in H/J lesson programs for about 20 years before I was finally able to afford my first (and still only horse). I considered myself an "intermediate" rider at the time I started horse shopping. I did well in my lessons and was often assigned the more difficult lesson horses.

Of course, after buying my horse - a green 4 y/o with only six months under saddle - I realized that I had A LOT to learn about riding.

I've only been riding dressage for a few years. I would definitely consider myself a "beginner" in dressage. My H/J background hasn't helped much. Plus, I don't have the opportunity to ride on a schoolmaster. My horse and I are learning dressage together - doesn't help that she is a foundation QH type with a downhill build.

I view riding in any discipline to be a lifelong journey. There are always new things to learn. Even my trainers take lessons with other trainers.

Velvet
May. 20, 2011, 02:58 PM
It's the nuances of dressage that make it so hard when trying to achieve the ideal at the top levels. Just look at some Olympic riders compared to others. There are differences even there.

CFFarm
May. 20, 2011, 03:49 PM
So I have been working with some big name riders and trainers, and their comments got me thinking of the progression of dressage riders and timeframe. What constitutes a "beginner"? At what point is one considered a "good" or experienced rider?

Here's where this stems from: I was recently given the opportunity to train with a BNT that is hard to get time with. I felt like I wasn't good enough to bother so I didn't. He later saw me riding my horse and commented that I was a "very good" rider and he would like to work with me. I don't think it was motivated by money as I am training with him for a minimal fee and was already planning to have him work with my horse himself.

Anyway, we had our first ride tonight and he called me a beginner. This completely confused me! Can beginners be "very good" riders? Is this because I haven't shown higher levels or cannot train on my own horse? I asked him about timeframes and he commented that "dressage" takes a lifetime.

Anyway, it just got me thinking about how we define our experiences and abilities. What do you think?

I definately think beginners can be "very good riders". I have met a few, beit very few, "natural born" riders in my life who had an almost automatic sensitivity and balance. I knew one, who sadly passed at a young age, who could hop on and connect to the horse with softness and quietness and the horse would respond pretty much correctly to every question she asked. On-lookers would just have to stop and watch. She was truly one with the horse. We're talking riding stable horses, not well trained show horses.

Maybe you are one of these riders.

As far as becoming a dressage rider I think a lot depends on your idea of what you think dressage is. Not everyone defines it the same. I am one of those who thinks you can learn something from every horse, every ride and never know it all. I agree with your trainer. jmho

SisterToSoreFoot
May. 21, 2011, 10:17 PM
I agree with the idea that one can be a "good rider" in the general wider-horse-world sense, and a beginner at dressage. For instance, I did training level eventing on my old horse and won several schooling (3'6-3'9) jumper classes on the A circuit as well as competed at the 4' level. Those are decent sized fences and took me being a "good rider" to get the job done. BUT, despite my good balance and overall feel, I'm still low on the dressage scale, since the dressage scale is far more nuanced/intense (IMO, JMO)than the other disciplines. I think I'm now a *very good rider* in the general sense, but simply functional in the dressage sense!

I wouldn't have it any other way, though. I'd rather be at a few steps up a big mountain than halfway up a smaller one...I like the insurmountable sense of dressage.