View Full Version : An Oddball dressage question.....
Behind an Alter
Oct. 3, 2011, 09:17 PM
So, yes I am behind an alter. Yes I am professional trainer of my selected breed. Yes, they are Saddlebreds (go go gadget Flame Suit). Now the rest of the story:
I use some basic dressage with all of our show horses, to get them more supple and finished. I was blessed to learn from one of the best in my business who understands how suppleness, bending, flexing, collecting etc. can benefit our show horses. You would be amazed how many horses we get in who are stiff as a board, "rubberneck" the turns (my biggest pet peeve!), and hollow out their backs and run backwords when asked to back the few steps required (that is NOT backing dangit!). I would love to observe a local trainer and just see some of what they do. Or have one come out for some pointers, but I believe the second they hear Saddlebred + Show horse they are either going to roll their eyes or bust out laughing. I completely understand these disciplines are two very different worlds but the amount of improvement in so many of our guys has me wanting to learn more. So how do I go about this? I'm not trying to convert (I appreciate all disciplines and breeds, a good horse is a good horse no matter what), just would like some pointers/help - so where do I start?!?!?
Oct. 3, 2011, 09:30 PM
you start by finding dressage people who like saddlebreds (LIKE ME!) and go from there.
there is nothing like an organ playing while your horse shows what he's made of!
Oct. 3, 2011, 10:01 PM
There are many trainers around who are interested in working with any client who is willing to learn, type of horse not the issue. IMO these trainers are more locally involved than the BNTs and probably the best way is just to ask around. Where ever you are, see if there is a Dressage GMO association; someone there can help you. (google your geographical location and add the words dressage association) I had a great trainer who loved to work w/ hunter people- and they loved her. She focused on the basics, gave them interesting exercises and all was well. One of the trainers who winters at my barn now, rides a boarder's saddlebred for the owner and the trainer loves how comfy he is. You will fine!
Oct. 3, 2011, 11:53 PM
Good for you!
I know a lot of people outside the industry like to make fun of saddleseat, but fundamentals of using the body well are there regardless. It's amazing to me how often I can tell how a class will place based upon use of the body and hind end. I'm sure there's a LOT a dressage trainer could help you with, and you could probably open up some people's eyes about the horses you work with!
I'd say don't settle for someone who will judge you because of your discipline/type of horse, and keep asking questions until you find a trainer who will work with you. You and your horses will be better off for it.
Oct. 4, 2011, 09:02 AM
Dressage is training - of the horse and rider. So find a trainer who teaches lower level dressage but really concentrates on the basics, and you should have your answer. We have such a local trainer and she would have no issues with any horse your brought with you unless you stated you wanted to be competitive at FEI levels of dressage with a horse unable to perform the basics due to breeding (e.g. a pacer or a horse unable to perform a 3 beat canter).
Oct. 4, 2011, 09:11 AM
I am from the northeast and have been a very active AA for decades. I think the only professional trainer that would NOT be interested are the tippity top BNT who just don't have the time. I work weekly with a very BNT who comes to our barn once a week. She welcomes anyone on any mount that comes for a lesson.
Oct. 4, 2011, 09:54 AM
I had the same fears when calling local trainers and saying I had a Clyde/Gypsy cross. I got a great recommendation from a COTH member, and decided to just suck it up and call. I had to take a deep breath when answering "Do you already have a horse, and if so, what kind?" I was pretty surprised when she didn't laugh at me, and instead wanted to know more about my oddball horse. It led to a great conversation about my goals, why I wanted to learn dressage, and where I wanted to end up. She was more than willing to discuss the positive attributes of a draft horse, as well as the negatives, and I never heard "You want to do dressage with a WHAT?" If you find the right trainer, they will understand that dressage isn't just a road to grand prix, but it's a very useful bit of knowledge for anyone in any discipline. I think someone mentioned a bit ago that Seattle Slew (I think?) was trained in dressage to keep him sound at the track.
Oct. 4, 2011, 10:01 AM
People are discovering what a great breed Saddlebreds are and you see a lot more in the lower levels now (even some doing GP). Besides if professional dressage doesn't go back to it's roots, there won't be much of a difference between saddle seat and dressage seat "show" horses.:sadsmile:
Oct. 4, 2011, 11:48 AM
Are you aiming to do actual dressage with these SBs, or are you aiming to use some dressage principles while still training the horse in saddleseat?
I think almost any good trainer would be happy to help you train dressage on whatever breed, but if you are planning on working on saddleseat riding in your dressage lesson that might be a different story.
I can see some trainers not wanting to work with someone who is using saddleseat tack, for instance (i.e. curb rather than snaffle for low levels, cutback saddle and diff. position of rider). The reason they would hesitate to work with you in this gear is that it isn't ideal for positioning you and the horse for dressage.
So it really depends on how much of a purist the trainer is, and how willing they are to work within a diff. system of riding. I think if you are upfront about your goals ["I want to keep riding/training saddleseat but mix in dressage principles"] then it could work.
Oct. 4, 2011, 09:16 PM
One of the most amazing Grand Prix horses I ever saw was a Saddlebred owned and ridden by Dr. Dale Detrich. Pictures of them are featured in the US Saddlebred Museum.
Always good to see folks recognize the cross discipline benefits of Dressage. Where are you located? I'm sure someone will know of a trainer that would love to work with you.
Oct. 4, 2011, 10:19 PM
I think it's awesome that you want to incorporate dressage into your discipline. Although I don't have a SB, I faithfully go to the local shows to watch. It's always so entertaining and exciting!
But, I have to admit, it drives me nuts to see so many horses counter bent, over bent, out of balance and run into the canter. :no: Sometimes I can't help but cringe.
I don't remember his name, but at this summer's big show, there was a beautiful, beautiful chestnut gelding who did absolutely gorgeous canter departs...correct bend, lovely, balanced, three beated canter. Very animated trot...and he won every class I saw him go in. I was very impressed. He looked like he would be a blast to ride.
My trainer has worked with all breeds...whether you do H/J, Arabian circuit, SB, Western Pleasure...she says the basic principles, if done properly, will help keep a horse sound. I know her H/J students put in smoother rounds and in timed events, those smoother rounds usually lead to quicker times. I'm sure if you call around, you will find people who are more than willing to accomodate you.
Oct. 4, 2011, 10:33 PM
I am also a saddle seat trainer (Saddlebreds and Arabians/Half-Arabians are what I have primarily worked with), and I totally get where you are coming from. When I have inquired about taking dressage lessons for my own benefit I have run across quite a bit of the if you aren't going to be a client/buy a horse through me why bother attitude. Some of the most wonderful things I have learned were in a week at a horse seminar at a college in which I got to be part of a daily group lesson with Jack Brainard. He is one of the guys founding this western dressage stuff. He is the real deal and totally focused on teaching people how to communicate with your body to your horse. Finding people like that to ride with or observe is challenging and wonderful when it occurs. When I had Half-Arab hunters I would also haul in and take lessons with area hunter trainers and got some helpful nuggets. But I have not had much luck finding a traditional dressage person who is willing to think outside the box or has any desire to share knowledge- emphasizing the share part, the acknowledgement that dressage training with the end goal of dressage competition is not the only thing you could possibly want to do with a horse. I hope I can find someone that I can broaden my knowledge base and skill set with some day.
Oct. 4, 2011, 10:56 PM
I bet there is some trainer out there who would love to have you as a client! After all, you are seeking out dressage instruction, not just expecting someone to "make" you a good rider because you have a fancy warmblood.
If you have the time, try to attend a rated dressage show in your area and check out the barns and trainers who are there. You can learn a lot from watching a warm-up. Even better, you might find a trainer with a bunch of clients riding non-warmblood type horses. If you find a trainer you like, walk up, tell her/him your story and ask about instruction. If they are looking for clients, they will be happy to talk to you.
Oct. 4, 2011, 11:20 PM
I don't think the OP wants to be another trainer's client, own a dressage horse, or take standard dressage lessons on her or client's horses. Trying to find someone they can observe work horses and ask questions of or who will watch them work horses and say, "What would happen if you do this?" Thinking outside the box. Or even someone to lesson with in the dressage world that has quality school horses available for lesson students to ride seems to be a rarity compared to what is standard in the Saddlebred world.
Oct. 5, 2011, 08:25 AM
When I first became interested in dressage I found a book called "Make the Most of your Horse" by the late Jan Dickerson. She used to post on COTH under the name of Verna Jan. It's long out of print but you can get it online from Amazon or other used book sellers. It explains basic collection for various disciplins.
Oct. 5, 2011, 10:59 AM
where are you located? One of my old trainers uses dressage basics in everything he teaches. He mostly just starts young/green horses (most of his sale horses have been OTTBs), and gives clinics, but has worked with many breeds of horses. He uses dressage principles and normally his clients are dressage people or eventing people. But I know for sure he'd be willing to help out someone in a different discipline. He likes learning new things, too!
Oct. 5, 2011, 11:12 AM
I encountered one dressage judge who was clearly and vocally anti-Arab but I was lucky enough to find trainers who weren't
"above" helping us learn dressage...and it made him the Best Trail Horse that ever lived...RIP King Tutankhamun my good boy.