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  1. #1
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    Mar. 24, 2010
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    Default "Most riders don't make it past second level"

    This is an oft repeated phrase on this board, and it is usually in a context where the significance is that the horse was capable but rider wasn't. I'm wondering what reasons some of you have seen for that?

    We did have a similar thread a few months back, but not exactly the same. I'm wondering, where do riders fail to improve themselves?


    As I work with my horse, I'm finding that when he gets REALLY engaged and lifting/carrying we both light up. It's FUN! At the same time, that strength is something I've felt from some horses who I know scared other people. Is work beyond second intimidating because of the power involved? Is it a lack of desire to spend enough hours in the saddle to be able to ride that power?

    Without naming names, I'd love to hear anecdotes about reasons riders found themselves unable to pass that level, or personal experiences on where you found road blocks.

    I'm dedicating this fall to working on me, because my horse is always a step ahead of me (I'm not sure how that works, that I'm training him better than myself) so would love to listen for catch phrases I might otherwise miss indicating areas I need to work on beyond the many things I already know I need to work on.
    My horse is a dressage diva so I don't have to be.

    Quote Originally Posted by katarine
    If you have a fat gay horse that likes Parelli, you're really screwed



  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul. 14, 2003
    Location
    MA
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    6,235

    Default

    Most horses don't get past 2nd level. That's the easy answer.

    Dressage as a separate discipline truly begins with collection. Collection is physically demanding for horses, particularly those not bred for dressage. It is also tricky to train for the amateur because you need to create a lot of energy, but at the same time keep the horse from going fast and on the forehand (which may be his inclination when adding energy.)

    A rider can't really train collection unless he/she has felt it--and there is a lack of 2nd level and higher schoolmasters available to ride. So I think that is the real problem. If there were more mid to upper level schoolmasters, and more horses bred for dressage, more riders would get beyond second level. That's my take on it anyway.
    "Against stupidity the gods themselves contend in vain" ~Friedrich Schiller



  3. #3
    Join Date
    Apr. 22, 2011
    Posts
    385

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by netg View Post
    This is an oft repeated phrase on this board, and it is usually in a context where the significance is that the horse was capable but rider wasn't. I'm wondering what reasons some of you have seen for that?

    We did have a similar thread a few months back, but not exactly the same. I'm wondering, where do riders fail to improve themselves?


    As I work with my horse, I'm finding that when he gets REALLY engaged and lifting/carrying we both light up. It's FUN! At the same time, that strength is something I've felt from some horses who I know scared other people. Is work beyond second intimidating because of the power involved? Is it a lack of desire to spend enough hours in the saddle to be able to ride that power?

    Without naming names, I'd love to hear anecdotes about reasons riders found themselves unable to pass that level, or personal experiences on where you found road blocks.

    I'm dedicating this fall to working on me, because my horse is always a step ahead of me (I'm not sure how that works, that I'm training him better than myself) so would love to listen for catch phrases I might otherwise miss indicating areas I need to work on beyond the many things I already know I need to work on.
    It is very important not to forget the rider when schooling the horse. I believe one of the reasons why riders do not get past 2nd is because either they do not spend enough time training themselves/ or are unable to. It is also very important to have a knowledgeable trainer there to help you. If you are having a problem when schooling your horse, and you have no clue what to do, it is imperative to have a trainer there to show you what you are supposed to do. Also the trainer should get on the horse to feel what the problem(for the rider) is. There are also riders who are afraid, and that is the reason for not going further than 2nd. A flying change can be very intimidating to them.



  4. #4
    Join Date
    Apr. 22, 2011
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    385

    Default

    also, to have a schoolmaster available is Very helpful in the further education of the rider. To actually have felt the feeling of a correct half pass, or flying change is helpful when trying it on your (lower level) horse. IT is a lot easier to get the feeling on a horse, when you have already felt it on that/or a different horse whose training is much further.

    I also cannot stress enough to importance of a GOOD trainer. there are so many so called "trainers" out there who have no clue what they're doing.
    Last edited by DutchDressageQueen; Sep. 12, 2011 at 07:38 PM. Reason: adding



  5. #5
    Join Date
    Aug. 3, 2004
    Location
    San Francisco
    Posts
    3,823

    Default or there are not enough hours in the day. . .

    I would way rather take my wonderful horse on a trail ride and watch the sun set over the Pacific or trot a few cross rails than work in the arena.

    His lateral work good enough to open gates without dismounting!
    A man must love a thing very much if he not only practices it without any hope of fame or money, but even practices it without any hope of doing it well.--G. K. Chesterton



  6. #6
    Join Date
    Aug. 28, 2007
    Location
    Triangle Area, NC
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    6,710

    Default INSTRUCTION

    this is not to toot my own horn, but to make a point in observation.
    it seems every new student that finds their way to me has that moment of "the emperor has no clothes" in regards to their past instruction. "Why didn't they explain to me that's what this was for?!" or "oh my gosh, I didn't realize what they were teaching me would prevent me from executing xyz correctly later!" They aren't being taught the WHY's of what they do to become thinking riders.... not to mention a good portion of the WHAT that's being taught out there is by unqualified instructors. I never speak ill of someone's prior education, just explain that I'm different because I'm classically trained... but it's weird to watch their whole house get shook if you know what I mean.
    Most riders I encounter have good instincts, poor pelvic and leg position, and haven't been taught how to get connection with their body and their horse's body correctly. Most have hardly had lunge lessons, or had someone work on their kinetic memory before teaching fun 'tricks' None seem to know that different parts of their leg mean different things to the horse, or understand how one movement in the body influences another, or even what the goal of the exercise is!
    I've had students see a jump in their test scores of over 8 points after just one lesson on their position!

    I am a student as well. I feel we never stop needing to learn, and I'm certainly not at a place to say I even know most of what there is out there worth learning. My point being, I know what it's like to try and find quality instruction. In 30 years I've met 3 people... a whopping 3 that I felt were qualified to be called great instructors. I travel 5 hours one way for lessons and I'm surrounded by a sea of dressage instructors. When you know what to look for, you realize the majority is not up to par.

    I participate in continued education on my education skills as well... most instructors don't, and I think it's a large part of why they lack the skills to produce students above second level.

    I'm a firm believer that every horse can piaffe, just not all can piaffe and win, so I actually don't blame the horse at all for the lack of progression. Identify the strengths, make them shine, and work on improving the weaknesses to the best of the horse's ability. The movements were created long ago with the horse's correct collection in mind; they only make things better. that is what dressage is all about
    www.destinationconsensusequus.com
    chaque pas est fait ensemble



  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jun. 1, 2003
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    The Shake and Bake State
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    Default

    I think you honestly have to be somewhat competitive to make it past 2nd level, even if you are only competitive with yourself. It is hard work and you REALLY have to want to get up there in the levels in order to work that hard. Lizthenag said it straight and to the point, many just want to have fun, not drill away in the ring. I, however, like the hard work and am looking forward to clawing my way up the levels.
    ~Amy~ TrakehNERD clique
    *Bugs 5/86-3/10 OTTB Mare* RIP lovely Lady, I miss you
    *Frodo '03 Anglo Trakehner Gelding*
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  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jun. 15, 2007
    Posts
    558

    Default

    ^
    What PetStoreJunkie said.

    When I first started dabbling in dressage from H/J-land, neither I nor my horse would have made it past second level.

    Why? Because I had never felt even a glimmer of true collection, engagement, throughness etc, etc... I didn't know what I was aiming for, so how could I reproduce the quality of movement or target the training to actually help my horse.

    Nothing in my whole riding life prepared me for sitting on an upper level schoolmaster and being more than a passenger. I am happy to say that I am learning - and now that I have a feel for it, I can reproduce it, and my mare and I have shown 3rd level Test 1 and scored in the mid 60's.

    I am lucky enough to have a teacher close by that enables me to feel and to become a thinking rider and to have my moments of aha! And luckily enough, he also has school masters who happily pack me around each lesson while they wait for me to become less a sack of potatoes.

    So, in a nutshell, without access to this instruction - I'd still be at Training Level - thinking that maybe I could do First, but never getting there in a competent manner.
    "the waist is not a joint" I MUST REMEMBER THIS!



  9. #9
    Join Date
    Feb. 24, 2011
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    541

    Default

    From my observations there are three basic reasons a horse and rider combination don't progress beyond 2nd level:

    1. A lack of quality instruction. If your goal is to move through second, then you should find a good instructor with experience training and finishing horses at least through fourth. Unfortunately, there is a dearth of good instructors in many parts of the country.

    2. An unsuitable horse. Correct dressage work is good for all horses, but not all horses will be good at dressage. Attitude is important (especially for less experienced riders) but talent and ability are important too, particularly if the goal is to be competitive. There is a much greater demand on a horse's strength and balance at 3rd level, and some horses simply don't have what it takes to do the work, let alone do it easily or with elegance.

    3. The rider. There are many reasons for the rider to be the limiting factor. Some simply don't have the time or interest to dedicate five or six days per week to schooling dressage, some lack quality instruction, some aren't athletic or are otherwise physically limited. Many never even take the time to bother developing a quality seat. The list could go on.

    Frequently there is a combination of the three. The jumps into and out of second level are big, but with a good teacher, a good horse, and a dedicated rider it isn't that difficult. It takes time to develop the requisite collection, but once present it is surprising how everything seems to fall into place.



  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jan. 30, 2010
    Posts
    334

    Default

    As someone who has just begun showing Second this year, I can honestly say it is tough. This is just my own personal experience, but I have felt that making the move up from First to Second was much tougher than from Training to First. Everything ramps up - the expectations, the movements, the requirement for not just thrust but now collection. Every little weakness a rider struggles but gets by with at Training and First comes out to have a parade at Second. For example, my horse and I don't have stellar mediums - and we have gotten dinged for that at Second. We were able to get by at First because she *can* produce a great lengthening, but I'm still learning how to put myself together and how to package both of us at the next step - riding that medium at Second. Additionally, while I am fortunate that my mare is well versed at Second, this is *my* first time competing at this level. So while it's very exciting for me, it's also tough.

    My horse might be a wonderful schoolmaster, but she's no push button ride. She's not going to give me anything I haven't asked for correctly, and she's certainly not going to let me just sit pretty and do nothing while she collects herself. I have to *ask* and I have to ask correctly. That is something that - even with excellent instruction - has been a steep learning curve for me.

    I can understand why the questions asked at Second are difficult for some riders. I consider myself to be very competitive (against myself) and no one is harder of me than I am on myself...I am constantly picking apart my errors and things I could be doing better - but this is my passion and I thrive on it. I plan to go as far with my horse as she'll take me, though we may not be extremely competitive at the higher levels.

    One other thing I might add is that for the weaknesses we have realized and are working on at Second, the level has also allowed for some of our strengths to shine. With much more canter work, it's a good opportunity to show off our collected canter, which is typically better than our trot work.

    Just from my own experience, I can see why some riders would stop at Second. I used to think I'd be happy just reaching First, but the journey is certainly addictive. There is nothing wrong with being happy to accomplish Second and stopping or hanging out there. As another poster noted, moving on to Second and up takes a lot more time in the saddle, as well. Fortunately my husband seems to be accepting of my goals and supports me, and he knows that this journey is a lifelong one for me (so I think he just sucked it up and got over the fact that I need to spend more time at the barn now).

    I wanted to add that I feel like Second is a bit of a hump - if you can make it to Second and do well, I think coming over that hump is key. I almost feel like if my horse and I can really get solid at this level, we'll be able to move on to Third more easily than this move has been. We'll see!
    Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit sniffing glue.

    A Voice Halted



  11. #11
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    Jun. 1, 2003
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    The Shake and Bake State
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    Default

    I wanted to add that I feel like Second is a bit of a hump - if you can make it to Second and do well, I think coming over that hump is key. I almost feel like if my horse and I can really get solid at this level, we'll be able to move on to Third more easily than this move has been. We'll see!
    I agree with that as well. I am working at 2nd and 3rd right now as well. Not easy and it does take consistency and time.

    I agree with good instruction as well.
    ~Amy~ TrakehNERD clique
    *Bugs 5/86-3/10 OTTB Mare* RIP lovely Lady, I miss you
    *Frodo '03 Anglo Trakehner Gelding*
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  12. #12
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    Sep. 21, 2007
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    SF Bay Area
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    Default

    I maintain that the hardest thing in the US is to find instruction that can "get you there" (especially on a horse that is not confirmed above second level either) and even if you do find the right person, being able to afford them / get to train with them frequently enough to really make that kind of progress. Second reason in my view is rider unwillingness or inability to be as consequent and quick as one needs to be (apart from physical and mental ability in the first place). But that's just speaking from my personal, limited experience (I have shown beyond 2nd).
    "Reite dein Pferd vorwärts und richte es gerade.” Gustav Steinbrecht



  13. #13
    Join Date
    Jul. 11, 2006
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    1,393

    Default

    There are several reasons that riders do not make it past Second (and many that do, should not have).

    1) The rider has still not learned a proper seat. Too many ride with their toes down, shoulders slumped forward, and flopping the horse's suspension...trot especially, but also canter without even being aware of it.

    2) The rider has no idea how the different movements of dressage really fit together, and why they are done in a certain order. The rider tends to think that just riding some geometric shape of a certain size really means they can do the movement. They have no clue as to what is really being trained.

    3) There are too few instructors who really have a good handle on how to start a young horse, and as the results, when that green student is trying to ride that green horse, the instructor really cannot back the training up to where it really needs to be.

    4) The rider is taught to only utilize a half-halt from the inside leg to outside rein, which means that 50% of the time that the rider is making a correction, that correction is really unbalancing the horse even further.

    5) The correct aids for some of the movements are not taught, and as the results, coupled with the rider's poor seat, the horse is never really correctly on the bit, or even in correct self-carriage as you get to the higher movements above Second.



  14. #14
    Join Date
    May. 6, 2009
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    The Left Coast
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    Default

    Personally, it was just my good fortune to finally have a horse that could go up the levels, but it is at a time in my life when health and finances prevent me from going there. I had to switch to riding in a CC saddle. Sad, but it's okay. He's a blast to ride and we are learning to jump a little.

    Most of my dressage rider friends, even if they take weekly lessons, are stuck at training level, but they are not competitive and so are happy there. Because I was lucky enough to ride a school master for a time, I was able to progress beyond TL, but fear and tension prevented me from taking full advantage of that horse. So I can do all the first level stuff, and counter canter, but I still struggle with transitions.

    Of all the amateur dressage riders I am acquainted with, maybe three have shown second, one above that. Even riders who buy horses trained beyond that level don't seem to get there. One gal had a lovely horse who started as a hunter. She showed him second level, but he never got out of a training level frame during the entire test and her scores were awful. Her husband bought her an FEI horse, and she rode him in exactly the same frame.

    It would be interesting to hear it explained what physical skills of the rider are required at second level and beyond.
    2012 goal: learn to ride like a Barn Rat

    A helmet saved my life.



  15. #15
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    May. 11, 2011
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    Boulder, CO
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    Default

    after looking at a 3rd level test i'm feeling a lot more confident in my ability to break past this alleged 2nd level issue...i'm not worried about my horse's though! haha



  16. #16
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    Jun. 20, 2009
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    Maine
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    Default

    Time with a capital T! Most of the amateur riders I know don't have the time to ride enough to correctly move themselves and their horse beyond second level. The level of fitness alone can't be achieved by riding only 2-3 days a week.



  17. #17
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    Jul. 14, 2003
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    MA
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    Default

    Also--
    so many riders are adult beginners or re-riders these days. It takes about 10,000 hours to develop the necessary "feel." This is hard to do as an adult because it takes a couple of decades to get those hours in, and also because adults have all sorts of habitual postural issues to work through, as well as a healthy sense of self preservation that kids don't have!

    When more children start riding dressage from the start--there are more riders that are able to get past 2nd.
    "Against stupidity the gods themselves contend in vain" ~Friedrich Schiller



  18. #18
    Join Date
    Dec. 23, 2010
    Location
    Lancashire UK, formerly Region 8
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    662

    Default

    In short, it's time, money, commitment, instruction, horseflesh and natural ability. However, I think that EH's point about the postural issues for adult beginners is a really important one and often overlooked. In fact, this affects many young riders as well... speaking personally I started riding at the age of 10 with serious dressage instruction from 13. At 16 as a working student in a dressage barn my natural posture was evaluated over a period of weeks and it was concluded that I had issues with weak hips, turned in knees and outward pointing feet - not uncommon, but something difficult to overcome even when identified at that early age. I think many adults suffer from similar issues and few have the time or financial resources to seriously address it - if they even have an instructor knowledgable enough to identify it in the first place. Many people would see a dramatic difference in their own ability with long-term regular physio treatments, but this is out of most people's reach. I'm not trying to suggest that our creaky wonky bodies can't and don't adapt and allow us to move up the levels anyway, but it DOES make the journey more difficult.
    Proud COTH lurker since 2001.



  19. #19
    Join Date
    Jul. 12, 2011
    Location
    Florida
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    29

    Default

    Ok, well here is my list of why a lot of people don't make it past second, and many of them are reasons I dont think I will ever make it past second, even though I'm sure my lovely horse would have no problem, he is a great mover and 110% willing to do anything I ask for CORRECTLY, and even tries to figure out what the heck I want when I ask incorrectly.
    1. Cost- I would need to buy a dressage saddle that didn't hinder my position AT ALL, so there's like $4k. My horse would need consistent chiro and a better supplement mix. I would need consistent lessons, which I can't afford, and then showing, FORGET it. Oh yeah, and a horse trailer.
    2. Personal fitness- Most riders dont think they have to be physically fit to be good riders. I think this is absurd. Any athlete must train their bodies, for dressage, this is mostly your core. Even to get to second level, you need a comprehensive fitness routine to commit to on top of your riding, which brings me to
    3. Time- You need to ride 5 or 6 times a week, working out 3-4 times a week, and hauling to shows and lessons. Seriously, with a 40 hour a week job, how the heck are you going to get all this done?
    4. Lameness issues- You try going several years without your horse going lame. This is only going to happen to a very small percentage of people. To progress beyond second level, your horse cannot have a serious layup for a pretty significant amount of time, and we just cant put them in bubble wrap.
    5. Fear- Ok so a lot of dressage riders are dressage riders because they are afraid to ride outside the ring. Guess what? They are also afraid to "go fast." What's the number one requirement for a good, solid test? FORWARDNESS. So if you want a nice, slow, lazy adult ammie horse, dont complain when your scores are crap.
    6. Body Issues- I sit at a desk for 8 hours a day, slumped over my computer. I have back issues, neck issues, knee issues, blah, you name it. I am a stiff, hurty, creaky nightmare, and I'm not even 30. My trainer is pushing 60, and I dont know how the heck she does it.
    7. Feeling like you are too good for lungeline work- Yeah, that pretty much sums that up.

    So, to me, the people who are able to get beyond 2nd are either professional riders/trainers, or wealthy to the point of not needing to work. Some kids with wealthy parents get in there, but most people, the time and financial constraints are the biggies, and the lack of commitment to personal fitness.



  20. #20
    Join Date
    Jan. 30, 2010
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    334

    Default

    So, to me, the people who are able to get beyond 2nd are either professional riders/trainers, or wealthy to the point of not needing to work. Some kids with wealthy parents get in there, but most people, the time and financial constraints are the biggies, and the lack of commitment to personal fitness.
    I know you likely meant this as more of a general statement, but I just wanted to address this. I am definitely NOT a professional rider/trainer and even more so not wealthy. I work full time in a very demanding, stressful job and right now am basically supporting our household because my husband is finishing up his master's degree. Time and finances are always going to be a constraint for your average adult ammy, but I think prioritizing your goals is key. You have to set your sights high but have a realistic expectation of what you can achieve.

    For example, my goal is to go as far as my horse can physically take me before she lets me know it's time to back down. We are schooling some movements from Third so I feel like once I'm able to get over the hump at Second as a *rider*, that we can move along. Now...as I noted in my previous post, we might not be very competitive at anything above this level, but I'm realistic about that. My goal is to be competent and a kind, effective rider...That being said, I don't want to show my first time out at Third and get a 40, so we're in no rush to move up. There again comes the factors of time, patience and hard work.

    I also realized that I would make a lot more progress making some changes to myself - my husband and I are starting to make changes to our diet, getting up early every morning to walk and get exercise, and be more active in general.

    The funny thing is, my hubby is getting pretty proficient at working with the mare on the ground - this weekend he is going to learn how to lunge properly so eventually he can lunge while I ride and work on my seat. That's a good horse husband ...
    Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit sniffing glue.

    A Voice Halted



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