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  1. #1
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    Default French Classical Dressage?

    I admittedly am not an expert. I have toyed around with Eventing for several years, but dressage has always been my weakest phase. Still, I felt I understood the principles until recently. I have been taking lessons from a new trainer, and she expects me to go around with almost no contact under the heading of French Classical Dressage. I have always been taught that I should have something in my hand, not much, but it should be there nonetheless. Can someone explain?



  2. #2
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    To what level has this trainer brought a horse to and shown?

    Was she/he successful at that level?

    What are her students doing in the show ring?

    Are they riding with contact?

    Does the trainer ride with contact?

    Yes, its a red flag when I ride with anyone who is not helping me be more connected to the horse. More connection = more communication. (not heavy or unyeilding, but a better flow between hand and mouth is quite "connected" not light to the point that there is no talking... A horse should be light but never travel without connection for your entire ride. A test... Yes maybe for a few strides (even though I always stay connected with the outside as a rule), but not for an entire ride no.

    JMHO



  3. #3
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    The French school of classical dressage emphasizes lightness before all else. The (more common) German school emphasizes forward before light.

    It's not wrong- but definitely different. You see a lot more of it currently in classical circles than you do in competitive circles (aka at shows).

    For your purposes (presumably training level dressage for eventing (BN-T)), it will probably confuse you more than it will help.



  4. #4
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    I have not seen the trainer ride, nor do I know much about her showing. I know, not usually a good sign. Her horse is lovely and responsive to the leg, but I felt really awkward riding with no contact. I feel like I keep grasping at straws and it throws me off, and I do not usually lean on the reins (which would be my first assumption if someone just said what I did).

    I agree that I might wind up more confused than anything else...



  5. #5
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    I agree with Joiedevie99- if you're EVER planning on showing, the French concepts may be more confusing than helpful. However, if showing isn't your goal, then I think the ultra slow "classical" approach has it's own merits.
    I guess I'm saying know what your goals are, it'll be less confusing and hopefully less frustrating when "competition and classical collide" ....

    Keep us posted on what you discover !



  6. #6
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    Its a nice way to get the horse to get pissy when you touch the bit....

    If you do this method, you have to do it 200%. Do not go switching back between german, french. Its not something to play around with as the horse will get confused.

    My personal experience was it didn't help my horse and created more problems then solutions.



  7. #7
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    There is contact in French Classical (I practice classical dressage only) but our expectation is that the horse develops carriage where they can hold themselves and we maintain the very lightest of contact. This cannot happen unless the rider's position is absolutely perfect, or else the contact will be inconsistent.
    The biggest thing I've noticed between the two schools (I started German) was that german spends a lot of time with a green horse in long and low, and french asks a horse to learn to carry raised, and then learns how to travel long and low, so the french horse never develops the habit of flopping onto the forehand.

    I think that both have their place, depending on the horse, and the person. For me and my horse, German was not a match.

    Unless you are really looking to plunge down the rabbit hole, so to speak, I don't recommend french classical.
    www.destinationconsensusequus.com
    chaque pas est fait ensemble



  8. #8
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    Could it be that she is wanting to develop your seat and legs as a rider without bothering the horse's training?

    I remember in Jane Marshall Dillon's training books that her students were not allowed contact until they had developed the independent seat that her methods required.
    "I'm a lumberjack, and I'm okay."
    Thread killer Extraordinaire



  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Petstorejunkie View Post
    There is contact in French Classical (I practice classical dressage only) but our expectation is that the horse develops carriage where they can hold themselves and we maintain the very lightest of contact. This cannot happen unless the rider's position is absolutely perfect, or else the contact will be inconsistent.
    The biggest thing I've noticed between the two schools (I started German) was that german spends a lot of time with a green horse in long and low, and french asks a horse to learn to carry raised, and then learns how to travel long and low, so the french horse never develops the habit of flopping onto the forehand.

    I think that both have their place, depending on the horse, and the person. For me and my horse, German was not a match.

    Unless you are really looking to plunge down the rabbit hole, so to speak, I don't recommend french classical.
    Ive had the polars and then the middle. I like the middle an dont think you have to plunge unless you are planning on sticking to one school exclusively

    Stretching and down and round, up to poll highest and light is actually a fantastic progression for each ride even if you like. Allowing a stretch and firmer contact and then asking for half steps into a bridle with the lightest contact (requires a very balanced seat as above says), is a great way to venture into collection as well.

    I prefer a nice feel of connection because having lighter breeds, I know they all have a tendency to fake throughness and it gives me constant feedback of where the balance is if they are nice and connected to my hands, but I NEVER have shoulder aches or anything weird like that.

    Its a fine balancing act, but Ive never been a fan of anyone that says do ONLY this or only that, change is so important to build the muscles. Short and long, tight then loose, forward and then slow, self carriage and down and round, it all has its uses.



  10. #10
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    I would actually say that I tend to fall somewhere in the middle as far as how I personally like my horse. I prefer to have SOMETHING in my hand, but I do not allow the heaviness that can occur. I think it might be valuable as one of the major things I want to work on is my actual seat and overall position. On the lesson horses, you must be 100% on your game or they will make it known. In that way it will be good. However, I don't know that I will ever be able to leave "bend against the outside rein" behind me...



  11. #11
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    I train with 2 trainers. One local and one overseas based.

    The overseas trainer is French classical.
    The local trainer has a background that was German/European based but has moved to a more softer mixture of both German and French origins.
    I previously rode with a German Bereiter.

    The French classical is not about riding without a contact its about riding with a light contact and putting the horse to the bit.
    Lots of transitions within the gait, slower tempos, shoulder in,traver,renver etc to get the horse light and into a light contact.

    I found with the German method was about pushing the horse strongly forward into a more restraining hand and wanting the horse to take a stronger forward contact whereas the French methods uses more slower collected work to acheive a lighter softer contact.

    I ride competitive dressage and found the strictly Germanic method resulted in just too much tension and heaviness that I did not like. I just did not like the way the horses were going. It was too harsh and hurried.

    The French Classical is a much softer approach with a lighter softer way but I do find that the horses are a little lacking in expression. My O/S trainer rides Spanish breeds so she does not have a problem with expression as this comes naturally with these breeds but my breeds donot have this.

    So I have found the balance in between works really well for me and my local trainer who uses the best of both methods works really well for me.

    Carl Hester uses a modified Classical method which is why he gets such good results and lovely soft horses. Hes my idol and its his style that I want to emulate rather than the likes of the some of the German and Dutch riders.



  12. #12
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    There is lightness and self carriage in ALL good/traditional riding, it makes no difference which side of the Rhine. Fdo (aka chewing the reins from the hand/aka long and low) is a TEST of whether the horse will follow then hand. Traditionally all the schools rode the horse up and open, it is only in the last 30+ years that the infatuation with (over)flexion/sustained low postures have come about for their submissive aspects, and they are ruinous to the quality of the gaits. (And yes I mostly rode with traditional germans, and there is little to no difference imho).

    Ride with someone who understands training of horses to sustain the purity of gaits, and develops lightness and self carriage, and who teaches good equitation and timing of aids.

    Contact is to develop self carriage, so it doesn't not make a horse pissy if rewards are given for reactions to hh/demi-arrets (rather than giving to the bit/longitudinal flexion---which is backwards in either system).

    Traditional methodology with not confuse a horse, but having no/unclear methodology will. Understand how a horse goes from green to high collection and the journey becomes clearer. Lateral flexibility is the key to developing longitudinal flexion.

    (And traditional french training does not toss contact to the wind, that kind of connection is an affectation and misunderstanding just as much as rushing horses off their feet into restraint, or rollkur and closed/low postures are.)
    I.D.E.A. yoda



  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by ideayoda View Post
    There is lightness and self carriage in ALL good/traditional riding, it makes no difference which side of the Rhine. Fdo (aka chewing the reins from the hand/aka long and low) is a TEST of whether the horse will follow then hand. Traditionally all the schools rode the horse up and open, it is only in the last 30+ years that the infatuation with (over)flexion/sustained low postures have come about for their submissive aspects, and they are ruinous to the quality of the gaits. (And yes I mostly rode with traditional germans, and there is little to no difference imho).
    It was Klimke, I think, who really brought long and low while posting into vogue. Folks should recall that for many, many years prior to the 80's dressage horses were very successfully developed without it... they were ridden much more "up and open," as you call it. It just goes to show that there are many roads to Rome, but good riding is good riding.



  14. #14
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    I do not agree with that, Reiner was riding in two olympics eventing, and in two before that period He rode with some of the leading exponents of the Berlin school and was very traditional. That meant hacking out/caveletti/having the horse chew the reins from the hand as a test.

    The infatuation with the (bastardized)forms of chewing the reins from the hand (l&l/ldr followed from the RK of uphoff and later Avg really came from Schulten-Baumer's dad...and control methods).
    I.D.E.A. yoda



  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by ideayoda View Post
    There is lightness and self carriage in ALL good/traditional riding, it makes no difference which side of the Rhine. Fdo (aka chewing the reins from the hand/aka long and low) is a TEST of whether the horse will follow then hand. Traditionally all the schools rode the horse up and open, it is only in the last 30+ years that the infatuation with (over)flexion/sustained low postures have come about for their submissive aspects, and they are ruinous to the quality of the gaits. (And yes I mostly rode with traditional germans, and there is little to no difference imho).

    Ride with someone who understands training of horses to sustain the purity of gaits, and develops lightness and self carriage, and who teaches good equitation and timing of aids. Contact is to develop self carriage, so it doesn't not make a horse pissy if rewards are given for reactions to hh/demi-arrets (rather than giving to the bit/longitudinal flexion---which is backwards in either system).

    Traditional methodology with not confuse a horse, but having no/unclear methodology will. Understand how a horse goes from green to high collection and the journey becomes clearer. Lateral flexibility is the key to developing longitudinal flexion.

    (And traditional french training does not toss contact to the wind, that kind of connection is an affectation and misunderstanding just as much as rushing horses off their feet into restraint, or rollkur and closed/low postures are.)
    Agree with the bold above.

    Carl Hester does a fantastic job IMO of using both down and round and up and open into each workout.

    My facination is with the riding around like a hunter for a number of years because training level to first is allowing people to get away with such poor connection IMO.

    People need to ask for connection the moment we get on.... So by the time we bring said horse to an away show shouldnt we be able to have some sort of established connection?

    Do you see even 3 year olds and four year olds going around like a hunter in europe? Do they have flat necks>?



  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eireamon View Post
    Carl Hester uses a modified Classical method which is why he gets such good results and lovely soft horses. Hes my idol and its his style that I want to emulate rather than the likes of the some of the German and Dutch riders.
    Yes

    This is how my trainer also trains. Its a very modern thing IMO to blend the styles and soften them....

    Funny thing is she calls Anky "Traditional" while the boards call her modern lol

    She is younger and from Holland and there she says that Anky and them are considered old school



  17. #17
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    Down and round is not traditional, it is an attempt to have a foot in two ways of training imho. Fdo is test of mobility of the jaw and willingness to open the throat latch and seek the hand, it should be used rarely and/at the end of work, and to allow the back to swing.
    I.D.E.A. yoda



  18. #18
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    As others have noted, you do have contact when riding the French classical method -- it's just much lighter than the current German school we see so often in the competitive arena.

    Also (as others have noted), I would think about your long-term goals and such before you decided for sure if you want to stick with this trainer...if you plan to show, I would find another instructor. I would think the horse would just find this confusing. But if you just want to learn how to ride "classical" dressage, I would give your current instructor a try.

    But first watch her ride, check out her references and rider history, etc. Make sure she actually knows what she is talking about...

    For me, Lightness is one of the most seductive qualities of the French school, however I suspect it might take better hands than the German method (only suspect -- I ride neither well enough to say for sure).

    But in the end, I think your ultimate goal should inform your final decision. Is it showing and climbing up the levels? Or do you see riding as a "journey" of partnership with your horse and showing as a secondary activity...just a way to get your horse out and exposed to stuff?

    Good luck either way...



  19. #19
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    I know people who rider in lightness, and the do quite well showing. That said, they do not ride in false lightness (aka no connection) and call it something it is not.
    I.D.E.A. yoda



  20. #20
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    It's a common misconception that classical riders don't show, can't show, can't win. I recently had dinner with two gp level riders who when I mentioned I study the classical arts automatically assumed I don't show.

    Psst, we're the sleepers on the the list you've never heard of who swoop out of nowhere on our unknown horses and take the win... Leaving everyone wondering "who was THAT?!" 'waves' yeah, that's us ;-)

    And yes I am being a bit cheeky. Classical riders do more than mince around on unicorns, dressed like Napoleon, in private menages listening to opera.
    www.destinationconsensusequus.com
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