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  1. #1
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    Default Lack of depth in dressage trainers... as in hunter world?

    The thread about dressage now vs. the 1970s and the "industrial revolutions" that occurred first in Hunter World and now in Dressage World raised a question for me.

    From hunter world: You can now make a living never having done much more than jump 3'. George Morris has been fretting about the lack of emphasis on getting to top level jumpers for a long time, as it creates a next generation that lacks necessary experience.

    Do you guys see the same thing happening in dressage world? Are there now more trainers that top out at, say, 3rd level? Do you care? Would you choose one who only went that far vs one how had made a GP horse or two? (I understand that's different from having shown one GP). Would you insist on that FEI trainer for a young project horse you had, even if you guys were starting at the bottom?
    The armchair saddler
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  2. #2
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    Most amateur students with day jobs will never get past First anyway. A comparative smattering will make it past Second, with the ranks thinning off more and more as you go up the levels. You can ride GP all day long and twice on Sundays and the great majority of those you teach will be working Second or below. Add draw reins and/or the double and you can keep them happy doing the "upper levels."

    "Depth" is lost on 99% of the clientele anyway.

    It is an expensive investment to get the education so do it if you are personally interested. When the great majority of riders never make it past First, similarly few riders will ever get to the point where they tap into anyone's "depth."


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  3. #3
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    I can't comment on what the trends are, but will say that I want the best, most experienced trainer I can reasonably access. My current trainer has brought a number to GP over her years, and now has one that is learning the piaffe and passage, having done very well at PSG/I-1. And yes, I would absolutely want her if I had a young project horse, as I've seen her do those and would want the most solid base I could get for said young horse.

    I think a lot depends on rider goals, interest in showing, desire and ability to move up the levels. If someone wants to play a bit w/ the dressage concepts, , perhaps coming from another discipline, then maybe a trainer who did not get to FEI could still be helpful to them.
    We don't get less brave; we get a bigger sense of self-preservation........



  4. #4
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    It depends on what you mean by depth. Some trainers are what I'd consider to be specialists -- people I'd go to for in-hand skills, P/P work, baby issues etc. Then there are the all 'rounders. For instance, one of my trainers is an ex-SRS guy, and I've worked with him for about 15 years; he's on the ball when it comes to any aspect of my riding. He has both depth and breadth of knowledge. That said, he's not always a perfect fit for some young horse problems, and in that case I'll enlist the help of my other person who -- although she doesn't have nearly the history of the SRS guy -- is an absolute ace with baby issues.

    That said, I wouldn't ride / train with someone who had only worked or shown below my own level of experience. That means I specifically look for a GP or HS trainer.

    However, there are lots of people out there who hang up their shingles but ought not. And I do feel that some trainers today lack the solid foundation to "make" a horse or rider correctly from start to finish.


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  5. #5
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    Add draw reins and/or the double and you can keep them happy doing the "upper levels."-meupaudoes

    And that mentality is what is so wrong. Why ever would anyone want to work with an instructor who insists on correct seat, correct use of aids, and the gymnastic development of the horse, when they can take a few short cuts and in their mind "get there".
    Some riders change their horse, they change their saddle, they change their teacher; they never change themselves.



  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by meupatdoes View Post
    Most amateur students with day jobs will never get past First anyway....

    When the great majority of riders never make it past First, similarly few riders will ever get to the point where they tap into anyone's "depth."
    The first statement surprises me a little bit.

    But I'm curious about the second one because the Dresseurs I know start teaching "half steps" so early in a horse's training. So if you ever did want to get to FEI levels, you really do need someone to teach (the horse at least) with that in mind?
    The armchair saddler
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  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by mvp View Post
    Do you guys see the same thing happening in dressage world? Are there now more trainers that top out at, say, 3rd level? Do you care? Would you choose one who only went that far vs one how had made a GP horse or two? (I understand that's different from having shown one GP). Would you insist on that FEI trainer for a young project horse you had, even if you guys were starting at the bottom?
    I'm relatively new to the dressage world, but I know there are more at every level locally than there were in the 80s when I wanted to ride dressage and didn't have options to be able to do so!
    I'm sure there are many more trainers who top out at 2nd/3rd since there are more trainers overall. It seems as if there are many riders who are perfectly happy with that.

    I started out with a trainer who is only a lower level dressage trainer (she's more into eventing), and she was great for me at the time. I absolutely love her, and just learning basics from her was great. I reached the point I needed to learn a lot more, though, about REALLY using my seat/weight/cues well, and am now riding w/ an FEI trainer who has helped me really progress. Instead of there being a limit, work we do now is making sure there aren't holes so as we progress I have the skills I need to ride at the upper levels. Hearing "you need to learn to do this for lead changes/piaffe/pirouettes" helps explain why I'm learning something even if it's not technically needed for the lower levels we're currently showing. Even more important to me is that I get a huge variety of instructions until I get something, since the first explanation often doesn't work.

    I will be sending my young horse to this trainer, though it wasn't a requirement to me in choosing a trainer - tact and an ability to lay a good, solid foundation was. I think young horse starting is a skill and few people have it - so I wasn't limiting myself to an FEI dressage rider, but rather limiting myself to someone I thought started young horses well.

    Quote Originally Posted by merrygoround View Post
    Add draw reins and/or the double and you can keep them happy doing the "upper levels."-meupaudoes

    And that mentality is what is so wrong. Why ever would anyone want to work with an instructor who insists on correct seat, correct use of aids, and the gymnastic development of the horse, when they can take a few short cuts and in their mind "get there".
    I see that among many of the "upper level" riders locally. There are of course many I know nothing about, but among the ones I do there are definitely some who often use shortcuts because that's all their trainers know.
    My horse is a dressage diva so I don't have to be.

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    If you have a fat gay horse that likes Parelli, you're really screwed


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  8. #8
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    There is a trainer in my area that tops out at Second level...I am just shocked at the number of people who ride with her!



  9. #9
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    I don't know what the split is for the universe of dressage trainers, or whether there are more upper level folks now than in years past. However, although I am a dressage novice, I absolutely wanted to work with someone who had ridden at a high level as well as brought horses along through the levels - that allows me to evaluate their competence even without being that knowledgeable about the discipline specifically.
    **********
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  10. #10
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    Maybe I'm in the minority compared to the rest of the country, but here in Maryland, I don't feel like there is a shortage of adult amateurs who are schooling and showing above 1st level.
    "It is not necessary for you to let everyone know everything about you. In fact, it is probably wise that you don't. There are some things that you need only discuss with God."


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  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by merrygoround View Post
    Add draw reins and/or the double and you can keep them happy doing the "upper levels."-meupaudoes

    And that mentality is what is so wrong. Why ever would anyone want to work with an instructor who insists on correct seat, correct use of aids, and the gymnastic development of the horse, when they can take a few short cuts and in their mind "get there".
    I am not saying it is right.

    I am saying it is what I see people doing.
    Working on putting the horse on your back vs. riding between spur and hand with nobody home in between is hard. Granted I live in the dressage backwoods but I see people riding upper level school masters in draw reins. Really?

    Many clients are perfectly happy to ride with people who blow the sunshine and let them feel like they are superstars. 20m circles are boring.

    So from the point of view of educating yourself as a trainer to develop your "depth," half the time it doesn't make any difference anyway. It is nice from the perspective of developing your own education and riding your own nice horses correctly, but it is not necessarily rewarded by clients flocking to your door. Nobody wants to be put on a 20m circle to do walk trot transitions off the seat. Fastest way to send 'em running.


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  12. #12
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    I started eventing in the mid '70's. I was lucky to have an occasional lesson with Maj Beale, other than that it was by trial and a lot of error. I lived in Great Falls VA, not exactly a backwater.

    Now, even in Spotsylvania I can think of 3 really good instructors within an hour's trailer ride. If I cared to head on up to Warrenton area and beyond to Loudon I would have even more
    I wasn't always a Smurf
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  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by mvp View Post
    The first statement surprises me a little bit.

    But I'm curious about the second one because the Dresseurs I know start teaching "half steps" so early in a horse's training. So if you ever did want to get to FEI levels, you really do need someone to teach (the horse at least) with that in mind?
    Let's discuss what is required to work on half steps.

    1.) Rider needs to be able to sit the trot.
    2.) Well enough that they can do bigger steps/smaller steps on a 20m circle and eventually get trot/walk transitions off the seat.

    Wait, let's back up.
    0.1) Rider needs to be able to put the horse ON THE AIDS.
    0.2) This means....


    Oh, never mind.
    You have already eclipsed the threshold of patience.

    Nobody wants to sit on the 20m circle while their friends at the next barn are waterskiing around on the double. They will insist that the trainer have qualifications out the wazoo, but they will find the next trainer with qualifications out the wazoo if they get put on that circle.

    The dressage trainer I worked with super intensively when I came out of doing the hunters full time was the most nit picky attender to detail in the universe. I was forced to learn longe work and long lining. I was put on the 20m circle. I made bigger steps, smaller steps. I did TOH in walk. I was expected to take one lesson a week on each horse on these 20m circles. The kreuz, the kreuz, the interminable kreuz. I did stretchy circles and more stretchy circles, and also ueberstreichen. Drawreins were disallowed in the barn rules, #9. Rule #8 was "never shout at a horse." Roughly a year later we were at shallow loop serpentines before I had to move across the country.

    Now I go to clinics and am greeted with, 'You have clearly been the recipient of excellent training!" and my horse, while glacially progressing to 3rd/4th as I hold out and hold out on introducing the double, is heralded as "correct." Granted I have lessoned with additional people before and after that trainer, but the majority of my dressage lessons have to date been taught by him. I have found another trainer who, now that she BELIEVES me that I am willing to sit on the 20m circle and after I refused for six months after her go-ahead to come out in the double (because *I* didn't feel the contact was ready yet), is willing to really get into the finer points without fearing losing my business, I guess.

    When I go to clinics and am asked to describe what my horse and I are working on, I deliberately say that I never answer that question. If I do, invariably the clinician tries to be a hero and have us doing something a level above. So instead I say, "I don't answer that question. The point is to work on what we need to work on, not what we we would like to work on. So please look for the lowest down hole in the basics you can find and work on that." The last clinician I rode with actually hugged me when I said I had never once schooled the horse in drawreins. Who do these people encounter in their teaching that my horse and I inspire such relief??? Why are they under such pressure to run along behind clients with a dressage whip for "forward" rather than simply working on, 'OK, leg...POP! boots off and test him!" over and over? Why do they feel such pressure to have the one slightly higher level horse who showed up to the clinic do tempis and pirouettes instead of harping on a bobble in the connection during the up canter transitions?

    Someday I want to show up to a clinic and say "We are working on our PI/PA transitions" and see if I can get the clinician to say, "Haha, you're full of sh*t."
    Probably they will just sigh and try to come up with something.

    As for that trainer?
    I was his only boarder; he had maybe three trailer in students additional.
    You could learn to tie your horse up with drawreins and sidereins and beat the bahoohoo out of it for $3k a month down the road, business was booming there.

    There are people out there who really WANT to teach right.
    Whether anyone will listen is another story.

    The pool of available discerning clients leaves plenty of room for the short cut trainers. This is why they exist. If they couldn't make a living, they wouldn't. Every single person you see out there taking a short cut has given their money to someone. That someone is laughing all the way to the bank.

    And meanwhile those trainers who do have depth?
    Often know better than to use it. Just because a trainer HAS the depth doesn't mean they are going to fight the good fight to employ it all the time.
    You can ride a horse on "half power" on hack day and you can teach on half power too. Do you think every single immaculately turned out woman who shows up to a $500.00 clinic in a double talking about her schooling for I2 ought to be riding in that bridle? Aaand how many times have you seen them get sent back for a snaffle?

    Wouldn't be the first time I have been to a clinic and watched an exemplary horseman, pedigreed out the wazoo, pause a moment, and then switch gears to, "Ja ja, wunderbar, wunderbarrrrr...."
    Pay close attention and you can see it.
    Last edited by meupatdoes; Apr. 8, 2013 at 05:59 PM.


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  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by mvp View Post
    The thread about dressage now vs. the 1970s and the "industrial revolutions" that occurred first in Hunter World and now in Dressage World raised a question for me.

    From hunter world: You can now make a living never having done much more than jump 3'. George Morris has been fretting about the lack of emphasis on getting to top level jumpers for a long time, as it creates a next generation that lacks necessary experience.

    Do you guys see the same thing happening in dressage world? Are there now more trainers that top out at, say, 3rd level? Do you care? Would you choose one who only went that far vs one how had made a GP horse or two? (I understand that's different from having shown one GP). Would you insist on that FEI trainer for a young project horse you had, even if you guys were starting at the bottom?
    Honestly, I think it depends on where you are in the country and how good you are at discerning a good trainer from a mediocre trainer from a bad trainer. And what your goals are. There are many trainers who top out at second or third level yet hang out a shingle as a dressage trainer. Yes, I care...I dislike it...but there's not a lot I can do about it. Discerning riders figure out pretty quickly - as in, a phonecall or visit. But there's a whole market of riders out there who really don't want to go above training or first level. Impulsion scares them. While *I* can't understand this, I can't knock people who take good care of their horses and don't care if they ever rise above intro or training level...and take lessons with relatively inexpensive "trainers" who make sure they're safe and happy. And that is the selling-point for many of these low-level "trainers" - they're relatively inexpensive compared to the better trainers.

    I, and most riders I know who are serious about the sport, know enough about dressage to separate the wheat from the chafe. I know riders who are at first level on FEI level schoolmasters, but they still want to ride with FEI-level trainers because these people know "where the process is going", have experience with different horses and riders, and know what the movements are for. They're a means to an end, not an end in themselves. BTW, I don't know any riders remotely serious in the sport (at *whatever* level) who ride schoolmasters or other horses in drawreins unless there is a very real reason to. If anything, neither the trainer nor the schoolmaster would tolerate it.

    I have a young horse project (who is a project at 4 years old) and I have a dressage young horse specialist working with me. I need someone who can help me get Mr. Sensitivity's brain focused on simple walk-trot-canter in a balanced and secure way. I'm working with the right trainer for the job.

    I disagree that most amateurs with day jobs will never get past First level or even second level. I very much disagree with this!
    Proud member of the Colbert Dressage Nation


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  15. #15
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    I also disagree on AA's not making it past first level...

    Anyway instead of repeating anything anyone else said, I thought I'd point prices out. In kind of a "you get what you pay for" way.

    Say someone is new to the dressage world, maybe coming from h/j or just new in general. Maybe their horse isn't capable of going past 2nd level physically or mentally, or maybe they just need to ride a schoolie, or maybe they're just getting their feet wet. Although having experience in the upper levels will help teach the right principles because you keep the end goal in mind, is it absolutely necessary for these people to pay extra money for that knowledge, if realistically, where they and their horse are THEN and THERE, they don't need that knowledge? Maybe that trainer has other valuable skills to bring to the table, like an easy way of explaining things, or a considerable knowledge of difficult horses at lower levels. And that trainer may be $45 a lesson.

    Now, upper-level trainers may have "fancier" barns, and more upper-level clients, and a hefty price tag. That is totally fine and I am in no way bashing it. But, does that rider just feeling dressage out for the first time really need to pay so much extra money for a lesson on her 18 year old downhill quarter horse? Maybe not.

    I think there is a need for both, providing both are simply good trainers. That will vary individually, of course, and each trainer should be evaluated by someone before choosing to ride with them. But hey, USDF does certify through second level and then through fourth... something to think about


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  16. #16
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    I've been around a LONG time in dressage. There are WAY more qualified instructors who have actually trained and taught then there were and WAY better riders moving up the levels.

    For a long time there were only the biggies, many of who are still around--Steffen, Geunter, Leslie (Morse and Webb), Hilda, Robert, etc. For awhile there were a bunch of wannabies who were suddenly "trainers" but had done nothing. Now there are a LOT more trainers and riders who have actually ridden up the levels. Some are still buying expensive trained clients for horses and ruining them, but there are a lot more legit trainers.

    I pretty much trained myself and my own horses to GP with slight help, so if I work with someone, I damn well want someone I know who has done it. You can always tell people who have a spiel and following (like DeKunfy) versus the people who have actually brought horses up the levels and brought people up the levels.

    A lot of people do not need someone has done the whole thing, but there are a lot more serious riders who do. The level of quality riding, horses, and training has increased enormously in the last 25 years.



  17. #17
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    oops
    Last edited by Beentheredonethat; Apr. 10, 2013 at 12:48 AM.


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  18. #18
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    I am maybe quite isolated in my training board environment and only know about the big name, upper-level trainers in my area (within 2 hours of me). Maybe there is a whole world of 2nd level trainers I don't know about, I have no idea, but the trainers I am in contact with are all Grand Prix or on their way and the riders I know tend to consider this the only way to go. At the same time, most people I know ride or want to ride at upper levels so of course it is a skewed sample and *someone* is bringing a bunch of training level riders to shows, *someone* is teaching students who aren't in full training, who don't have fancy warmbloods, I just don't know who they are. But even when I first started thinking about coming back to dressage and looked up possible trainers I could really only find the big names and in my limited experience it was either lower level riding school instructors or international (including Olympic) competitors, not much in between. Many of these upper level trainers disappear to Florida for the winter and some have drastically cut down or eliminated their training programmes altogether to focus on competition, which can leave big holes in terms of training availability in certain areas.

    When I started looking for a place I did not care about an FEI-level trainer, I just couldn't find anything else, but now I wouldn't ride/train without one. If I were happy doing 2nd level I would maybe not care, but my horse and I can do more and need someone who has done 'more' many times over. Aside from ordinary training, I find that I learn so much just watching my trainer ride - whether it's on my horse or Grand Prix horses - teaches me so much and I would miss out on a lot if I couldn't see someone do that all the time.



  19. #19
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    Just want to add my voice to the ones disputing that AA's with full time jobs cannot go above 1st level. Maybe it is where I live, but I can come up with 4 women--all of whom train with my trainer-- who did just that. Three got their Silver Medals last year and one showed Third Level. They have nice horses but nothing super fancy and they all did it doing all the riding, with lessons, not always weekly.

    There are plenty more in my area, these are just the ones that I can think of without trying. There are plenty of AA's riding above 1st level, doing it mostly on their own, and (I believe) looking for the very best training for their money.



  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by MaisieMae View Post
    Just want to add my voice to the ones disputing that AA's with full time jobs cannot go above 1st level.
    Nobody said AA's *can't* go above 1st. What was said was that *most AA's* never go above 3rd, and *many* never above 1st.

    Not because they can't, but because they don't want to make the time/energy/work etc commitment to do more than that. I don't think anyone was dissing AA's with a job, just pointing out why low level trainers can make a living- because of the huge number of low level ammies who aren't looking to move up the levels
    Quote Originally Posted by pinecone View Post
    I can't decide if I should saddle up the drama llama, dust off the clue bat, or get out my soapbox.


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