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  1. #21
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    Here's my totally unprofessional assessment of it. I've seen far too many dressage trainers that never teach their students how to ride i.e. good equitation. I started in Hunters (and I'm glad I did). We spent endless lessons on riding with no stirrups, one stirrup, two stirrups, no reins, etc, etc. and not on a 20 m circle, it was using the whole arena and over jumps. You learned to ride. Too many dressage trainers I see spend all their time worrying about the horse and not teaching the rider, subsequently too many lower level riders just don't have a good seat. Many don't understand the aids, it helps to have a few classes on the ground where you talk about what the aids are and how to do them. Additionally, I don't see a lot of good qualified trainers that are available or willing to teach the lower level riders, especially for AA's that may not have the time to invest in full time training or don't have the $$ to invest in a big moving dressage horse or have a horse in full time training.


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  2. #22
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    By the same token, js, a lot of hunter riders these days only know how to sit on the horse and look pretty.... the rest of the training is done by other folks. Your point is well taken though - there isn't a general knowledge foundation in our dressage trainers. Why? Because we have no standardized educational system for horse trainers and anybody can put up a shingle saying they're a trainer.
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  3. #23
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    I've done both... worked with an FEI trainer and then switched to a non-dressage barn where I had very occasional lessons from a different FEI trainer (who is in Florida October-April), and then, when my horse was off, I started taking lessons from a woman who has shown through Fourth. She doesn't really like to show but got her USDF Bronze. She trains with one of the well-regarded FEI trainers in the area -- in fact works for her and rides a lot of horses for her -- but no longer has her own horse.


    So you would think I got the most out of the FEI trainers, right? Well, not necessarily. FEI trainer #1 gave me so much -- starting with the ability to ride and show my somewhat spicy horse without fear. That is one of the things she is known for -- she will take on horse-rider "mismatches" and see what can be done with them, and if it's not working out, she has a good network for sales. But -- I did not get much, if any, instruction on my own "equitation" so to speak. She'd worked mostly with higher level riders, or lower level people who were there just for a couple of months in pursuit of some other goal, often low level eventers for whom dressage was NOT the center of the universe. (I in fact started out as one of them, until a riding accident nixed my eventing dreams.)

    Second FEI trainer... I loved at first, but later on she "tricked" me a few times and wasn't very nice about it.

    The younger, non-FEI trainer works mostly with low level riders and a fair number of green horses, and rides horses of many levels whose owners are too busy to ride them enough. My own horse gets a ride from her once a week and I see great benefits from it. While we've had some bumps in the road, I'm starting to see how her work with me on very correct position and precise aids is helpful, even if I never do get beyond Second.

    She's not a big name and never will be, but she's passing on to me her own learning of very correct basics, so if I ever do end up in the right situation, I'll have a great base to work from.

    One thing, I won't train with someone who uses draw reins a lot. I don't want to ride in draw reins, ever (and so far I have not.) None of the trainers I've worked with are fans of them.

    (my own circumstances are relevant:
    I am a Training Level rider, and work a little on First. With the current horse, I won't go further than that because she's not capable of it due to soundness issues. She's a nice horse to work with (we get a lot of "very good match" comments from judges) and is also a good trail horse, so I don't want to retire her sooner than I need to.

    It is *possible* that when she is retired and I have a new horse, I might make Second, but I have my own very long list of "soundness issues," which are permanent but do not qualify as "disabilities" of the sort that might get me some helpful exemptions on tack and equipment. Oh, perhaps if I won the lottery, quit my job, had a physical trainer several hours per day to coach my own off-the-horse physical activity, possibly a couple of surgeries to fix my leg muscles and shoulder joints, and when not off the horse had two or more horses to ride, I could go further. I am a serious rider, but I'm limited.)
    Last edited by quietann; Apr. 9, 2013 at 10:45 AM.
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  4. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by siegi b. View Post
    By the same token, js, a lot of hunter riders these days only know how to sit on the horse and look pretty.... the rest of the training is done by other folks. Your point is well taken though - there isn't a general knowledge foundation in our dressage trainers. Why? Because we have no standardized educational system for horse trainers and anybody can put up a shingle saying they're a trainer.
    And a lot of "prep"
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  5. #25
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    I think the biggest challenge we face is that there is no regulating board in the US to train, test, and license instructors/trainers. Some states have their own testing and licensing requirements, but many do not. Therefore, anybody that wants to hang a sign and collect monies for their services qualifies as an instructor. This, to me, is quite dangerous as well as deceiving, never mind the inconsistency nationwide in the training practices and such of horse and rider. It's also something I've found many novices, and even more advanced riders, don't know. They just assume because somebody holds themselves out to be qualified that they are. Many years ago, I went through an apprenticeship and obtained my state license as an instructor. I had to go before the State Commissioner of Agriculture, take a 500 question test, as well as provide multiple letters of recommendation from other licensed professionals on my skills and abilities. When I took my test the Commissioner told me that a very high percentage of the people that came in to take the test failed miserably with percentages as low as the 40 percentile. Most of the first test was basic, commonsense, safety oriented information. Scary......

    I do think there are many out there that are very qualified to teach and truly have a lot to share. I also agree that not everybody is a "specialist" in all aspects of dressage training. Some are better at seat development, some with the in hand work, some with starting youngsters, etc. I do think that even as a newby one should seek out the most qualified instructor possible. It makes no sense to start a youngster or try to rehab an older horse with poor training in an inferior way with an unqualified trainer only to realized sometime later, years even, that it all went wrong and you now have more problems to fix.

    For me personally, I have found that working with the best I can find on a monthly basis, then followed up with someone maybe less experience but on that same path, to be the most beneficial. There's never a time IMHO that one should not have some kind of "eyes on the ground" along the way. Heck, even our olympians have a coach every step of the way..... Most of us admittedly will never achieve that level, not even FEI, and many don't aspire to, but I personally feel that I want the best, most correct training I can find which is fundamentally based in a solid foundation of correct work for my horse and myself even if the goal is training/1st level.

    Something I've also learned over the years that is so crucial to remember: A great rider who's achieved a lot in the show ring is not always the best teacher - and, alternatively, great teachers/communicators are not necessarily the top riders.


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  6. #26
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    Thanks for your thoughtful replies!

    I especially appreciate the value of an un-FEI trainer who can teach good equitation and feel to the rider. IME, those advanced dressage trainers talk a lot about what the horse is doing. If the rider can't manufacture that, feel it or reward it, I'll bet the lesson was a complete waste of time. That is to say, the rider can't go home and reproduce that sensitive ride that improves the horse.

    If the 0-3rd level trainers are better at the equitation piece, I think they are doing a very important service.
    Last edited by mvp; Apr. 9, 2013 at 07:29 PM.
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  7. #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by siegi b. View Post
    By the same token, js, a lot of hunter riders these days only know how to sit on the horse and look pretty.... the rest of the training is done by other folks. Your point is well taken though - there isn't a general knowledge foundation in our dressage trainers. Why? Because we have no standardized educational system for horse trainers and anybody can put up a shingle saying they're a trainer.
    Agreed, I was riding hunters over 25 yrs ago, guess things change (but not my age mind you). Definitely agree that we need an educational and a testing system, many of us have been saying that for a long time.


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  8. #28
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    I don't think you need a grand prix trainer to learn how to post the trot or ride a proper circle, any more than you need a grand prix schoolmaster to learn those things. I think there is a market for lower-level riding instructors that can help teach a beginner or advanced-beginner correct basic riding skills that will set them up well to learn more advanced stuff with a different instructor a few years down the road.

    I think part of the mix-up in the US is that we have so many different disciplines and people specialize so early that we call basic riding skills "dressage" or "hunter/jumper" or whatever other specialty before those designations would necessarily happen in other countries. Another thing that was different between the places I rode here and in a different country is that there, there were multiple instructors within one riding academy or program. Here, a lot of instructors fly solo and still expect to meet the ongoing needs of a wide variety of clients, which I think only a subset of higher-level trainers can actually realistically do.

    So long as lower-level instructors are honest about who they are and what they've done, have good teaching skills, a good eye, and correct basics, I think they can be of value. The problem is a) is the instructor honest, and b) how can a beginner tell if the instructor can teach them solid basics? Without knowing the sport already, how do you separate the wheat from the chaff?

    Young horse training is a whole 'nother ball of wax from teaching a beginning rider. I have a young horse and I like having her in training with a pro that has experience training up to FEI levels, but having experience with young horses is equally important to me and I don't think FEI experience is enough on its own. JMO, as always.
    Last edited by suzier444; Apr. 9, 2013 at 03:30 PM.



  9. #29
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    I have a full time job and many years of experience riding babies until I bought my first horse 20+ years into riding. I value someone who has not only ridden babies, but ridden problems. A lot of the local dressage trainers competing at top levels in my area have either imported/purchased a horse with buttons installed, or had another trainer guide them in training it so far - and the horses they train were either blank slates or correctly started. I need a trainer who can think outside the box, and have found that FEI-level competitors don't have a monopoly on that. I don't have the time to get to that level, either - couldn't ride enough to keep my horses at the fitness level required due to job and family. But my trainer has been to 4th and is amazing at understanding the building blocks of classical dressage to transform one of my horses from something so messed up into a nice horse pinning well in good company at our local shows now. There are certainly trainers who have no clue that specialize in lower levels or don't ride FEI, but there are also trainers with vast horsemanship and knowledge to share that don't compete at top levels, or heck, don't even ride dressage! I have learned from h/j trainers, Western, and even gaited trainers - tidbits here and there that help with situations on different horses. Dressage is not just competition, the word means, simply, training. And there's a lot of training to be done below FEI-levels



  10. #30
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jealoushe View Post
    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!
    When you say "tops out", do you mean that's as high as she teaches, that's when she reaches a level of incompetence, or that is the highest level she has shown, or that is the highest level she has shown successfully?

    There is a difference in all of this.

    An instructor who can successfully explain and teach the use of seat and legs, the half halt, riding on contact and the difference between that and round, and collected, is what the "beginner to dressage" needs. They need someone who will take the time and patience while they learn to navigate a proper circle. This teacher need not be a GP rider. There are too many GP riders out there who may have shown GP, but did not train their horses to GP.And many UL riders expect that riders already know the basics, to them it is a given, and they never think to explain the basics or have either learned them so long ago, or have been one of the few instinctive natural riders, that they have no idea how to teach them.
    Some riders change their horse, they change their saddle, they change their teacher; they never change themselves.



  11. #31
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    Apr. 17, 2006
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    -- Add draw reins and/or the double and you can keep them happy doing the "upper levels."
    OMG! This is actually happening to a few people that I know. Their trainer has them buying double bridles and 1 is doing first level test 1 at best, the second maybe schooling 2nd. When I heard that they where doing this I just didn't get it. Horses are NOT schooling 3rd not even close. Neither has a single flying change so I wasn't sure WHY they needed the curb. Now I do.



  12. #32
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    Mar. 25, 2009
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    I agree. Wholeheartedly.



    Quote Originally Posted by meupatdoes View Post
    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.


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  13. #33
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    I'm jumping back in as a work-avoidance technique -- too many essays to grade Like other posters have said, there's a market for good LL trainers and instructors. Just as very few BNTs break and start their youngstock, it seems they also don't "start" beginner riders. I've seen that a lot on both coasts -- GP / UL instructors who will not work with students who are below 2nd level. I'm of the firm belief that an instructor who can instill great basics on a beginner -- and teach the WHY as well as the HOW -- is worth her / his weight in platinum.


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  14. #34
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    Quote Originally Posted by meupatdoes View Post
    Let's discuss what is required to work on half steps.
    ....
    meupatdoes.... I think I love you
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  15. #35
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    Quote Originally Posted by DancingFoalFarms View Post
    ......Just as very few BNTs break and start their youngstock, it seems they also don't "start" beginner riders. I've seen that a lot on both coasts -- GP / UL instructors who will not work with students who are below 2nd level. .......
    This is so true. I found that they also won't even clinic with riders below a certain level. It is difficult for lower level riders and beginners to find good quality instruction with a person that has a lot of experience; that is not to say that there aren't great trainers of all levels out there, there are, but just not enough willing to take on those starting out. Additionally, I've found that many of the BNT's want riders that will keep a horse in full time training, want riders with big $$ horses, and those that that are wanting to show, etc. again leaving out a good many of the lower level riders and beginners that may just be wanting to learn to ride, learn how to have a good seat and may have the average horse.



  16. #36
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    Quote Originally Posted by js View Post
    This is so true. I found that they also won't even clinic with riders below a certain level. It is difficult for lower level riders and beginners to find good quality instruction with a person that has a lot of experience; that is not to say that there aren't great trainers of all levels out there, there are, but just not enough willing to take on those starting out. Additionally, I've found that many of the BNT's want riders that will keep a horse in full time training, want riders with big $$ horses, and those that that are wanting to show, etc. again leaving out a good many of the lower level riders and beginners that may just be wanting to learn to ride, learn how to have a good seat and may have the average horse.
    Very well said. And although I may be generalizing here based on my own experience, I have to wonder if some BNTs follow the old Ivy League method of choosing clients based on connections and future returns. I'm not expressing that well, but hopefully it makes sense. My real-world example is this: I used to train with a member of the Dutch team. I really liked and respected this person, got a ton out of our sessions, etc. So, a late-middle-aged dressage newbie fell in love with one of my horses at a show, and explained that she had her own horse, and was looking for a trainer. I told her about mine, and invited her to the barn to sit in on a training session. Trainer met with the woman, agreed to watch her ride (an interview process), and although skills-wise the woman was what the trainer would normally accept, trainer refused to work with her because -- as trainer told me later -- the horse wasn't fancy enough. The trainer wanted clients that would regularly attract attention. While I understand that as professionals we're running businesses, I feel like we're doing dressage a disservice by ignoring the needs of everyday clients.


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  17. #37
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    Quote Originally Posted by siegi b. View Post
    By the same token, js, a lot of hunter riders these days only know how to sit on the horse and look pretty.... the rest of the training is done by other folks. Your point is well taken though - there isn't a general knowledge foundation in our dressage trainers. Why? Because we have no standardized educational system for horse trainers and anybody can put up a shingle saying they're a trainer.
    Which is true across the board in equestrian disciplines, unfortunately. FEW are taught what I (and others of my more-advanced-generation) consider "the basics" - translated 'what you NEED TO KNOW in order to be even a semi-competent horseperson/rider'.
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