Please, oh please, tell me to mind my own business.
Slight vent.... selfish, useless vent.
A gal I have known for a couple of years (not well-- friend of a friend kind of thing) has recently acquired a horse who has had prior dressage training, and is interested in learning more about dressage. I was the logical person to call as I am the only one in our particular circle of friends who really does dressage. I am thrilled to help a dressage convert and have helped her with tack and clothing choices, sent her links to the 2007 tests online, lent her my own stack of tests to read (after forcing a promise that she never hold my mistakes against me, lol), and have agreed to videotape her lessons.
The woman she is taking lessons from is a friend of her family. I had never seen this particular trainer give lessons before, but had one VERY unpleasant (and unethical, on her part) experience with her in the past, which I shared with my friend. Other than that I went into meeting her completely un-judgmental.
However. I have watched one lesson and will be going out to tape another tomorrow. Even after only one lesson, a couple of things are SERIOUSLY (probably TOO seriously) bothering me.
First off: at the very first lesson, the trainer told my friend that she would be doing fourth level fairly soon. The horse, by the way, is an Appy-- and not a TB-y Appy. A very, VERY nice horse, but not (IMO) physically built to do fourth level. And... frankly, if MY trainer had told me at MY first lesson that I'd be doing fourth level in the forseeable future (I'm showing T1 and T2 right now), I'd instantly feel that she was blowing smoke up my @ss-- telling me something she thought I wanted to hear. That would completely turn me off, as I'd basically know it was a lie. There is NO WAY for her to know if I'll EVER make fourth level... much less SOON.
Secondly. The trainer expects my friend to start showing at first level in the spring. We are talking about a rider who hasn't shown in about ten years, and that was in saddleseat. She has been a trail rider ever since... occasionally thinking about barrel racing. NO real prior experience in dressage.
This seems totally unreasonable to me... but then again, maybe I'm just picky? I will not advance a level (or even a test!) until I am getting consistent scores in at LEAST the high 60's. Which means I don't expect to do first level until next year (and my horse has shown through second with prior owners-- he definately knows more than I do about dressage!) I feel like there is so much theory to dressage that my friend just isn't being taught. Her teacher hasn't said a word about impulsion or forward-ness... she just has my friend put her gelding into a "frame" (bump the nose down, basically) and do the movements. My lessons are so totally different... I work HARD in that hour. My legs hurt by the end. But my horse is more supple, obedient, engaged, and forward than when we started.
I am very happy that my friend has decided to do dressage and most certainly would NEVER say anything to discourage her. And I haven't mentioned any of my thoughts on her trainer other than the one incident in the past. I will most likely just keep my mouth shut and let her enjoy her lessons, and give advice and help any way I can. I just.... want to know if other dressage riders think I'm being unreasonable... or if my concerns are legitimate. Maybe I take my own riding too seriously and should lighten up? I just feel like there is a BIG DIFFERENCE between hunt seat, open show riding and dressage, and that this trainer is making my friend think that if she has all the tack and clothes right, and can perform the movements, she'll have dressage down pat.
Feel free to tell me that I'm nosy and nuts and should just mind my own business! I most certainly would NOT disagree...
I try not to worry about what people think. They don't do it very often.
I can see why it would bother you. It would bother me too, especially because your friend really doesn't know any better, she is expecting the woman she is paying to know what she is doing!
I would have a talk with friend. Tell her that you are SO excited that she has decided to take up dressage, really excited for her ect, but that from what you know about dressage, this woman is really not good enough to be giving lessons. Tell her that while coach may be a great person, that is not what is important in the equation. Ask her to maybe come watch one of your lessons, maybe she'll notice the obvious difference.
Plus, if this woman is that bad, she must not have alot of successful students. Piont that out. That is a pretty good indication right there.
I feel for you though, I would be the same way.
I would not be so confrontational as to say that "from what you know about dressage, this woman is really not good enough to be giving lessons." Depending on the sensitivity of the friend here, that level of "judgement" may make HER defensive, because she chose this woman and nobody likes to hear they made a bad choice. At the same time I agree that it might be a good idea to say something, but what and how really depends on this woman's personality--is she a "smile and nod" type that seems like she's listening but ignores you anyway, or does she really take your opinions to heart? If you feel as though saying something might actually accomplish something, then great, be tactful--"hey, listen, I've been doing this dressage thing for a long time and I know it's helped me to see as many different trainers as possible, and to shop around a little before comitting to one... maybe you would be open to that?"
stick to your guns- you are on the right track and you have to learn the basics. It is the single longest and most challenging piece of riding good dressage.
Don't let you friend use you as a helper if you are better than her trainer whom she pays. Tell your friend the truth and distance yourself. The old saying always comes back in my mind: if you hang with dogs you'll get flees...
keep your nose up and maintain your devotion to thorough learning of dressage and HIGH scores!!
I would NEVER say that the trainer isn't good enough to give lessons, or anything like that! And in reality, I don't think anything I say would change her mind-- not that she'll insist on staying out of stubbornness, just that I don't think I can adequately explain to her WHY I am bothered by her trainer's teachings. I don't have the capability to really explain dressage, at least not as I see it. So I don't imagine I'll really ever say anything to her at all. I do agree that she may potentially figure it out when she gets her test scores and comments, but maybe not! I do, ABSOLUTELY worry that she gets awful comments and decides to chuck it in... I know that in my own very first dressage show, the judge was VERY harsh (I have never received comments like that, to this day!) and I was really hurt by them, and wondered if it was worth continuing. But this was at Intro B! I can only imagine what would be said if *I* chose to show at first level right now-- it would make me VERY nervous, lol I would really, REALLY hate to see her get hurt and want to give it up.
At any rate... ATR.... it's not the fact that he's an Appy (I myself had a GORGEOUS, 16.2hh App gelding who was 1/2 TB and had AMAZING movement, and is a fantastic dressage prospect), it's his conformation. He is built, well, like an Appy, only tallish. He's very cute, but not typical sporthorse built.
Thanks for the replies, all
Last edited by arabdressage; Feb. 10, 2007 at 02:55 AM.
I try not to worry about what people think. They don't do it very often.
arabdressage, maybe it would help your friend to have a "lightbulb moment" about her instructor if you gave her a good dressage instruction book or video to have a look at, and let her see the comparison. Might not help at all, but I can't think of any other ideas for you. Good luck with getting the point across without it getting in the way of your friendship, and I hope your friend does figure it out before she starts seeing disappointing comp results and gets disillusioned, like you said.
Oh how I can relate to your story.We have a 'classical trainer' from Australia come to Nz a couple of times a year.My closest friend started taking lessons from her on a horse that couldnt even manage a prelim frame.This horse was so on the forhand you wouldnt believe it.My friend had had lessons with other trainers but could never get anywhere because the trainers would only work on doing anything to get the horse off the forhand.So along comes the five day wonder woman clinician and the next time I see my friend she is trying to teach her horse changes and showing me her 'half pass'.She was riding with another lady who was tryng to get her prelim horse to passage.Oh the pain.It killed me and I stewed and stewed over it.It ate me up inside as I wanted to yell at my friend to get a grip on reality.I so wanted to tell her that she wasnt as good as she thought she was.Inside my head I was an A grade bitch. In the end I said nothing (god knows how but Im glad i didnt) and after about 5 clinics with this woman ,and no progress apart from atempting GP moves she gave up on her and came back from the dark side.I think its best to keep quiet as the whole thing could blow up in your face and sound like you are jealous etc....It will work itself out in the long run.
I think you should "mind your own business", to use your words. She is not a beginner rider and even if she is on the wrong track with the wrong trainer, she won't thank you, in fact she will probably think you are jealous of her "progress". She will believe what she wants to believe.
If it were me I'd gently extricate myself from the situation so I wouldn't have to watch or video the lessons. The most I would do is encourage her to watch other lessons with other trainers , maybe audit some clinics.
I would not say anything about the trainer, but that's just me. I learned from a really great mentor not to tear down the skills of other trainers or riders (even on the net- such as the trashing of riding videos that goes on so much here).
Let her know when clinicians, etc are in town. Ask her to come video one of your lessons, so she can see how your trainer approaches things. Be nice, and be prepared to offer suggestions if this trainer situation does not work out for her.
It has taken some time and I have had to bite my tongue more times than I care to count but some really do not want to know the truth and would much rather be stroked. Otherwise you'll risk getting the rep of being a ***** know it all. Ask me how I know this. LOL!!!
Bite your tongue, shut up, and do your own thing. They really do believe what they want to believe especially if they have gotten a ribbon or two which, as we all know, instantly makes them the top rider in the nation.
I might invite her to watch one of your lessons and see if she is at a point where she can see the difference, but if not I would simply wait until she actually does show and let her scores and test sheet make a statement. At this point she simply might not know enough about dressage to be able to tell the difference.
People can be fiercely loyal to their trainers and I'm afraid if you try to enlighten her you would end up being the bad guy. It is a difficult situation.
Pa-eternally laboring in the infinite creative and sustentative work of the universe
Tact is required here. Invite her to come with you to some dressage shows; and along with all the other suggestions given to you here on how to subtly introduce her to the other training techniques, I'm sure she will be able to make her own comparisons. On the appy issue, I have a tb/appy that has competed well at the upper levels, her sire at 4th level -- its probably more an issue of the individual horse's ability, rather than the breeding as I know some TB's that trip over their own feet; but your friend won't discover that until she reaches her own enlightenment. You are in a difficult situation, but not an impossible one --- you can open her world through many other means than just *words* -- experience is the best teacher.
I think you can only mind your own business, but if it makes you feel any better, we have probably all been in this boat!
Probably everyone has at least one of these coaches in their area - where an adult am with an average horse, and average skills (which would be most of us, I think..) can go and hear how they are going to fly up the levels, horse has FEI potential, etc. etc. etc.
AND - dare I say it - I think some of the trendy clinicians that are touted as being "GREAT with beginners - can work magic with ANYONE!" are popular because they take this same exact approach. What insecure rider is not pumped when they do some advanced move in a clinic with a "master" - when their boring old coach at home just makes them work on connection/throughness on a circle! Obviously coach is lousy, clinician recognizes the true talent within.
(Clinician is really in a win-win situation too, as they don't have to follow through - but are very likely to get another wad of $$$ from rider to "work wonders" when they are through town again, 6 mos. later...)
In any case - what will probably happen is:
Your friend will not end up showing, as her training will be too "classical" to be appreciated in the ring. Or, she might try first one time, bomb, and reach the same conclusion. Besides that, she will point out to you that judges only reward gaits and flash, and have a breed prejudice against her horse. She will shortly be "schooling PSG" and above.
To your eyes, it may look like she is puttering around in a shuffly trot and 4 beat canter, with a strung out horse drifting here and there around the ring. However, if you were as educated as her, you would realize that this is called "lateral work", and you only think the horse is strung out because you are used to seeing all of the BTV, short necked horses that are winning in that cesspool known as "the show ring". You don't appreciate her gaits because you think DAP'ping freaks are better than horses with pure trots.
If things go REALLY well - she will start coaching other beginners to dressage on their off type breeds. Because really, she is such an inspiration. She is someone who resisted mainstream pressure to show, buy flashy horses, put the circus ahead of the art...and worked with the pure, classical beauty that is DRESSAGE...
Last edited by lowroller; Feb. 10, 2007 at 08:09 AM.
FWIW, I did have a very well-respected instructor tell me after my first lesson with her that she would have me showing 3rd level w/in a year if I could ride with her (on HER horses) 3x a week. I didn't believe her then, but after the progress I've made NOT being able to ride with her that often ... I believe her now.
I've found it's difficult to "mentor" someone as enthusiastically as you started doing w/out being disappointed when they don't follow your guidance and have opinions of their own that seem way off base.
Give yourself a lot of credit for helping get a friend of a friend started, offering so much of yourself, and asking here instead of blurting out your feelings to her. Stay as connected (or not) as you feel comfortable. If she needs help when she's disappointed (as we all are), and you can do it, GREAT. If not ... that's okay, too. Not everyone of us can learn from others' setbacks and reality checks.
Dressage becomes art when it is a joy for the horse. -KBH
I can see why you are bothered. If this trainer pushes your friend to go to high to fast, and her scores suffer, then it might severely hurt your friend's confidence.
Maybe one day you two can have a lunch date, and you can watch some videos of 1st and 4th level tests, but make it seem like your watching it "for fun". She may decide after looking at them to start lower.
I've just gone through the opposite situation. Have a long time aquaintance who left my coach because her "new best horsy friend" didn't like the coach and didn't get along with her (btw, NBF didn't train with coach, doesn't have a decent coach herself, but thought she was better/knew more than coach). So aquaintance had to go without a coach for several months because there was no one as good as this coach nearby. She finally went back to training with the person she left to train with my trainer (her current trainer is someone she told me just last spring wasn't as good as my trainer).
I guess it just depends on the person as to whether or not the truth will help or just cause a rif between you two. I find that phrasing things like, "huh, my trainer does this first", or "that's not what this book says". If the person doesn't pick up on it that way, then they're dense and don't want your advice/help.
Thanks everyone, I do feel better I had no real intention of saying anything to her-- for the record, my true "agenda" here is that SHE have FUN and LEARN-- it's just good to be able to say something about my concerns to SOMEONE, lol!
I try not to worry about what people think. They don't do it very often.
Unfortunately, this is part of the learning curve that most people have to go thru. It's inevitable. Nothing you do or say can change it. Hopefully she will cycle out of it quickly but there's no telling. Some people stay there forever.