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Spinoff: How do YOU know you're riding correctly?

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  • Spinoff: How do YOU know you're riding correctly?

    This is a spinoff thought from a couple of threads, the USEF memo being one of the main ones.

    How do you judge whether or not you are riding and training correctly? Especially when people seem to think the scores aren't a good enough 'test'.

    What is the standard you hold your trainers and instructors up to? Even if they are winning, do you understand that there are often different techniques and some may and may not work for you and your horse?

    I'm really curious because over the years I've seen people stuck with one trainer (for fear fo leaving and having been told that they can't come back if they go away--a sure sign of a bad trainer/instructor) and they never get anywhere. Or they lower their standards and expect less of themselves and their horse. I've also seen people with completely unrealistic goals for themselves and their horse (combination most often) and then blame their trainers/instructors for not teaching them correctly nor quickly enough.

    It's interesting to me. How do you judge for yourself, especially when you don't really know the big picture because they are just starting dressage??
    "And I'm thinking you weren't burdened with an overabundance of schooling." - Capt Reynolds "Firefly"

  • #2
    For the most part, there is no way for a beginning rider to know...other than just to trust blind faith.

    Comment


    • #3
      Good question and one I've often wondered myself. I am anxiously awaiting some revealing answers because other than the opinions of those I respect (specific trainers, clinicians, etc) and judges who I've come to develop an eye for what they consider correct (and for right or for wrong I agree) that then deliver a score to one of my rides.....I don't know that I have "the" answer. I do know from all the reading I've done on the various boards and lists, especially lately, that it is easy to second guess and question oneself; but, then I have to keep in perspective that many of the opinions are levied without ever having seen me ride. I guess one other parameter I use is my horse's attitude, soundness, and well being. If he or she is telling me that things are going well then I do tend to listen. What I also find very telling since I start my own horses and have a handful to ride....are if I hear or read the same critical remark over and over.....then I know it's me and I have to fix it. For example - I have a weak left leg and stronger left hand, my right hand is weak. Not a great combination, I know and I continue to work on it....I know these "challenges" because each of my horses tell on me - to the judges, to my riding instructor, etc.
      Ranch of Last Resort

      Comment


      • #4
        Where I am now, the horse tells me.

        But I think I have to agree with Angel--as a beginning rider, you really don't have a way to know except for the instructor telling you 'that's it.' It's only later that you can begin to process what 'it' feels like when it's right.

        But now, I absolutely know when the horse is going correctly. He feels like a dream. He's soft and grows a hand and his front end dances, and back end sits... Lateral work is effortless, transitions are a thought. It's very clear.

        I definitely think once you know what it feels like to have a horse's back, or what true throughness feels like, then you are able to judge if the technique is working for you both.

        I stay with my teacher because I see every horse he works become more beautiful, more proud, and more soft. I watch some of them genuinely play with him (especially the in-hand work). I knew that from the first time I saw him ride and I saw his horses go. I knew I wanted MY horses to be that happy in their work. I knew just enough then to know I was seeing correct work too, not just circus tricks. As we've both changed in the last 8 years, he's become far more demanding and the work more exacting for me, but the end result has never changed--the horse becomes more beautiful and softer, lighter... He's become incredibly technical in some ways (or I am just getting to that level) and every word of it agrees with the old masters.

        I don't know that you get to the point of being able to judge for yourself without an intense desire for the knowledge. You have to read and digest--memorize some even-- the ODGs to know if what you are being told agrees with them. You have to constantly seek to educate your eye and expand your understanding. (I'm not sure that BB video critiques are quite the method I'd choose--you can begin to educate the eye a little, but the contradiction is you still have to have the discernment as to whose comments are correct, useful, and valuable to your education; so it's a dilemma in itself. )

        I spend at least as much time watching my teacher ride and teach other lessons as I do riding myself under him. Every single ride I see something new, or put together something that I didn't quite get. My last two lessons have been breakthroughs though. I *thought* I understood some things before. I didn't. I had no idea what I was truly seeing. I saw *parts* of it, I knew those parts were good or bad or right or not... but I had no clue. Just the last two lessons I began to even get a glimmer of the truth of that.

        I saw several other teachers at Equine Affaire in MA this fall. The one I would love to see more of was Anne Gribbons. Very different school, methods and type of horses than I deal with usually. And I loved her. I couldn't get enough of her. The horses relaxed, became proud and beautiful. (it didn't hurt that as one of her riders left the ring, I overheard her say "I am very proud of you." ) She was all about the horse.

        I think it's a very thought provoking question. Because looking back, I'm not sure how you figure out what is 'right'. Other than experience. And experience means making mistakes and going down garden paths and figuring out exactly that--what is right.
        InnisFailte Pinto Sporthorses & Coloured Cobs
        ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

        Bits are like cats, what's one more? (Petstorejunkie)

        Comment


        • #5
          I consider myself a novice, have only been riding dressage since 2000 after a VERY long break from riding. The single greatest thing a novice dressage rider needs to remember is that the owner/rider is responsible for their horses health and training and their progression as a team. No matter what coaching or training situation a rider is in they need to understand and be the final say in decisions related to horse care and training. Any training situation that does not take a wholistic approach to educating the owner/rider so they can become more and more independent is not for me.

          My horse will move more correctly when I ride with confidence and follow the training scale. Also, knowing how my horse moves is important so I observe him on the lunge and when my trainer rides him.

          I seek positive and correct trainer(s) who help me work toward my goals and help me understand how to improve.

          Good eyes on the ground. Friends I trust who can give me a tip when the trainer isn't there.

          Video tape rides so I can see improvements and better understand where I still need to focus so I can continue improvement.

          Watch other people ride, esspecially if they are more experienced and skilled. Make an effort to train my eye to see what is correct both in the rider and horse.

          Read.

          Listen to my gut. I am a novice, but I know when there is no progress or the training is not correct. When things aren't progressing in a manner which promotes the horse's health I take responsibility for my horse and myself and make the changes necessary. I want my horse in a safe and positive atmosphere and I want to be trained in a supportive atmosphere.

          Without giving any details, when I was even greener I was in a training situation that was not right for my experience level...the horse reflected the ugliness in the situation daily...I was constantly told I was the problem, (and maybe I was). My gut told me,as a team, my horse and I were overfaced. Against everyones advice I made a plan, moved, and never looked back because I know when something isn't working. Now we are in a postivie situation for our experience level and we are growing as a team under the direction of supportive trainers.

          It doesn't matter how experienced one is, it matters how much responsibility one is willing to take. The less one knows the more diligent one must be to educate ones self.

          Comment


          • #6
            It's a huge problem, partly because there are so many people new to dressage, partly because so many people in dressage thrive on deceiving themselves - some have been doing this for many decades. Many people suffer from the huge distances in this country and the lack of instructors with real experience or guidance themselves. Others suffer from 'Platitudinality', LOL.

            Dressage is deceptive. One can feel like one is doing it right when one is not - which is the most difficult thing in dressage.

            I might not have thought so ten years ago, but now I feel the only real way is a mixture - learning oneself, and seeking guidance. Trying to do too much oneself without guidance leads to a mess, being too dependent on someone all the time, is also a mess.

            I think it means just hanging around the best people one can possibly get access to, and making a conscious decision to be realistic, and reading, thinking and riding alot.

            This goal thing is very hard. Goals tend to be outrageously ambitious and impossible, or far too conservative.

            Yes I think a modest goal can ALSO stand in the way. At one clinic a man said he'd had his dressage horse 7 yrs and hadn't tried a leg yield yet. The horse was stiff and straight legged, badly in need of suppling. 'When he's ready', he said, stroking the horse protectively...he WAS ready. it seemed more so the rider was afraid to try. We can all agree that case seems excessive, but a modest goal that holds one back isn't always so obvious.

            Despite lip service to the concept, there tends to be very, very little tolerance for the learning process in most people's minds, that requires a lot more instruction than most people will tolerate, and a lot better instruction than most people want to pay for.

            I used to know an older man who wanted all his adult life to show at Dressage at Devon. He was doing tolerably well with his gentle schoolmaster, but he INSISTED on going to Devon and was the bottom scorer in an FEI class. He got what he wanted - a breed award, accolades from his pals who didn't understand what the score meant...that he was not ready. His trainer was absolutely mortified . The rider thought there was no other valid goal, and he wanted to go, so there, trainer and student parted ways, the trainer thought it was better to stay home and practice. That's an obvious case but it isn't always that clear when someone gets a rigid, unrealistic goal.

            And figuring out who to ask isn't all that easy. There are tons of 2nd and 3rd rate clinicians around who are ALSO hungry for students, and work very, very hard to get students of local trainers going to them. But people tend to be very un-consumerish when it comes to choosing clinicians too.

            If the person lacks confidence, some trainers will play off that. Some trainers benefit a great deal by making us think we need them a wee bit more than we do, but students can also let themselves get lured into a 'comfort zone' where they feel insulated. The deception is often mutual!

            If the person is more a brash type, some trainers will play off that.

            Because they get paid so much to instruct students (fifty dollars and up an hour is nothing to sneeze at) there is motivation for a lot of deception. Since many students are a homogenous group in some ways, a trainer can get VERY good at manipulating students - it's almost too easy as the delusions many dressage lovers have are very consistent. In the new USDF book the author writes eloquently if too briefly about this.

            The most difficult problem is that if the instructor is really realistic and honest, students tend quite often to make that trainer very, very unpopular.
            Last edited by slc2; Jan. 6, 2008, 08:18 AM.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by slc2 View Post
              This goal thing is very hard. When I was bike racing our coach asked us what our goal was for next year, the first guy said 'Take 10 min off my 25 mile time trial time'. The coach burst out laughing. 'That's great, except that it can't be done, not even by you. Not in one year'. The rest of us tried, 'take 4 minutes off our time trial time', LOL.
              What team do/did you race for? In Ohio? My husband has road raced (stage races, crits, time trials,road races, tours) since the early 80's in the midwest and north atlantic states, as well as a stint in Colorado. He races regularly and organizes races in Ohio. He might know you? There are still only a handful of female competitors at the local/regional level.

              Mental toughness techniques, goal setting, and fitness concepts are interchangable in any sport be it dressage or cycling.

              Comment


              • #8
                Oh God, It's Sunday already. Blah, Blah, .........................

                Comment


                • #9
                  All good replies so far.

                  I think it's a lot easier now <to assess your competence> than it was when I started riding. Then, there was not internet or videos to help.

                  If you are looking at yourself or your trainer through rose colored glasses, then you are unlikely to ever see the truth.

                  First you have to know what is correct riding. Of course, what some of us think as correct, others do not. Therefore, you have to choose to emulate those riders and horse you have decided are good, even if they are ODG's.

                  Once you've done that, watching videos of yourself riding, getting occasional feedback from trainers and other good riders, and listening to your horse, should give you sufficient information. I DO think show scores are very helpful in assessing your competence. While high scores may not mean you are great, a series of low scores send a true message that you and/or your horse are not up to snuff.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    It's pretty simple to me. I know I'm NOT riding correctly. You're not, the Olympians aren't, and lord knows the beginners aren't even far enough along to make real mistakes. They're just learning to stay on. We're all human. If the horses aren't making that clear enough each and every day, we're either not riding enough or not listening enough. Once that becomes a fact of life, the scores, the judging, the competitions become clear as subjectively and arbitrarily imposed human regulations that are surely fraught with mistakes as well. I've pretty much given up on having much control over that, the same way I've given up on nuclear disarmament.

                    I do hold myself to the highest standards of patience every ride. No force, no fear. That's the best I can do, and if it's not "correct" enough for the judges or the railbirds, I don't really care. Show to train, don't train to show. For instance:

                    I used to know an older man who wanted all his adult life to show at Dressage at Devon. He was doing tolerably well with his gentle schoolmaster, but he INSISTED on going to Devon and was the bottom scorer in an FEI class. He got what he wanted - a breed award, accolades from his pals who didn't understand what the score meant...that he was not ready. His trainer was absolutely mortified . The rider thought there was no other valid goal, and he wanted to go, so there, trainer and student parted ways, the trainer thought it was better to stay home and practice.
                    I think the trainer was rigid and unrealistic, not the student. More power to the man who wanted to do something hard and unrealistic, went for it and met his goal. There's more to life than a qualifying score or a making a good impression for the trainer. If the trainer had his way, this student would NEVER, ever have gone to Devon. The older gentleman knew that life's too short and I'm sure he learned a ton, as well as fulfilling a lifelong dream. What's so wrong with that?
                    Kathy Johnson

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by pintopiaffe View Post
                      Where I am now, the horse tells me.

                      .
                      That was my thought, as well! I think it also help to get feedback from different trainers. It is always helpful to have a fresh eye on the ground and some new ideas. Also, if everyone is commenting that you are doing X wrong, you probably are!
                      Roseknoll Sporthorses
                      www.roseknoll.net

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        I don't agree with you for this case, but I understand your sentiment in this matter is going to be VERY popular here - much more than my statements will be.

                        He hadn't mastered some very basic things and I feel his trainer was right. And I am a person who has limited horses - and I do feel riders should go as far as they can with the limited horse - as long as the rider scores indicate they are ready. This was not a limited horse. This was a rider who couldn't sit the trot. That is first a requirement at first level.

                        But this is precisely what I mean about setting practical, realistic goals. I think everyone is going to disagree as to when a rider should do something, depending not on the situation, but their own emotions...and that I think is a huge problem.
                        Last edited by slc2; Jan. 6, 2008, 09:53 AM.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          The mythical 40 percent.

                          So what if this mythical 40 percent score was embarrassing. To whom? The rider, the trainer, the judges, maybe the horse. Just as believable as the 7 years without a leg yield. Oh heck, you couldn't ride a horse for 7 years and not do one by accident. Bad dressage riding is not the same as over facing a jumper over a GP course. I'll bet that a great rider like Slc could correct the horrible problems of a bad leg yield on one or two thoughtful, totally correct rides.

                          I apologize in advance. I just come here to really learn what I can and sometimes I just want to barf. Here are some thoughtful great replies that are relevant to the subject and then there is the mythical 40 percent ride at Devon and the 7 years without a LY. I'm not saying that there haven't been some but geeesh. Maybe some people would be better off riding on Second Life or some such drivel. Virtual reality might just suit some better.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            I know I am not riding well when the horse tells me and when my scores are poor...

                            What I have found really difficult to reach was the correct contact, the good communication with the horse.
                            Also what was difficult was to separation what belong to my riding and what belong to the horse. If a horse has a supple problem..I need to work to help him get through..It is not just my riding at this point.
                            Élène

                            Fighting ovarian cancer ! 2013 huge turnaround as I am winning the battle !..
                            http://esergerie.wordpress.com

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Kathy Johnson View Post

                              I think the trainer was rigid and unrealistic, not the student. More power to the man who wanted to do something hard and unrealistic, went for it and met his goal. There's more to life than a qualifying score or a making a good impression for the trainer. If the trainer had his way, this student would NEVER, ever have gone to Devon. The older gentleman knew that life's too short and I'm sure he learned a ton, as well as fulfilling a lifelong dream. What's so wrong with that?
                              I tend to agree. If just participating at Devon was his goal, I really don't have a problem with that at all. It is a SPORT, not neurosurgery. If he wasn't harming his horse and at worst was only offending the sensibilities of some dressage queens, who cares? Someone has to have the lowest score.
                              Roseknoll Sporthorses
                              www.roseknoll.net

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                books

                                I haven't fully read the replies, but want to give my answer.

                                I worked witha blunt, straightforward, german clinician a few times, and became very frustrated that everything she told me seemed to contradict everything I had ever learned. When it was over, and she was sending me home, I said "But how do I know if anybody that I am working with in the future is teaching me the right way?"

                                She informed me that this was totally my responsibility, and that I should always be checking what I learn from an instructor to books from the masters. Then she gave me a book list (which I don't believe I still have) and said that I should constantly read, because the basics were in those texts, and if an instructor was telling me something that contradicted those texts, I should question it.

                                Now, I BUY a lot of books, but don't entirely read them. But, if you follow this idea, you could essentially be checking what your instructor is saying against, for example, what Herr Zettle teaches. The principles are very basic, and if you stray too far from those principles, you should be concerned.

                                I always work with instructors that are open to discussion of the theory behind what I'm doing. I also SEEK the clinicians that are known for being "Rude" or "Mean." I find that those are more likely to tell you the truth when you need to hear it, and when I get a "Very good" from them, I know they mean it!

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  i respect kathy and redhorse saying that they don't agree, and i'm not here to make them agree with me. i am sure they never will.

                                  i have been with both types of trainers. one who really encouraged people to move up, and one who quite often advised them NOT to move up, or if she could, moved them down when they came to her.

                                  BOTH were accused of terrible things. one, of having people make very poor showings at upper levels assuming that other potential customers wouldn't understand all the mistakes and would be dying to do the same levels, and the other of soiling and destroying people's dreams.

                                  i am saying that what may really give people a warm fuzzy feeling, and really sound great, is just not how everyone else always sees it. i know for sure, a lot of trainers wouldn't agree with kathy, some would, some wouldn't.

                                  there are a LOT of trainers who would disagree very strongly with a student who wanted to show a level before they were ready to score a minimum amount. it's not a matter of some railbird or dq not liking it for me, either, and i usually can't stand how they pick and pick from their comfy seat. they aren't hanging their butt out there in the ring trying. i agree with that.

                                  at the same time, i do think the rider should have some sort of minimum level they're at before they try to do a certain level.

                                  i may not agree with exactly how the qualification system proposed is trying to achieve that, but i don't think it's ALWAYS right to go in any level one wants inspite of basic problems.

                                  and i do have a right to say so, you have a right to disagree, but i also have a right to express how i feel about it.

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    methinks she doth protest too much.

                                    Slc, fercrissakes, NO ONE CARES if you disagree with them. GET IT? It bothers you, obviously , because you constantly bring it up but no one else cares. Your opinion is no more important than anyone elses. Seriously. Wake up. It's a discussion. Disagreement is the norm.

                                    In answer to the OP, you find a trainer you trust (watch them ride, watch them teach, watch how they deal with horses) then you trust them and take their advice. If you constantly question your trainer, she can't help you much. It's a bit like sailing. You have to trust the skipper.

                                    Do your research. If you don't like the skipper, don't get on the ship.

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      Originally Posted by slc2
                                      This goal thing is very hard. When I was bike racing our coach asked us what our goal was for next year, the first guy said 'Take 10 min off my 25 mile time trial time'. The coach burst out laughing. 'That's great, except that it can't be done, not even by you. Not in one year'. The rest of us tried, 'take 4 minutes off our time trial time', LOL.
                                      What team do/did you race for? In Ohio? My husband has road raced (stage races, crits, time trials,road races, tours) since the early 80's in the midwest and north atlantic states, as well as a stint in Colorado. He races regularly and organizes races in Ohio. He might know you? There are still only a handful of female competitors at the local/regional level.

                                      Hazelnut...something tells me you probably will not get an answer on that question....since that section of the post is now deleted.
                                      You jump in the saddle,
                                      Hold onto the bridle!
                                      Jump in the line!
                                      ...Belefonte

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        Originally posted by slc2 View Post
                                        This goal thing is very hard. When I was bike racing our coach asked us what our goal was for next year, the first guy said 'Take 10 min off my 25 mile time trial time'. The coach burst out laughing. 'That's great, except that it can't be done, not even by you. Not in one year'. The rest of us tried, 'take 4 minutes off our time trial time', LOL.
                                        Actually riding a bike uses all the wrong muscles needed for proper horseback riding.

                                        If you were racing then maybe that is why you struggled in dressage and didn't do very well ?

                                        Comment

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