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So what can be done to make Dressage more affordable?

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  • #41
    Actually I started this thread as a spin off .
    But this isn't the first time I've heard the complaint from AAs about the rising costs of showing and how AAs are being priced out.

    Imo, there isnt some kind of Dressage Class Warfare where there's some kind of conspiracy to keep "THEM" out.

    Right now, it's how the system works. Talented AAs with the resources are going to be able to compete with better horses, better instruction , more time to ride.

    I dont have the answer on how to level the playing field.

    Change the definition of Amateur status?
    Allow amateurs to take money from sponsors?
    Create scholarship programs for talented AA' s who have fewer resources?

    I dont compete so I dont have a dog in the hunt.
    But i do empathize with those who dont have the resources to compete.

    Years ago i was interested in showing and I did, in a very very small way.

    But it didnt happen for me.
    There was no sympathetic benefactor who swooped in and made it happen.
    ( I read too many horse books as a teenager.)

    But i dont resent those who do have the resources to compete and I dont feel hostility or bitterness toward those who've made it.

    I agree with the poster who pointed out that you really cant buy your way in.

    All the money in the world wont make up for a lack of ability or talent.
    Hard work and determination will only get you so far.

    There's plenty of ugly step sisters, not very many Cinderellas.

    Short answer to your question lorilu:
    The AAs have to change the system.
    " A little rebellion now and then is a good thing. "
    Certified Guacophobe

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    • #42
      MysticOakRanch , what did I say about ribbons? DF does lots of education etc that ISNT a show or an award.
      And that clinician was of course horrible. I certainly hope that clinic was not sponsored by USDF (back when they did them), and I certainly hope (if the clinician was somehow certified as a judge or a certified trainer) that the rider complained.

      Meanwhile, our GMO is doing just fine. We welcomed in those other disciplines in dressage, and added a versatility division that includes other things our horses can excel at. But not all GMOs are open to those answers.

      I was just having a conversation the other day with another rider on a non-traditional horse. We were agreeing that times have chnged form 20 years ago - nontrad horses are much more accepted. Yes, correct gaits are still required..... but Iberians and drafts and Friesians are scoring much better than they once did.

      And, of course, it is possible to be recognized for good training - many of the Rider Awards only require 6's - a 60%. IMO, any horse with correct gaits should be able to score a 6 with correct training. That is the big thing I took away from all the scribing I have been doing for "r", "R" and "S" candidates....

      And so I will ask again - AnastasiaBeaverhousen , what would you like USDF to do for AAs? Or, what would you like schooling show organizers to do? Or trainers? Or ANY specific suggestion?

      this idea has been beaten many time over the years on this forum. Still no CONCRETE SPECIFIC ideas.

      Comment


      • #43
        AnastasiaBeaverhousen , there are grants available for AAs. Check out THe Dressage FOundation. Grants for many different things, and not an arm of USDF.

        How would you change the definition of AA? How much the horse cost? Whether or not you take regular lessons? Breed of horse/ (that's why the All Breeds Awards were established, you compete against your OWN breed....).

        And not quite sure how sponsors would help AAs.... do you really think a better bridle or more expensive dressage jacket makes a difference? Altho I suppose the $ not spent could be redirected toward lessons.....

        In ALL facets of life, those with more resources are more likely to excel due to those resources - better equipment, better trainers, .... more expensive colleges, ability to do internships,..... etc. There is no answer to that.

        Comment


        • #44
          Originally posted by MysticOakRanch View Post
          Sorry lorilu I don't think everyone wants a ribbon, but everyone DOES want to feel they are "part" of the group. And THAT no longer happens. I've been involved as a volunteer with the show scene for about 25 years now, and riding for probably 20 years - and back in the GROWTH years of dressage, everyone was welcome. On our Morgans, Tbreds, Arabians, we were part of the sport. Now days, after getting a test with one comment throughout (needs impulsion), or getting comments such as "limited gaits, lacks potential", or "flat gaits", or "not really suitable for dressage", and so on, people get discouraged.

          I was at a clinic specifically for AA riders 2 years ago, and the clinician (a well known judge and competitor) told one rider her (Quarter)Horse would never advance in dressage. Her ONLY teaching tips to that poor rider were to "cut her tail so it looks better". The next rider, on a fancy Warmblood, got an hour of teaching (15 minutes of that belonged to that prior rider). She was relatively new to dressage, and had a perfectly suitable mount to learn the basics on. AND she had told the clinician that in the beginning!

          I find it ironic that the USDF is bemoaning the loss of membership, the loss of volunteers, but then basically treating its base membership as disposable and unimportant. So, there is THAT...

          AnastasiaBeaverhousen gearing toward the AA alone doesn't really fix the issue - there are plenty of very wealthy AA riders out there that have schoolmasters in full training, and are plenty competitive. If you want to build up the base, you need to find a way to make "fancy horse" less important in the mix...

          In some non-rated competitions, they actually attempt to level the playing field, and focus on riding and training instead of big gaits. Specifically, intercollegiate competitions do this, and OPRC (Old People's Riding Club) does it too. I've judged both, and have judged intercollegiate several times - the judges are told at the beginning - quality of gaits is NOT part of this competition. It puts a whole different spin on things.

          @ several people - the cost of showing is eclipsed by the cost of a fancy horse in full training. That is just reality. Back in the days, most of the competitors were not in full training - they might haul in for a lesson weekly, or be in a part time program, or have a horse in training for a few months to help with a specific issue. But the vast majority of people rode their own horses - and they were "regular" horses. The European invasion changed that - suddenly our American horses weren't good enough.

          Most people showed at Training and First Level. Getting your bronze medal was a BIG DEAL. Most never really intended to go much beyond that. Our lower level classes were FULL, even at USDF Regionals - it was pretty common to have over 30 horses in each division at those levels (AA and Open). The classes got much smaller from 2nd level onward. Now 3rd and PSG are the biggest divisions (at least in my Region).

          So, we've lost our grass roots - well reality is, we haven't lost them. But they aren't showing at rated shows, and they aren't members of USDF (and the GMOs) because, well, why? They aren't WELCOME. So instead they show Western Dressage, or they show at schooling shows (we have schooling shows that are two-ring now because there are so many entries).

          Horses are expensive. But full training and fancy horses are MORE expensive. It cost me about $200/month to keep my horse at home. It costs me 3.5 times that to board a horse. Add training to the mix, and now we're talking a house payment! Add the cost of buying a nice horse into the mix - I hear what people are paying - it is WAY out of the price range of the average rider. $30,000, $50,000, $80,000, over $100,000? For a HORSE? I didn't pay that much for my car! And that is where we lost the grassroots membership...

          I still remember when gaits was not the first part of every single score. The fancy moving horses got a few bonus points in the collective marks at the end of the test. For the rest of the test, we were all on the same playing field. And dressage was a rapidly growing discipline.

          So, if you really want to make it affordable, its going to go back to less emphasis on fancy, more emphasis on training. I went through the L Program about 20 years ago because I wanted to understand WHY the scoring was changing so dramatically. I learned. Gaits are a huge part of EVERY. SINGLE. MOVEMENT. The sport has evolved - it is not just about training - that is a component of it, but not the only component, or even the main component. And yes, we can train our horses and develop their gaits, I do understand that - but everyone on a fancy Warmblood needs to understand - they have an innate advantage. Carl Hester couldn't make MY horse into an 8 mover, but YOUR horse comes out the gate an 8 mover. And the judge is going to comment over and over about my horse's lack of reach and impulsion, so why bother - I KNOW my horse lacks scope, but I love my horse, I've developed him, he has good basics, can't I get some feedback and acknowledgement on that, instead of 25 comments about his lack of fancy?. THAT is where you are losing people (please note, I'm not necessarily talking specifically about MY horse, but talking collectively, because there are a lot of us out here who ride "that" horse).

          And yes, good affordable instruction is part of the challenge too. It is all over in Germany, Holland, even the UK - and hard to find and expensive here. I doubt that will change - no one wants to use tax $ to fund horses - a "rich man's hobby". Horses are part of society in Western Europe; Ball sports are part of society in the US.

          I don't think you can fix it - I think that horse has left the barn...
          Thanks for your post.
          As someone who bas been involved for many years you've seen the changes over time.

          I was only on the periphery.

          You hit it on the head.
          Dressage in America changed with the Warm Blood invasion.
          ​Maybe the answer simple after all

          REWRITE THE DAMN TESTS ALREADY .
          Stop making gaits so important and emphasize what really matters.

          lorilu, I'm not sure if you've read my posts all the way through.
          ( Not blaming you, they are pretty long. )
          pardon me if I am not communicating clearly.


          Last edited by AnastasiaBeaverhousen; Mar. 29, 2020, 08:13 PM. Reason: Didnt proof read enough
          Certified Guacophobe

          Comment


          • #45
            Originally posted by sherian View Post
            l Lots of people going over to Western style dressage.... and ordinary horses are the norm.
            This is where it starts: Find a way for ordinary horses to be competitive. I don't care how that handicapping gets done. But it's the key to giving folks a place to gather with their friends and share the goal of improving their horses.

            The dressage world used to be a bit more available to the ordinary horse back in the 1980s or so. I applaud the Europeans for the product of their rigorous program of selective breeding. But somehow the American amateur who might have bought and brought along a horse some 40 years ago can't seem get that done today.

            There are more reasons that the cost of horses. But I do think that laying so much emphasis on the gaits score started dressage down the road that Hunter World took when it made sense to buy the very best "raw material" you could afford.
            The armchair saddler
            Politically Pro-Cat

            Comment


            • #46
              Originally posted by AnastasiaBeaverhousen View Post
              It may have been. It s been years and I cant remember what I did last week.
              Were you an enlightened Capitalist last week?
              The armchair saddler
              Politically Pro-Cat

              Comment


              • #47
                I dont know. I cant remember.
                Certified Guacophobe

                Comment


                • #48
                  Here's a concrete idea: USDF could change the membership fee structure so that a GMO member can pay a participation fee instead of buying a separate, full-price participating membership. Bringing down the membership fees would make participation (meaning involvement in the local community and showing) more accessible to many working class riders.

                  Here's another idea: Someone (USDF? GMOs? Chapters?) could offer shows or classes that are judged like intercollegiate dressage (i.e. gait brilliance/quality not factored into individual movement scores) so the ordinary horse crowd could compete more meaningfully against themselves, or each other, if they so choose.

                  Here's another idea: All GMOs could could ensure that some number of schooling shows on their calendars hire licensed judges (not just the same local L grads that judge all the schooling shows in the area) so that even those who can only afford schooling shows have access to high quality feedback now and then.

                  Here's another idea: If you really care about attracting kids, dressage could take itself less seriously. The teen girl whose heart is set on showing a first level freestyle to the Harry Potter soundtrack shouldn't have to worry about whether she needs to get a 3% higher qualifying score on her old grade horse. The kids who think dressage is boring should be given reasons to believe that there's something in it for anyone other than a Karen whose idea of a good time is meticulously organizing a tack stall and choosing which shade of off-white stock tie to wear before swinging a leg over a sports-car-priced steed that's been warmed up to perfection by her trainer. The chapters I see doing a good job getting kids involved are putting on team costume schooling shows and holiday party quadrille exhibitions and all sorts of other goofy things that put having fun ahead of technical details, and more importantly incorporate dressage into activities that appeal to a broad range of skill levels and horse breeds and ages. I personally don't care much about kids, but the kinds of inclusive communities that kids enjoy being part of tend to also be the kinds of inclusive communities that an adult with imperfect circumstances (less horse, less money, newer to the sport) can confidently jump into.

                  I'd mention these things to representatives of my GMO but I'm not currently a GMO member. Because I can't afford a GMO membership if I think I might try to make a go of the show season. And because I've recently moved to an area where board at a decent barn costs almost as much as my rent and a good percentage of stalls are occupied by horses that cost more than my annual income ... been there, done that, don't need to participate in another equestrian adaptation of Mean Girls. But none of these are new ideas, anyway. All of them have come up at various points in the past in other threads about how to make dressage welcoming for ordinary riders.

                  Comment


                  • #49
                    Thanks for responding.
                    Feed back is really important from those of you llive it.

                    I dont know much about the NGB s these days. They are quite different from when I was involved which was a long time ago in a galaxy far far away.

                    I'm not well informed about showing in the upper levels .

                    So, I appreciate the insights and information.





                    Certified Guacophobe

                    Comment


                    • #50
                      All this reminds me of Dr Max Gawheler(sp?) and his campaign to change lower level tests. Because there are fewer "things" to score he showed how the horse's inborn ability was too influential in the score when compared to those things that are trained. Not only was this hard on the correct but limited horse, it also allowed talented horses to progress with good scores and questionable basics.
                      Perhaps it would help to propose a fully written lower level test including judging criteria. I am not familiar with some of the other tests mentioned and if they would be appropriate.

                      I also think that some judges need to be instructed to judge the lower levels for the basic training and not as a "suitable for Grand Prix" class.

                      Comment


                      • #51
                        Originally posted by MsM View Post
                        All this reminds me of Dr Max Gawheler(sp?) and his campaign to change lower level tests. Because there are fewer "things" to score he showed how the horse's inborn ability was too influential in the score when compared to those things that are trained. Not only was this hard on the correct but limited horse, it also allowed talented horses to progress with good scores and questionable basics.
                        Perhaps it would help to propose a fully written lower level test including judging criteria. I am not familiar with some of the other tests mentioned and if they would be appropriate.

                        I also think that some judges need to be instructed to judge the lower levels for the basic training and not as a "suitable for Grand Prix" class.
                        And another thing!

                        I wish dressage scoring would do more (as I think it intends to in the best of all possible worlds) to reward excellent training. That would give we riders a reason to show up and be judged on whatever horse we could afford. It would also reward the folks who were making very rideable horses. Those horses are the ones that teach people to ride or teach people to feel what a horse using himself well is like. That feeling is addictive.

                        I think the AQHA has enjoyed 20 years of an open market: While the English disciplines were unapologetically moving toward quality and any level of cost that came with that, all the AQHA had to do was market their breed and shows as revolving around "America's horse" with all the populism you could want. There seems to be a horse, division and show for every rider, regardless of age, courage, physical skill or tax bracket.

                        Tying my two points together, I think it would be really worthwhile to foster the production of broke, relatively easy-to-ride horses. I see that as economically valuable, but also valuable to the horse who will earn his keep, in most case, being an amateur's mount.
                        The armchair saddler
                        Politically Pro-Cat

                        Comment


                        • #52
                          I must echo what MOR is stating and much of that is because I think we've been living somewhat of a parallel universe for a similar length of time I've seen this type of thread circle around many times over the last (close to) 30 or so years. It always seems to be the same, not so much making 'Dressage' accessible but it's more about making SHOWING dressage accessible and appealing.

                          As long as the focus is on making the ability to compete more important than the learning and application of dressage - in how it can benefit the horse as well as the rider - you will continue to exclude a large number of potential dressage enthusiasts.

                          Something that will always stick in my head from many years ago was an article (I think it was in Dressage and Combined Training) written by Lendon Gray and there were pictures of she on Seldom Seen at each level. It featured the pair at the trot and the difference in engagement and outline for each 'stage' of the training from training level to grand prix. For me THAT article captured the appeal and epitome of dressage. It demonstrated what a good rider who applied the true concepts of dressage to a relatively ordinary (though definitely cute, willing and talented) horse could accomplish. It wasn't about the ribbons or the showing. It was about developing a partner with three pure gaits to reach a level of partnership that hit a pinnacle that was mesmerizing. It was THAT, taking an ordinary horse and improving my skills and the balance and strength of the horse in that manner which not only attracted me to the discipline but got me hooked for life (and I had already been toiling and frustrated with it for a few years by then). It was THAT idea that fueled my dream that 'I could do it too' with the right type of instruction/guidance. It seemed way back then as if I wasn't the only one and my 'dream' wasn't all that preposterous. Showing in schooling shows was encouraged as was recognized shows 'at some point' if desired but there didn't seem to be so much focus or pressure that showing was 'expected' or the only measurement of your ability as a rider. I knew many who worked full-time, regular jobs, taking lessons when we could and sharing a camaraderie of just trying to 'get better' and supportive of each other's endeavors.

                          I think that there are a lot of us 'regular' people who miss hearing and seeing that sort of message. So much of what I see online from the various organizations - GMOs, USDF, USEF - seem to mainly speak about showing and what wins. I am a former dressage show whore (campaigning my breeding stock, vying for all-breed awards and earning medals etc) who life style changes forced to down size significantly. I am back to one horse to show, a home bred that I adore. I had to really look deep inside and think about what I wanted to do with my limited disposable income and this guy I delivered 6 years ago. I will be honest, the theory of dressage still has me hooked but the concept of dressage as a sport has become more and more of a turn off because I own the proverbial "6" mover. I still have my gold to earn and because I'm a competitive person will likely still show a couple times of year in order to try to do that; but, the real reason I'm involved at all is still for the purpose of making myself a better rider as well as for the purpose of training my horse to use itself better - his muscling and improved way of going give me more just rewards than any ribbon will ever accomplish. Having become far more frugal in where my riding dollars go (and I've been guilty of spending upwards of $400 for one ride with a dressage god in the past) the value of the education and how it applies to MY situation is paramount. The desire for a more supportive, encouraging and inclusive 'clubs' has peaked my interest and if there is ever a group that develops for THAT purpose and features the names of those who really want to instill on ordinary people how to develop the ordinary horse through the application of dressage as written by the FEI standards of 30 years ago - just tell me where to sign up........

                          I have a feeling I'm not alone in my wishes despite being at the senior end of things....
                          Ranch of Last Resort

                          Comment


                          • #53
                            exvet, I agree with what you are saying.

                            I think the tension is in the trainers/coaches. How do you know if someone is a good trainer/coach? well, you can hang out at the barn, see other students, all that, but that takes time. Shows and judged performance are often seen as shorthand for a successful teaching program. So professionals need those shows, either for themselves or their students, to attract new riders and keep their existing riders. It's a terrible cycle, that often gets driven by money, and naturally talented horses. To sell horses they often have to have some type of show record. Pros have to keep relevant, and they need their students to believe they are good at their jobs.

                            This has happened already in other disciplines, and we know where this is probably going to end up before we see a correction.

                            Comment


                            • #54
                              LilRanger and exvet-- the essence of your comments about show a disparity in how we regard dressage competition.

                              On one hand, we take those numerical scores given by trained, licensed judges and think those go a long way to pointing out quality. In the case of your post, LilRanger, we think those recorded scores are a reliable "transcript" for a trainer. But exvet is right, too (in a way she should not be): Others feel that scores in competition are increasingly disconnected from the training of the horse. And yet the whole philosophical framework of dressage training, judging and showing was to be about giving competitors a way to check their work as they were making up their horses. Even the increasingly important Gaits score was supposed to represent a training accomplishment in the sense that the horse was supposed to move well in all gaits because he was being ridden so as optimally use his body for his given level of development.

                              To me, then, I think the problem starts with judging and criteria that move away from something that rewards solid horse training.
                              The armchair saddler
                              Politically Pro-Cat

                              Comment


                              • #55
                                Overall, I agree with you mvp. I also admittedly see not just a purpose but the necessity for some type of competition or measurement system that is qualified to assess what is meeting the criteria or standards vs. not and then fine tune the remaining goals/purpose from there. Of course my desire is that training and correct riding be emphasized over innate talent/gaits of the horse (though don't get me wrong, having been a breeder I do know the difference a talented beast can make). IMO there needs to be a better balance. This is not a woe is me, the playing field is unfair and it needs to be leveled so that we can all go home with a ribbon. I think dressage as a discipline and then as a community needs to be able to deliver the goods so-to-speak to the average horse person whatever their personal goals are. Unfortunately I don't have any good answers. I do feel strongly that the breeding machine that has take over dressage and the commercialization that has infused the same and seems to be driving the entire direction of the dressage community especially the judges is not putting the best interest of the horse first despite the number of individuals who truly wish to do just that.
                                Ranch of Last Resort

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                                • #56
                                  Originally posted by mvp View Post
                                  LilRanger and exvet-- the essence of your comments about show a disparity in how we regard dressage competition.

                                  On one hand, we take those numerical scores given by trained, licensed judges and think those go a long way to pointing out quality. In the case of your post, LilRanger, we think those recorded scores are a reliable "transcript" for a trainer. But exvet is right, too (in a way she should not be): Others feel that scores in competition are increasingly disconnected from the training of the horse. And yet the whole philosophical framework of dressage training, judging and showing was to be about giving competitors a way to check their work as they were making up their horses. Even the increasingly important Gaits score was supposed to represent a training accomplishment in the sense that the horse was supposed to move well in all gaits because he was being ridden so as optimally use his body for his given level of development.

                                  To me, then, I think the problem starts with judging and criteria that move away from something that rewards solid horse training.
                                  I'll go with that. It's like a game of telephone through the ages...Judges say,when collection is achieved you will see the face vertical, then they look for a vertical face, forgetting or perhaps not understanding what a vertical face represents.

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                                  • #57
                                    change the "outfit" required from the rider if you want to have any hope of attracting young men or boys to the sport. Tails and white breeches do not appeal in the way chaps and cowboy boots do. Find something that is workmanlike - a breeches and boots combo but not forcing them into white pants. :-). If they saw more guys doing dressage and not looking like idiots (in their minds, not saying they are) it might light a spark. The long tail coat looks like you are about to sit down at a grand piano. It's not an athlete's garb.

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                                    • #58
                                      Originally posted by Willy Von Whompers View Post
                                      change the "outfit" required from the rider if you want to have any hope of attracting young men or boys to the sport. Tails and white breeches do not appeal in the way chaps and cowboy boots do. Find something that is workmanlike - a breeches and boots combo but not forcing them into white pants. :-). If they saw more guys doing dressage and not looking like idiots (in their minds, not saying they are) it might light a spark. The long tail coat looks like you are about to sit down at a grand piano. It's not an athlete's garb.
                                      I imagine keeping them white is a nightmare...

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                                      • #59
                                        What equestrian events have seen growth, or at least held steady? Do they have common factors? Can they be used as a guide, if not a template, for building the foundation or base for dressage. Right now, dressage and equestrian activities in general remind me a lot of Despair's poster: Marketing. The one with the sand castle (in case they have had more than one).

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                                        • #60
                                          "I'll go with that. It's like a game of telephone through the ages...Judges say,when collection is achieved you will see the face vertical, then they look for a vertical face, forgetting or perhaps not understanding what a vertical face represents."

                                          If you ever audit an L judge training program you will see that this is not true. It might be true of someone who is not educated in dressage.

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