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The State of Dressage as Evidenced by WEG

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  • The State of Dressage as Evidenced by WEG

    Thanks to someone's link, I'm just finishing watching the freestyles and was able to watch some of the GP and GPS.

    When I used to watch the Olympics, World Cup, etc., there were usually only a few really nice horses and rides that did most things really well. From what I saw, even the "not so good" rides were REALLY good. I see really consistently great riding, really fit, well-trained horses, happy, relaxed horses in a tough situation dealing well, really good execution of movements, and ALL kinds of horses (big giant ones, little quick ones, unusual ones, baroque ones, long leggy ones, tank-like ones) doing a REALLY good job. [And might I add, riders and horses from all over the world, not just the "top" countries, doing a SUPER job.] I'm super impressed, and I don't say that much.

    Given that, why is there so much about the horrible state of dressage and training and the way things are and how everyone is on the wrong track and away from classical, or whatever? I read a lot about how so many thing are wrong and it's done in the wrong, harmful way. If that is so, why are we seeing SO many REALLY, REALLY good horses and rides? Is it just me seeing this? These are REALLY nice rides and horses.
    Last edited by Beentheredonethat; Oct. 3, 2010, 01:18 AM.

  • #2
    You are obviously wrong. Everyone at WEG sucks and uses rollkur in conjunction with horse beating. The people on this BB are exactly right.


    • #3
      Did you see the warmup? While most of the warmups were lovely, there were several that were far from it. The Polish horse had a blue tongue that flopped out of his mouth for about 30 minutes. The Dutch riders warmed up in Rollkur for 1.5 to 2 hours total. Totilas has a bit more breaks from the position than the last Dutch rider whose name I cannot remember. That poor horse had his chin to his chest for 1.5 hours, with about 5 minutes total in walk on long rein. There were many times when she would yank the horse's head side to side.

      I have quite a few pics, if I can figure out how to post them. It was just ugly. The horse still did the movements, but always on the forehand and with his chin on his chest.

      Totilas though was very much warmed up in Rollkur as well, and out of the eyes of spectators for the most part. I am tall though, so could see from elbows up.

      Isabell Werth also warmed up very behind the vertical, and away from the eyes of spectators.

      But the British, American, and Austrian riders all warmed up in a very relaxed manner.


      • Original Poster

        No, I was not there. All I've seen is what was posted online.

        So, this is my point. If all of this ugly stuff is going on that is so bad to prepare them, why is all of the final result looking so good? All I can see is what was brought into the show ring and it was stunning. Ride after ride of beautiful, relaxed, super horses. The last one I saw was Sunrise--Oh my god. That mare was wonderful. How is something so horrible producing the best we've ever seen?


        • #5
          I think many of us live in fear of going the way of the Tennessee Walking Horse. There were some in that industry who couldn't just live with the beauty of a naturally gaited horse. They had to be better, win shows, be flashier and eventually the horses suffered from pads, burning feet, or ankles, weights, chains, head held back till their neck bulges underneath, breaking and resetting tails, scaring the piss out of them before they go in the ring so they're really animated. Watching what they've become is ugly.

          If people win Olympic medals by utilizing awful methods to train their horses, to me, it's cheating.

          Dressage methods have been handed down for hundreds of years. And if someone has trained their horse with correct methods, and is beat by people who have taken hurtful shortcuts with their horses, isn't that like cheating?


          • Original Poster

            Yeah, I agree with the flashy thing. What you used to see seemed attainable. I know I will never attain what was in that ring--way out of my league.

            But, since the whole judging system is supposed to be based on seeing a willing, submissive yet energetic, happy, relaxed horse, how can it be gotten with the way of the TWH? They just want flash and flipping. While the flash was there, these horses almost all looked very relaxed, but SO energetic and willing. HOW can that be happening with awful methods? Can you "cheat" and get a horse to look like that in dressage, for any length of time, anyway?

            Princess, was what you saw in the show ring ugly? All of the ones I saw, except maybe Randon, looked like some of the best rides I've ever seen. Do you think the judges got it all wrong?

            If half of the people warmed up "the right way," and half of the people did it the "bad" way, WHY are they all going in and producing something so good? I'm really not baiting anyone or condoning anything. I'm trying to figure out what's going on. Does anyone NOT think those were a bunch of really great rides?


            • #7

              WEG and FEI has represented total disregard for the clear consise descriptions contained in the rules of dressage.

              The judges are honoring BTV, rolkur, poll not being the highest point, leg movers v. back movers, hollowed backs, disengaged hindquarters....all of these because of 'bad' schooling and riding. Riders that are not using the snaffle bit as the point of contact as referenced in the rules, but rather cranking on the curb and snaffle.........
              Ask and allow, do not demand and force.


              • Original Poster

                Please, only educated people who have a clue and can respond to what was seen instead of randomly repeating the same things over and over.


                • #9
                  Because of my crazy schedule I have not watched any of the rides. I think some are up on YouTube now? I did not subscribe to the live streaming from WEG -- I'll buy the DVD later. The other problem is, DSL is too dang slow.

                  So I have not seen the test rides, but I think BTDT brings up a good question. I respect her judgement, and if she says she was seeing generally good rides with relaxed & happy horses, I will believe her before I believe someone like Spirithorse.

                  BTDT has BTDT in real life. Spirithorse has not.

                  In competitive dressage, TESTS are where the final result of training and warm-up are judged. If the horse goes in tense, frightened and cowed by its rider, it will show in its performance! Horses can't fake being happy and relaxed. Dressage, in spite of the hand-wringers, is still a long way from the abuses seen in the TWH world, WP, some of the breed shows and other disciplines and sports.

                  I'm not condemning all other facets of horse sports, but I'm sick to death of the whiners who think dressage is going to hell in a handbasket. It just ain't so.


                  • Original Poster

                    Thank you Beasmom!

                    Here's a link someone put up with all of the freestyles. It's Theo's site:
                    If you have DSL, just put it on, put it on pause for a looooong time, and then come back and watch it. That should work.

                    This woman has a bunch of the GP's and GPS's:


                    • #11
                      Oh, no, thank YOU for posting the links!

                      Maybe tomorrow I can sit down and watch a few rides if I don't have any more disasters!


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Beentheredonethat View Post
                        The last one I saw was Sunrise--Oh my god. That mare was wonderful. How is something so horrible producing the best we've ever seen?
                        You should re-watch her freestyle. While I really enjoyed Fuego I think that technically speaking, the top 5 horses were sensibly placed, with the exception of that mare. She is horribly tense. Her tail swished swished swished constantly, and her hind end trailed several times. It made me tense just watching. I just feel strongly about that one because it was the only one of the top scored rides that made me uncomfortable to watch.

                        I think that tension is pretty common, and it does not seem to be penalized.

                        ETA: To answer the original question, sometimes I wonder if part of the real legacy of the rollkur method is in the horses who don't succeed under it. And if it's true that only a handful of people are "skilled" enough to use the method, are all of their students skilled enough? Can every horse handle being trained this way, or are there some whose brains and/or bodies are fried? The horses we see winning are the ones held up as examples that the method works. What about the ones who don't make it? Does rollkur play a part in that?

                        Check out this video of one of the WEG riders warming up. When my horse works with his hocks that far back behind him, he destroys the joints and his lower back. I know this because he hocks will crack and pop and his lower back becomes sore when I don't make him work correctly. He is not in favor of really stepping under himself and moving out in any gait except a gallop, if left to his own devices. I had to learn this the hard way. He is an OTTB with a long back. Maybe this WB's conformation makes that work ok. Maybe they do other work that strengthens the back to compensate, or maybe this horse is in a program that uses medicine and therapy to counteract those problems. I don't know. But I have learned the hard way that working my particular horse in such an incorrect manner will ruin his body.

                        Last edited by ZiggyStardust; Oct. 3, 2010, 04:07 AM.
                        Fear is the rocket sauce.
                        Jack Black


                        • #13
                          I guess I'm (to borrow a phrase from the eventing colony) just a Smurf, but I thought that the video was lovely. I'm not overly concerned about the head, but I thought that the rider's position and seat and hands were quiet and effective. Let's see, he's 70-something, right, so that means I've only got some 5-7 years to go to get where he's at...guess I've really got to get cracking.

                          So I think it's just a matter of point of view. I didn't see anything at all constricting about that video, other people did. Warm up to me means getting the horse loose and moving more freely, so whatever is necessary to do that, either going a bit deeper than one would do in the ring, or slower, or faster, or bending more to get what the ultimate end is, which is a horse that can go ahead and do the required test. I'll confess I didn't pay too much attention to this particular pair, so I'll just have to go back and re-watch some of his tests.

                          I enjoyed the opportunity to watch these tests with some of the best horses in the world. I'll never get there myself, but I sure would like to give credit where it's due to all of these riders. It sure isn't easy.

                          As for the judging, I don't have an r, an R, or an I, but one thing I do know is that there's a lot of knowledge required to get any of these judging designations, and the judges with the I rating sure as hell didn't get their designation from a Cracker Jack box.


                          • #14
                            Sunrise was the one I was watching be warmed up for about 1.5 hours in rollkur. I will get the pics of dad's camera and post them here in a few. I have quite a few, but my camera battery died before it got REALLY ugly with the head being yanked side to side. Curb and snaffle rein were held together, and she was constantly having to pull them shorter due to the very heavy contact.

                            The pics I have are a bit blurry though because it was dark and were were not allowed to use flash photography.

                            I'm going to try to find the video of her ride.


                            • #15
                              I watched the warmup for about 1 hour before Totilas' ride in the GP or GPS (can't remember which day). He did not arrive at the warmup rings by the stadium until about 45 minutes before his test, so unless he was in a far distant ring and then put a cooler on, Gal did not warm up for an excessively long period. Even though he stayed in the ring where the public could not get next to the rail, from where I was standing at the public accessible ring, the elevation was such that I could see over the other ring's fence and observe the horses' head and neck and the riders seat and hands. I did not see any strong flexions done on Totilas. I hate forced chins on chest but am okay with low and round and I saw nothing disturbing in that time.

                              Mistral Hojris stayed in the non-public accessible ring for warm up as well.

                              The judging was variable and I was most happy with Cara Whitam who seemed to have the backbone to lower the scores when a fault occurred in an otherwise very good movement yet give a very good or excellent score when it was deserved.

                              I agree with the OP that the overall quality is higher and in a much greater percentage of horses that in years past, eg in 96 at Atlanta. That made my time in Lexington very enjoyable.


                              • #16
                                Originally posted by Beentheredonethat View Post
                                No, I was not there. All I've seen is what was posted online.

                                So, this is my point. If all of this ugly stuff is going on that is so bad to prepare them, why is all of the final result looking so good? All I can see is what was brought into the show ring and it was stunning. Ride after ride of beautiful, relaxed, super horses. The last one I saw was Sunrise--Oh my god. That mare was wonderful. How is something so horrible producing the best we've ever seen?
                                The FEI rules are not being followed and it is not fair to the folks that do follow the rules. I am going to post a link in a new topic showing stills and why they are't correct according to the rules. I think most of us ( and I include myself ) do not have enough knowledge to specifically identify what is wrong, we just see that it doesn't look natural much of the time, or some think it looks great. As someone said who has no knowledge of Totilas after he saw the WEG video : ''he looks like a '' caricature of a dressage horse ''.
                                I'll post the link here too :



                                • #17

                                  The warmup you posted isn't bad, IMO. In fact the horse gets softer, lighter, and looser as it goes on--the sign of a warmup that's working. Yes, the horse was ridden deep for a spell but I don't see tension, pain, or any ill effects from watching the horse's demeanor. And the rider is 70?! OMG! Amazing.

                                  ****Change of subject****

                                  One thing I liked about the WEG is how the Spanish ride their "flagship" horses--the Iberians. It was so much fun to see the different style of the movements based on whether a German style WB or an Iberian was in the ring. I think its great that they have enough pride in the horses originated on their soil to campaign them internationally.

                                  Wouldn't it be cool if more countries rode horse breeds originated from their nation or region? IE, Americans would ride SBs, Morgans, AHQAs, the British could ride Welsh Cobs, French could ride Selle Francais etc etc....

                                  Of course that's never going to happen. Watching the Spanish rides, however, gives a special thrill because you are both seeing top dressage and a display of their nation's heritage. When most riders from most countries are on WBs, it homogenizes the cultural differences.
                                  2007 Welsh Cob C X TB GG Eragon
                                  Our training journal.
                                  1989-2008 French TB Shamus Fancy
                                  I owned him for fifteen years, but he was his own horse.


                                  • #18
                                    Steffen, Robert, and Kyra all thought Sunrise should have scored much higher with the latter two saying she should have placed first. They all saw how she warms her horse up for sure. The mare is now sixteen and has been competing at GP internationally for years. I can't imagine that this mare could have done better with any other partner. She does have a different build than the boys and mares do get unnerved more easily unfortunately, like Brentina at Beijing. Even if you don't particularly like her way of going, let's applaud a mare for being in the top five just as much as an andalusian for the same.


                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by SisterToSoreFoot View Post

                                      The warmup you posted isn't bad, IMO. In fact the horse gets softer, lighter, and looser as it goes on--the sign of a warmup that's working. Yes, the horse was ridden deep for a spell but I don't see tension, pain, or any ill effects from watching the horse's demeanor. And the rider is 70?! OMG! Amazing.
                                      I didn't think, as far as the use of rollkur/LDR goes, that this one was particularly "bad", esp compared to some of the other video. I just find it bizarre that a GP horse is ridden for 10+ minutes where he isn't tracking up for a good portion of it, and is taking larger steps in front than behind. This is the opposite of my understanding of correct work. The trailing hocks and unequal step seems to be common in the rollkur videos, including the ones that show more extreme use of it.
                                      Fear is the rocket sauce.
                                      Jack Black


                                      • #20
                                        Originally posted by ZiggyStardust View Post
                                        I didn't think, as far as the use of rollkur/LDR goes, that this one was particularly "bad", esp compared to some of the other video. I just find it bizarre that a GP horse is ridden for 10+ minutes where he isn't tracking up for a good portion of it, and is taking larger steps in front than behind.
                                        Tracking up, as in trot? Working trot is not done in a GP test.