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New to Dressage and Frustrated...advice needed!

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  • New to Dressage and Frustrated...advice needed!

    Hello ladies/guys:

    Starting learning dressage...been with a trainer since late fall of this past year. Have experience in Hunter from a child. I had never been fortunate enough to have a coach that had horses that would go 'on the bit' or round. I rode once with a dressage trainer about 10 years ago in college, but since then, I had taken a long stint without riding.

    I can easily get the horse on the bit at the walk, but have trouble doing it at trot and at canter. Trainer says I have too much contact with the reins and Im making the horse 'lean into the reins' and carry falsely. Mind you Im still feeling myself out...Ive never done this before and I feel really stupid for not knowing when I see kids doing it. Im not very heavy handed but she said it took her 35 minutes of riding the horse to get her back into a 'light' contact.

    Should I feel bad for this? Ive heard other trainers say how a student can 'ruin' a horse...my question is...or statement rather...I get so discouraged like Im never going to 'get' the right touch down, but im trying very hard. Im 1/2 leasing the horse and I ride her at least 3 times a week. I get a lesson once a week. I feel like quitting completely when I hear things like this....I mean as a student shoudl I hear someone say that to me and not be discouraged? how else can I learn? Ive got to start somewhere!
  • Original Poster

    #2
    it seems as if the trainers get personally pissed if they think you are 'messing' up their horse or making more work for them. I also pay the trainer to train a 4 year old for me full time, so we are spending money on two horses right now, so it's a big time/money committment I have made. I feel great when I have a good ride but when I hear someone saying that stuff it makes me wonder if I shouldu just quit and get out of the game.

    Comment


    • #3
      Don't be so hard on yourself. You are trying to change, and that says a lot about you. Dressage is a constant learning curve. Having too much contact is a COMMON problem. It's more like an epidemic. You need to learn to have forward thinking hands. You need to think about literally pushing forward with your hands every stride right now until you break the "backward hands" habit. Another trick is to think of your contact in three ways. There is not just back and forth, but also UP. Most people lighten their hands immediately when you tell them to take the contact up instead of back toward their bodies.

      Comment

      • Original Poster

        #4
        thank you

        lovely, that sounds like a good thing to try! Is it common to hear your trainer tell you that you are 'ruining' a horse...(in so many words)

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by nobleheartfriesians View Post
          Hello ladies/guys:

          Starting learning dressage...been with a trainer since late fall of this past year. Have experience in Hunter from a child. I had never been fortunate enough to have a coach that had horses that would go 'on the bit' or round. I rode once with a dressage trainer about 10 years ago in college, but since then, I had taken a long stint without riding.

          I can easily get the horse on the bit at the walk, but have trouble doing it at trot and at canter. Trainer says I have too much contact with the reins and Im making the horse 'lean into the reins' and carry falsely. Mind you Im still feeling myself out...Ive never done this before and I feel really stupid for not knowing when I see kids doing it. Im not very heavy handed but she said it took her 35 minutes of riding the horse to get her back into a 'light' contact.

          Should I feel bad for this? Ive heard other trainers say how a student can 'ruin' a horse...my question is...or statement rather...I get so discouraged like Im never going to 'get' the right touch down, but im trying very hard. Im 1/2 leasing the horse and I ride her at least 3 times a week. I get a lesson once a week. I feel like quitting completely when I hear things like this....I mean as a student shoudl I hear someone say that to me and not be discouraged? how else can I learn? Ive got to start somewhere!
          What do you mean when you say "on the bit"? Because one of the big sources of confusion that seems to come up for a lot of people new to dressage (but possibly with other experience) is that they get fussed over where the head is and they think that "on the bit" means a certain head position, when really "on the bit" is a horrible term because a properly ridden dressage horse is sort of 'rear wheel drive', if you will - the energy is coming from the hindquarters stepping up and under, and all you're doing with the bit/reins is 'catching' that energy. The head position that people associate with dressage is a natural result of the horse tucking his hind end under more.

          (You can force the horse to go around with his nose tucked in, but many horses will quite happily do that while their hindquarters are so strung out as to be in the next area code.)

          So if you're worrying about where the head is, stop. Pay attention to what the back end is doing. (The book Tug of War, while it kind of gets more into the whole Rollkur debate than you need to be reading, does have some nice visuals of the mechanics of what's going on when the horse is tucking his head in vs. actually carrying himself properly.)

          That said, it doesn't sound, whatever is going on, like your trainer is communicating very well with you. That's a very different issue, and if you feel like you're just being told off for not riding properly, without being told HOW to ride properly, well, that's a bad riding instructor right there. (Might be a fantastic rider, or a fantastic horse trainer, but those things do not necessarily also mean a good teacher.)

          Also, and this is totally imo, if she has someone who is relatively new to a style of riding up on a horse that's so sensitive as to be easily 'ruined' by bad riding, then she's using the wrong horse for lessons. When you're learning of COURSE you're going to make mistakes and get things wrong, and the horse you're on needs to be somewhat tolerant of that in one way or another. They may need tune up rides from time to time, to break bad habits and keep them properly fit, but that's just part of managing lesson horses, it's not 'ruining' them.

          Comment


          • #6
            Well... I personally would not say that to a student. Perhaps the trainer is just frustrated, but really there are better ways. Telling a student that they are ruining a horse is not very productive, and the trainer needs to give you the tools to improve. If they don't have the tools, then they need to send you to someone who does. Not every trainer clicks with every rider. Believe it or not, dressage should be fun, LOL!!! Also spend time watching riders with really good hands (like Steffen Peters) on youtube. You can absorb a LOT just by watching.

            Comment

            • Original Poster

              #7
              thank you...and yes, she does 'tune up' rides. There are not many lesson horses available and I started leasing her to learn more. she is not so senstive of a horse she is easily 'bothered' by me learning...just that the trainer made that comment of her having to spend the first 35 minutes of her ride trying to get her from hanging off her hands..it just makes me feel stupid I suppose.

              and yes, Im learning about the 'rear wheel drive' and that is somethign Im working on as well. There is quite a bit of learnign to this sport and I think it's challenging..but I dont want to get so over-challenged that I quit!

              Comment


              • #8
                Another reason besides trying to get a head-set that is probably causing you to hangon the horse's bit more than you think is your lack of balance. You can feel like you really aren't putting much pressure, but you use the reins for adjustments in your own balance.

                You haven't been riding, so there's no reason to expect you would be any different. It's not your "fault," anymore than it would be your fault that you couldn't run a marathon tomorrow morning. You just haven't been training for it.

                You want to develop the most independent seat possible. You want your hands to be completely independent of any other part of your body in terms of what you do with them. You should be able to ride along with no reins or stirrups at all, and feel comfortable and in balance at all gaits. That way every move you make means something to the horse, instead of being random static of you trying to stay on. This takes years of practice, but the way to start is on the lunge.

                Tell this trainer that you want lunge lessons to help you develop an independent balanced seat. She should light up and say, "Great!"

                If she doesn't, find another trainer.

                OE: Also, regarding whether trainers should or do say things like you are ruining a horse--this would be a big red flag for me. It's a total excuse. The trainer's job is to teach you how NOT to ruin the horse. If she's frustrated enough to say something like that, then she's blaming you for not doing what she's telling you. That's a poor teacher. It's like blaming the horse for not doing what the rider thinks they told it to do. Most likely the rider wasn't clear or effective, or the horse was unable to do what was asked. She needs to figure out how to teach you, not blame you.

                You are NOT stupid. You are an AA at a certain stage of getting back to riding.
                Ring the bells that still can ring
                Forget your perfect offering
                There is a crack in everything
                That's how the light gets in.

                Comment

                • Original Poster

                  #9
                  thank you

                  I agree...and we did that at first..at many times during our lessons I have dropped stirrups, one or both and also reins..(one or both) but I agree...maybe I should just do lunge training for awhile. I was afraid to drop stirrups mostly but I found i was fine when I did..this was a big thing for me because riding hunt you put all your weight in your heels...it was very hard for me to go from that seat to a totally different one!

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by nobleheartfriesians View Post
                    thank you...and yes, she does 'tune up' rides. There are not many lesson horses available and I started leasing her to learn more. she is not so senstive of a horse she is easily 'bothered' by me learning...just that the trainer made that comment of her having to spend the first 35 minutes of her ride trying to get her from hanging off her hands..it just makes me feel stupid I suppose.

                    and yes, Im learning about the 'rear wheel drive' and that is somethign Im working on as well. There is quite a bit of learnign to this sport and I think it's challenging..but I dont want to get so over-challenged that I quit!
                    I think maybe you and this trainer aren't a good match - it's her job to figure out what's going on and how to help you lighten up, not to complain at you about problems because she hasn't taught you how to do things right yet.

                    It would be something I would keep in mind, anyway - it does happen that sometimes people just don't click and it makes things harder than they need to be.

                    Also, don't compare yourself to the kids - unless some of them are also making the leap from another riding style, you're dealing with entirely different learning situations anyway, since you already have a way of doing things that you've learned and learning something contrary to that can be pretty tricky. It's not the same at all as starting from scratch with a kid who has only previously been on a horse for pony rides.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      I feel ya Nobleheart!!! I too struggle with getting the horse through!! I want to "Get It" so bad and I try very hard too. I see others that just pick up the contact and the horse goes soft and round. I have been working on trying to identify,locate and release tention in various parts of my body that block the horse from coming through. It has helped and my position as well as the horses outline has improved a great deal...but still no cigar! It's like too much hand not enough drive or enough drive and lettind it escape through too soft or intermitten contact...something I don't relize till it's to late and the connection is lost. Sometimes it feels as though the energy is NEVER reaching my hands or certainly NOT being recycled to the hind legs!! Most frustrating to me is when you ask some one to explain it and they say "I can't explain it...I just feel it!!" Don't be discouraged. It will get better and eventually become something that you have developed the feel for. It is and will help you if you can get some one to take LOTS of photos or better yet a video of you riding. Seeing yourself ride will help you to figure some things that need to change and sometimes just working on your position and becomining aware of things like clampig legs, pinched knees, stiff ankles, stiff elbows,not breathing and tention in the wrist. These things among others can block your horse from coming through. Becoming aware of them will help to correct them. A picture is worth a thousand words!!! Good luck and when you have your "Ahhh" moment, share it with us!!!
                      "Success comes in cans, not in cannots!"

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Reiner Klimke, one of the great dressage riders of the 20th C, had his wife give him a lunge lesson once a week as long as he lived. And he was riding for Germany in the Olympics--it don't get any bigger than that! Riders at the SRS spend their first year on the lunge. And those are the one who get accepted.

                        There's nothing wrong with just doing lunging for awhile!
                        Ring the bells that still can ring
                        Forget your perfect offering
                        There is a crack in everything
                        That's how the light gets in.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Personally I would be looking elsewhere. Negativity can not lead to productivity in either a horse or rider.
                          Sounds like her lack of teaching skills has lead her to resort to personal attack.
                          Remember you are the consumer and as such hold all the cards. I won't tolerate someone treating me/family/horses with anything other than respect. And that one statement would be enough for me.
                          One thing-alot of Hunter riders tend to set their hands to low and straighten their elbows, seen it creeping into Dressage/Eventing as well-if you do this a horse will respond with an evasion, either set the jaw and get heavy or hollow out and be behind the hand.
                          As some others have said, the head comes last, you need to focus on balance and position.
                          Good luck in your decision.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by MelantheLLC View Post
                            You want to develop the most independent seat possible. You want your hands to be completely independent of any other part of your body in terms of what you do with them. You should be able to ride along with no reins or stirrups at all, and feel comfortable and in balance at all gaits. That way every move you make means something to the horse, instead of being random static of you trying to stay on. This takes years of practice, but the way to start is on the lunge.

                            Tell this trainer that you want lunge lessons to help you develop an independent balanced seat. She should light up and say, "Great!"

                            If she doesn't, find another trainer.
                            Agree x 1000. I'm not riding right now (no time, no money, sigh) but when I did, lunge lessons were a very well used tool in the toolbox for riders of ALL levels. (Even very advanced riders sometimes need to get back to basics to deal with bad habits they've developed or to be able to focus on just one particular thing.)

                            Note also that in a proper lunge lesson, the instructor/trainer should really be quite involved in controlling the horse. (Particularly when you're first working on developing your seat, you shouldn't even really have to worry about keeping the horse to the right gait. You should be able to basically just sit there and find your balance and follow the horse and learn what it feels like.) A lunge lesson where you could replace the trainer with a post in the ground with the lunge line tied to it is not actually a lunge lesson.

                            (As you progress, you may take up more control while still on the lunge, but if you're at the point where the trainer might as well just be a post, then you're at the point where you don't need to be on the lunge.)

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Ahhh thanks Melanthe...I did not know that about my hero Dr. Riener Klemke!!! I had heard that Robert Dover spent the first 5 years on the lunge! Can't argue with greatness!
                              "Success comes in cans, not in cannots!"

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                It can be frustrating! As a not-very-accomplished rider but an experienced student, I think sometimes we have to work with what we have, including our instructors. What I take from these remarks is:

                                1. You are not yet able to get the connection you want in trot.
                                2. Horse is not so push-button about giving that connection - if it took your trainer 35 minutes to get it, it is not that easy!

                                If at all possible I would ask for trainer to get on and establish that connection first, then you get on and she helps you maintain it. Once you get a feel of what you are looking for, it should be easier for her to help you get it again.

                                And agree - good longe lessons are helpful for everything!

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  OP - as a relatively late in life hunter rider (minus great equitation) turned dressage junkie, my first words are "do not get frustrated" or feel bad. Might want to find a more tactful trainer- this is the time to have one that is positive and supporting. Absolutely necessary. Even better if said trainer can make you laugh on less than perfect days. I can tell you that I've been at this for a while now, and the process is HARD but rewarding. Took me a long time to sit the trot. A longer time to do it w/ decent posture. I'm still working on the balance between riding forward into a receiving contact and sometimes holding like crazy. I'm still working on figuring out how in the H..LL you can have all your body parts doing different things at the same time. Have a relatively new horse; just spent some time feeling like I was a bad rider, only to find out that the saddle was pinching and the horse couldn't do what I was asking. BUT every break through has been so worth it. Every time I can say 'yes I feel the difference" is worth it. Every decent score at a new level is worth it. Getting the lateral work correct was worth it. And when I got my old schoolmaster to do 5 1-tempe's, I thought I died and went to heaven. (never mind that he was a lead change machine thru the 2's) Just remember that if this whole thing was easy, us amateurs would all be riding the Grand Prix tests - well!!!
                                  We don't get less brave; we get a bigger sense of self-preservation........

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    If she's actually SAID something like that, I'd be moving on to be completely honest. I have just moved on from my jumping instructor who I bought my very flashy youngster from.

                                    I was told I would ruin him, the flatwork I was doing wasn't right (bear in mind I have as many dressage lessons as I do jumping and compete dressage as much as I do jumping, so I'm NOT your average jumper rider.) They wanted his head tied down, his waaaaayyy out behind him (without saying that, they didn't get what I meant when I said I want him off the leg).I was made to feel stupid,incompetent and not only that I was taught terrible habits that my dressage instructor was disgusted about!

                                    I have since left my jumping instructor and now do my jumping with my dressage instructor who was a 1.45m show jumper in Holland. If she can teach me anything, at least I will be doing it in great style.... Oh, and classically correct.

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      I have a quick question. Have you ever taken a lesson on a school master? I truely believe that a student needs to feel what they are trying to accomplish before they try to reproduce it. I think it is not very fair of your trainer to get upset at you if you are switching diciplines. My advice would be to take some lessons from someone who has a school master you can ride. Someone different from you current instructor. You might find their horses are better trained and they may have a style of instruction that clicks with you better than your current one.
                                      I have to agree that just because they are a good rider does not mean they can teach. You need to find someone who is patient with your relearning and also has horses that are true "school masters" they are hard to find and can be expensive lessons but in my opinion worth every penny.
                                      "Ask often, demand little, reward generously"
                                      " Every horse has a chocolate side"

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        I usually have the opposite problem. I keep telling my students that it takes a long time and a lot of bad riding to ruin a horse.

                                        On a few occasions, when I schooled my students' horses, they have been telling me. I'm sorry, I'm ruining him.

                                        I keep telling them that my job is to be able to teach the horse what is expected and then teach the rider how to ask it correctly.
                                        If the rider struggles to do the right thing, then I need to change the way I teach, till it works.
                                        That's what trainers are paid for.

                                        BTW, if this is a trained horse and you ride it 3 times a week and it takes her 35 minutes get the horse back, something is wrong in the 1st place. Either the horse is not forgiving enough to be used as schoolmaster, or she is not a good teacher enough to give you teh right tools.

                                        Why don't you try a clinic and see how it goes.

                                        Comment

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