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A dearth of good dressage instruction

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  • A dearth of good dressage instruction

    Okay, so is the biggest problem in this country with the dearth of good instruction? Or that people will not travel for good instruction--even when they are teachers who are training other riders?

    Where does the fault lie? Oh, and don't even try to tell me that the USDF is addressing this. They really aren't. And if they some day ended up being the only approver, a LOT of the really good instructors in this county would be without a job due to politics.

    Is it that people just really all think that it should be easy and want the dressage world to revolve around them and their chosen needs of the day? Are we making it TOO easy for people to get into the sport and show...and get ribbons?

    I'm really curious. I mean, if we had awesome instruction in this country that was available to everyone, we wouldn't see some of the basic questions that are repeatedly asked out here. Right?
    "And I'm thinking you weren't burdened with an overabundance of schooling." - Capt Reynolds "Firefly"

  • #2
    The problem is performance dressage. Anybody can crank their horse's nose in, win some things here and there, hang out their "Trainer" shingle and call that "dressage", but it's not.
    "The standard you walk by is the standard you accept."--Lt. Gen. David Morrison, Austalian Army Chief

    Comment

    • Original Poster

      #3
      You mean competitive dressage? (Performance to me means circus dressage.)

      Then you're laying the blame at the judges' feet?
      "And I'm thinking you weren't burdened with an overabundance of schooling." - Capt Reynolds "Firefly"

      Comment


      • #4
        Wrong. Thing is, this country is HUGE! Sure there are some areas where you can't get dressage lessons or would have to trailer for hours, and honestly who has time or wants to put that much stress on their horse? So it's not surprising people come here asking basic questions. That isn't a bad thing or unexpected. It think it would be impossible to ensure great training everywhere in the US. Some areas just couldn't support it.

        The problem as I see it is there is no systematic training so it's very hard for students to tell if they're getting good or bad training.

        You're right about USDF. I've attended one session of L-program and wasn't impressed with some of the information being taught. I shouldn't be so harsh as it was the first course but it seemed weak.

        If USDF really cared about members, they would create a data base for answering standard questions and offer free vid viewing online for members. At least make joining worth the money. That would help students evaluate trainers with better tools to judge.

        Just remember, even with their system, Germany and other european countries put out some crappy trainers and go down dark paths for easy success. We're not alone in this quagmire of horsey training. Seems to be the human way. Take the easy route, biggest bully wins.

        Comment

        • Original Poster

          #5
          The USDF is doing one thing that addresses your request for online training information. Did you see they started the e-trak? You can get into it if you're even just a GMO member.

          http://www.usdf.org/e-trak/

          I don't hate the USDF, I just think they are often arrogant in their approach to the membership, or just plain ignorant from having the people making decisions living in a vacuum.
          "And I'm thinking you weren't burdened with an overabundance of schooling." - Capt Reynolds "Firefly"

          Comment


          • #6
            I don't think there is an abscence of good instruction-I think that people don't know how to recognize good instruction. Good instruction is hard-it forces you to improve, to rethink what you are doing and why. It encourages you to come up with a plan and school it. And it also costs...in dressage, as with everything else, you get what you pay for.

            1. There are a lot of trainers that call themselves dressage trainers who have no clue how too advance the horse. How does someone new to the sport recognize this?
            2. The one USDF certified instructor in my state teaches equitation. Equitation is part of it, but when people lesson with her for four or five years, and neither horse or rider advance, something is wrong...
            3. Yes, some people want to only hear good things, and never be pushed outside their comfort zone. If you don't leave your comfort zone, then you never make progess.

            There are two good instuctors in the state I live in-both with their USDF gold medal, both have trained several horses to GP, both have students who are successful. They have two different teaching styles, but what you hear about both is that they are tough. A lot of riders don't want tough. They want easy. Easy is fine if you are a dabbler. But if you want to compete, then by golly, you better look for someone who has been there, done that, and can teach it. And that means tough.
            A good instructor can work with and improve any kind of rider or horse. Out of shape mature adult on an out of shape quarter horse? They can improve that. Young rider on inexpensive OTTB? They can improve that. Someone who has had several bad experiences and lacks confidence? They can improve that.

            To find a good instructor look for:
            1. Someone who has been there, done that. Want to ride at PSG? Don't work with someone who has only ridden to 2nd. Want to compete?-find someone who has competed. Want to train your young horse? Work with someone who has trained young horses.

            2. Kindness and toughness are not mutually exclusive terms. You don't need to be insulted during your lesson. But don't mistake honesty and criticism for unkindness. You are paying them to correct your faults, right? And to do that they will have to point them out.

            3. Certification in anything means only they have completed the requirements to be certified. It is not a guarantee of competency. Sad, but true.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Velvet View Post
              I'm really curious. I mean, if we had awesome instruction in this country that was available to everyone, we wouldn't see some of the basic questions that are repeatedly asked out here. Right?
              I don't think Universal Riding Instruction, given the present
              economic situation, is a high priority for this country.

              Comment

              • Original Poster

                #8
                Originally posted by alicen View Post
                I don't think Universal Riding Instruction, given the present
                economic situation, is a high priority for this country.
                I'm confused with the caps in the title. Are you saying a school or certification that is Universal or universally good instruction across the country?

                Or are you pointing out that people will not seek instruction at all, in the form of a live person teaching them from the ground, in this economy?
                "And I'm thinking you weren't burdened with an overabundance of schooling." - Capt Reynolds "Firefly"

                Comment


                • #9
                  Well perhaps we should first define what good instruction is. What I consider good instruction is not necessarily agreed upon by others. The list of attributes, accomplishments and honors required by many I think can give a false sense of capability to some. That is not to say the individual in question cannot ride, cannot train or cannot teach but I think the individuals who can do all three very well are few and far between. They also tend to have limited openings and/or time to take on those who need them the most. I think too that riders must take on some of the blame.

                  My riding instructor does not have all the medals or glory that many think is necessary to be considered accomplished or even good; however, I think she is one of the best kept secrets. My riding has advanced more with her than those I've ridden with in earnest who have all their medals, HOYs, etc. I think what cannot be ignored in this case is the fact that we click; so, I don't necessarily mean that the others were not "good" but they did not get through to me the way she did. I will also say and have repeated this many times too that her willingness to do lounge lessons has been a godsend for me.

                  Now if you compare me to her other students, do we see the same advancement/improvement? Well I think one would see much more if her other students rode as much as I do and worked in other areas as much as I do (pilates, yoga, etc). I have several horses, a pretty solid background simply in survival seat mode and work pretty darn hard. Many consider me more "driven" for an amateur than your average amateur. She is quick to point out that not all of her students have the same dedication or interests that I do, nor should they.

                  Everyone has to set their own goals; however, if their goal is to improve "x" amount within a certain time frame then they better be willing to put as much time and effort into it as they expect from others (especially the horse). I see a huge disconnect in this regard. Many have legitimate mitigating factors but then that does not equate to poor instruction as the reason/cause for lack of advancement.

                  So I guess I see many details that must be considered in the broad stroke of "the lack of good instruction". I think there are those who are not the most effective instructor despite their accolades. I think there are many riders who want to learn by osmosis rather than the "real burn" that is necessary for at least some of us. I also think there are far too many combinations that require instruction of the rider as well as training of the horse and tackling both is, well, difficult and not something that will be accomplished overnight yet if it's not handled the Burger King way then the student and sometimes even the trainer/instructor moves on or becomes disgruntled. The only simple thing is the FACT that it isn't easy and many don't have the time, energy, dedication or money to throw at it so many of us dabble, some get lucky and some, well, just keep dabbling.
                  Ranch of Last Resort

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Velvet View Post
                    I'm confused with the caps in the title. Are you saying a school or certification that is Universal or universally good instruction across the country?

                    Or are you pointing out that people will not seek instruction at all, in the form of a live person teaching them from the ground, in this economy?
                    I'm thinking it was a pun on Universal Health Care.
                    www.TerriMiller.com
                    Photos & Commissioned Paintings

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      On your first question, I completely agree. It is the quality of instruction. But part of that is the lack of history of dressage in this country. It's really just gaining momentum. I live in a richly dressage educated area, and I still feel to get real, FEI geared instruction I need to do clinics. There are plenty good basic lower level trainers. Even plenty of trainers who ride at FEI level. But very, very few who train TOWARD FEI from the beginning. When you get a feel for how many quality horses and international quality trainers i.e. my European trained clinicians have had access to, and how deep the knowledge runs over generations (!!!!), only then can you get an idea of what you're not getting from the vast majority of instructors here (not saying there aren't any who have gone to mastery, but access to large quantities of quality horses in instruction for themselves makes it hard!)

                      I also think that American culture makes it harder for the average trainer to push the average student. They are more likely to work within the comfort zone of the student than to say 'with what you're willing to put in you should take up pleasure trail riding at the walk on an older QH'.. etc.

                      Hm, and then there is this thing about unsuitable horses (over/under-horsed riders)... I have a hunch that in Europe the percentage of amateurs who are well paired with their mounts is quite a bit greater than here, again, because of the quantity of quality available and the generations old experience level.

                      (I realized today that my 5 yo WB mare, after about 8 months of training (from being green broke) does more, at infinitely higher quality than my OTTB ever *could* in the 8 years I've tried with him (where he was mostly off or not participating for one reason or another...) (NOTE: I'm not dissing TBs here, I know some lovely ones. Just saying that I tried for 8 years with a horse, could have been any breed, who simply could not do his job. He now *excels* at being a retired pasture puff, btw. )

                      On your conclusion that you would see less basic questions on an internet forum if there were better instruction, well, I don't think so. Just think of the Bell curve -- there will always be beginners (and that's good!!) and those without access to good instruction.
                      "Reite dein Pferd vorwärts und richte es gerade.” Gustav Steinbrecht

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        I don't know of any riding programs around which are horsemanship programs as much as riding - teaching tack, horse health info, etc. I think longe lessons are still common for people getting into dressage, but don't think they're that common for someone starting out riding. I'm speaking specifically of my area, but it feels as if riding lessons are more purely riding than they were when I started and horsemanship was emphasized.

                        On top of that, I know of some situations where students/horses are rushed. They do well at shows, to a certain point... and then they suddenly hit a wall and can't improve. But the theory is - you got this young horse, and trained it through second. Sure it misbehaves and fights a lot, but you get it there, so sell it and buy a horse who can do better and hasn't been treated that way... they then buy a 4th/PSG horse, get to that level, sell it, and get a GP horse. Never pay the real repercussions of the rushing and pushing the horses too hard, because someone else has to deal with the horse who is now nuts. And those students do WELL. Trainers have great eyes, pick great horses, teach the students how to do what needs done in the show ring. Yes they require prep telling them where to do each half halt, how to shift weight when needed, etc. But they do well in the show ring, and the picture judges see is one which should place. The riders learn to ride and do what's needed for the levels. They just don't learn the horsemanship needed to go up the levels with one happy horse.

                        At the same time, I see some amazing trainers. Saw someone ride who was a lower level trainer and thought that I would never want to buy a horse she had started... and 6 months after she started riding with a GP trainer I love, I saw her working with horses and realized I no longer felt the same, as she'd had some great instruction and improved ridiculously huge amounts.

                        Right now, I have no real need to ride with a GP trainer. I'm just learning. However, I eventually want to reach GP if I'm good enough - so I am with a trainer who teaches lower levels in dressage and eventing but knows how to ride and train upper levels, because she can help ensure I'm getting things right at my level before moving on, to make sure I don't cause road blocks on the way.

                        I still think a lot of the questions here are legit to ask even if you have a trainer, though. My trainer often tells me that I ride a lot like she does, which makes it easier for her to understand some of my problems - but doesn't give very diverse opinions on how to do things! I love reading different perspectives on how to do things and taking what I choose from those opinions. The more you learn, the more tools you can add to your toolbox.

                        I kind of look at opinions regarding training here as free clinics with generally questionable instruction. I go to clinics when I can to get diversity of opinions and other perspectives - and that's why I read responses to questions about training here, too.
                        If Kim Kardashian wants to set up a gofundme to purchase the Wu Tang album from Martin Shkreli, guess what people you DON'T HAVE TO DONATE.
                        -meupatdoes

                        Comment

                        • Original Poster

                          #13
                          Originally posted by netg View Post
                          I still think a lot of the questions here are legit to ask even if you have a trainer, though. My trainer often tells me that I ride a lot like she does, which makes it easier for her to understand some of my problems - but doesn't give very diverse opinions on how to do things! I love reading different perspectives on how to do things and taking what I choose from those opinions. The more you learn, the more tools you can add to your toolbox.

                          I kind of look at opinions regarding training here as free clinics with generally questionable instruction. I go to clinics when I can to get diversity of opinions and other perspectives - and that's why I read responses to questions about training here, too.
                          I just wonder how many people can filter that information well. There's a lot of bad information passed around, and often because someone doesn't fully understand what an instructor was teaching at the time (maybe a miscommunication or it was situational information only) or it seems like a quick and easy way to get things done. I've seen a LOT of people saying really crazy things at shows and in barns, where they honestly believe their information is correct. And yet, when you watch it in action it's obviously flawed. That information is being passed on and people without a filter from years of experience or access to quality instruction think it's correct.

                          I know, I know, this happens everywhere. Just look at the LDR discussions and disagreements, and rabid adherents. I just think it's interesting and makes me wonder if what the root cause really is--if there are any that are truly identifiable. Is it a lack of good instructors? Wanting a quick fix and just to get the job done? Is it the American way of learning and not wanting anyone to push you because nowadays everyone needs to be petted and told their great? (Well, not everyone, but you get the idea.)

                          Where's it coming from? Oh, and no, I don't think all the questions out here are silly, etc., it's just that I see a recurring pattern that makes me wonder where the newbies are getting their information when not on this board.
                          "And I'm thinking you weren't burdened with an overabundance of schooling." - Capt Reynolds "Firefly"

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Velvet View Post
                            I've seen a LOT of people saying really crazy things at shows and in barns, where they honestly believe their information is correct. And yet, when you watch it in action it's obviously flawed. That information is being passed on and people without a filter from years of experience or access to quality instruction think it's correct.
                            This just made me think of some of the "Inside leg to outside rein!" folks who have horses severely counterflexed and off-balance.

                            Yep, the filter is important, and I think working with a good trainer appropriate to the level is VERY important. It's too bad they aren't out there everywhere. As far as why not, or if it's worse than before, I don't know. Around here, I feel like there's enough of the Wild West that people want to be rogues and not use a trainer so they don't have to listen to anyone else.

                            I've also seen situations where people just believe someone simply because that person speaks (or types) with confidence. Sometimes I wonder if I should have a signature line warning people that I tend to type in a tone as if I know everything, but I DON'T, so please take all I say with a grain of salt and assume cluelessness!

                            I know of one "trainer" who claims to be a barrel racing and h/j expert. As if those two are very similar disciplines. Seemingly strongest talent? Flipping horses over on herself and others. Many of her former students realize how awful she is for that, after learning not to be so scared once they went to a trainer with a clue. Yet they still believe her when she says she can give injections for them or that she does teeth because she was in school to be a human dental tech. Let's not discuss the horse who couldn't put on weight and had sores from the points on his teeth after she supposedly fixed them....
                            If Kim Kardashian wants to set up a gofundme to purchase the Wu Tang album from Martin Shkreli, guess what people you DON'T HAVE TO DONATE.
                            -meupatdoes

                            Comment

                            • Original Poster

                              #15
                              netg,

                              Your last paragraph reminded me of people who have come to me and said that they are looking for lessons on school horses. They ask for my advice on people they've found online or in ads. Um, well, the person who has a laundry list of experience as a hunter rider or western pleasure rider and also adds that, btw, they teach dressage really is the wrong place to go! But they suck people in and those people believe they are learning dressage.

                              That is the kind of instruction and false advertising that is bothersome.
                              "And I'm thinking you weren't burdened with an overabundance of schooling." - Capt Reynolds "Firefly"

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Originally posted by netg View Post
                                This just made me think of some of the "Inside leg to outside rein!" folks who have horses severely counterflexed and off-balance.

                                ...
                                Lol, I was just going to ask how you could make such a statement never having seen me ride, and how lovely and balanced my mare was going, when I realized you made a statement on a group of riders who don't understand that principle properly. Phew. So glad it's Friday.
                                "Reite dein Pferd vorwärts und richte es gerade.” Gustav Steinbrecht

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  Originally posted by InsideLeg2OutsideRein View Post
                                  Lol, I was just going to ask how you could make such a statement never having seen me ride, and how lovely and balanced my mare was going, when I realized you made a statement on a group of riders who don't understand that principle properly. Phew. So glad it's Friday.
                                  I have to say, I forgot your username as I was reading your post, and was confused for a second, too!

                                  It's one of the dominant contrasting images I have of a philosophy which is great if you get it, and awful if you follow what you think it means and are wrong.

                                  And I'm very glad it's Friday, too! Done with work for the day.... Woohoo!
                                  If Kim Kardashian wants to set up a gofundme to purchase the Wu Tang album from Martin Shkreli, guess what people you DON'T HAVE TO DONATE.
                                  -meupatdoes

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    Originally posted by Velvet View Post
                                    Okay, so is the biggest problem in this country with the dearth of good instruction? Or that people will not travel for good instruction--even when they are teachers who are training other riders?

                                    Where does the fault lie? Oh, and don't even try to tell me that the USDF is addressing this. They really aren't. And if they some day ended up being the only approver, a LOT of the really good instructors in this county would be without a job due to politics.

                                    Is it that people just really all think that it should be easy and want the dressage world to revolve around them and their chosen needs of the day? Are we making it TOO easy for people to get into the sport and show...and get ribbons?

                                    I'm really curious. I mean, if we had awesome instruction in this country that was available to everyone, we wouldn't see some of the basic questions that are repeatedly asked out here. Right?
                                    I, for one, am outraged. Something must be done immediately to address this terrible problem!!!
                                    2012 goal: learn to ride like a Barn Rat

                                    A helmet saved my life.

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by Velvet View Post
                                      I'm really curious. I mean, if we had awesome instruction in this country that was available to everyone, we wouldn't see some of the basic questions that are repeatedly asked out here. Right?
                                      I think I have a good instructor now, but I only see her for one hour per week. So I have questions in between lessons and I come here.

                                      Also, there are times I just am not grasping a concept my trainer is trying to impart, and maybe someone on here can explain it differently.

                                      For my "filter", I go by people's past posts, general consensus, and some trial and error.

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        I always find the comments about 'competitive dressage' vs 'classical dressage' a little bit amusing, on a personal level. I have worked (at least annually) with a bereiter of the SRS at for at least 15 of the last 18 years, about 4-5 different ones. This year I am hosting a clinic with the chief rider. So call me a 'classical' rider.

                                        Here is the shocker.

                                        Monthly, I pay a European FEI judge (competitive!!! ) to come to my farm and give me lessons on my own horse as well as horses I have in training, to ensure correctness. He is DUTCH (double ).

                                        And, he is just as 'classical' as the SRS bereiter I first took lessons from 18 years ago! (triple )

                                        So in my opinion, it's either right or wrong. NOT 'classical' or 'competitive'.
                                        Horses don't lie.

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