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Dressage in the USA does not really want spectators

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  • Dressage in the USA does not really want spectators

    I've heard many people complain that dressage shows are too quiet. That every one has to be absolutely silent so the horse in the ring is not upset. And the sad part is that this is really true here in the US. People are taught that the horse's concentration is fragile.

    Um, yeah, not so true. Watch the international horses and the horses in Europe. They get used to a lot of crazy things going on around them. The horses also go on trail rides and see vehicles and other things. These horses are not treated like hot house flowers when it comes to seeing unusual things and learning to deal with them. If someone comes along and surprises them, the riders expect them to maintain or quickly regain their focus. That's part of the trust and submission.

    At our shows, people standing in legal zones who might not be dressage riders are told to be quiet. To not move. I even saw a show last weekend where a horse doing a lower level test was rearing and spinning at people sitting in the stands. They were in the legal area. They should have stayed, but someone came along and asked them to leave (not the TD or any sort of show official, but a worked up mother or trainer). They all moved. Seriously? A horse misbehaving in that fashion needs more time in schooling shows before it goes back to recognized. Lesson learned. The rider was not in danger, they kept trying (correctly) to push the horse over to face their fear and get their mind back on the test. They were wrong in bringing such a super green horse to a recognized show. (IMO)

    Another time someone else in a completely legal zone was asked to move because they were scaring a horse that wasn't even looking over in the direction of the person. Once again, not a show official and the person was, as already stated, legal.

    What in the world is going on in dressage? First we have people asking us to continue to lower the levels for competing at recognized shows, and then people do not do their home work even for that level. The horses are unprepared--and I'm talking about an area with a gazillion schooling show opportunities. Then they pick on the spectators, who we are trying to attract to our sport.

    I think the problem is people look at our sport and think it's easy. Because it's supposed to look that way when it's done well. So they think that they can sit around like their in a barcalounger and get a ribbon. They don't do their homework. They don't do their job. There is no due diligence that they feel should be expected of them before they step foot in the show ring. And when they don't win or their horse misbehaves, they blame someone or something else.

    "And I'm thinking you weren't burdened with an overabundance of schooling." - Capt Reynolds "Firefly"

  • #2
    Firstly, I'm not that excited about watching dressage tests from training through third as a plain-ole spectator to begin with. I can't imagine why anyone would attend a show who wasn't a parent, friend, filling a role at the show, or paid by competitors to do so.

    Dressage attracts adult female riders who are afraid to jump ... or do much of anything, sometimes. They naively buy horses that are well-suited to dressage but not to their own temperaments.

    *raising hand*

    And they work with people who may allow them to think it's appropriate to try to control every aspect of their environments, including the show arena.

    *putting hand down*

    Srsly, both the horses and the riders need to get out and experience the world. We need to be able to feel safe hacking our horses from stall to warm-up to arena and deal with umbrellas, shouting kids, a loose dog without freaking.

    My horse recently moved from a very quiet, controlled environment to a pretty busy facility (to be nearer to me). Instead of coming unglued by a 3,000 mile trip and the constant activity, she's adapted. Instead of the nervous wreck I was led to expect, she's still very reactive, but she's come to understand that the world is a busy place and she can manage just fine.

    It's us, not them, who need to put on our big girl (or boy) pants and focus on the work, not the distractions.

    And, as you say, prepare adequately for where we go, not expect everything to arrange itself for our wants.

    Another dressage-as-life-lesson, IMO.
    *=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by Velvet View Post
      Watch the international horses and the horses in Europe.
      Excepting Isabell Werth who wanted the jumbotron removed during the 2008 Olympics.

      Comment

      • Original Poster

        #4
        Originally posted by alicen View Post
        Excepting Isabell Werth who wanted the jumbotron removed during the 2008 Olympics.
        Didn't know about that. That's stupid. No dispensation for one rider. Everyone has to deal with it all.

        Hey, my horse has had moments that are inattentive, and at home is worse about stupid stuff than at shows. Then again, if I want and need to, I can put him together, get him focused and just ride through it. It's part of the job. They can sometimes get away with being silly (usually at home when we're being more tolerant), but they have to know that when push comes to shove, they have to listen to us and behave (or attempt to).
        "And I'm thinking you weren't burdened with an overabundance of schooling." - Capt Reynolds "Firefly"

        Comment


        • #5
          The silence in the dressage arenas makes me sad. Actually, I find the complete silence a problem because if everything is super quiet and someone yells - that is very distracting. If there is all kinda of background noise and someone yells - it is easier to tune that out.

          I also ride hunters and my barn friends all gathered at one end of the ring and hollered for us as we headed towards the first jump. What a great way to relieve show nerves!

          I don't mind that my trainer can't talk to me at the dressage shows (at the hunter shows she coaches us when we are down by her end of the ring) - I get that the test is supposed to be just me and my horse and we have had the chance to ride the test countless times with our trainer.

          But as Allweathergal said, horses and people can and should manage a busier setting just fine. Personally, I also think it makes for a more pleasant atmosphere.
          My blog: Journeys in Riding

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by AllWeatherGal View Post
            Firstly, I'm not that excited about watching dressage tests from training through third as a plain-ole spectator to begin with. I can't imagine why anyone would attend a show who wasn't a parent, friend, filling a role at the show, or paid by competitors to do so.

            Dressage attracts adult female riders who are afraid to jump ... or do much of anything, sometimes. They naively buy horses that are well-suited to dressage but not to their own temperaments.
            Because someone chooses dressage does not mean that its a fear issue. I hate this generalization. Just because this country does things backwards and letting kids jump before they learn to control a horse'e body doesn't mean that not jumping = scared.

            I tend to find that the super silent atmosphere tends to amp up otherwise quiet horses. My BTDT QH gelding who does trailride, go to the local QH shows (complete with yelling and cat-calling spectators), carry flags in the rodeo grand entry tends to get more lookey in the spookey silence of a dressage show.

            I don't think that the over protective parents/trainers are the reason that dressage isnt a spectator sport, though....

            Comment


            • #7
              Isabel also screamed at the photographers in Vegas as she was riding her tests in 2009. She was yelling at them to stop shooting photos as the sound of the clicking was distracting her horse.
              RoseLane Sportponies
              Golden State - 2012 Bundeschampion & 2014 USDF Horse of the Year
              Golden West - 2014 & 2015 Bundeschampion Pony Stallion
              Petit Marc Aurel- FEI Dressage Pony Stallion

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              • #8
                I think there's more to the spectator problem than simple silence. How fun is it to watch 20 training level rides? Or, really, any 2 tests back-to-back? Unless the spectators know what they're looking for, it's hard to appreciate differences. Especially at the local levels where amateurs (myself very much included) don't always put together the best of tests. When you're at the shows, do you sit by the rings and watch rides nonstop? I try to watch my class as much as I can, and to watch the riders I know, but otherwise I'm walking through the barns or vendors or talking to friends or watching the warmup (that's where all the fun really is).

                SOME people don't trailride their horses. SOME people don't take horses off the property til it's showtime. SOME people can't ride unless the silence is all-encompassing. SOME people blame their rides on something else rather than inadequate preparation. But that's not everyone, and I think painting all of American dressage with that brush is incorrect.

                Furthermore, comparing the clientele of the average local recognized show to international competition is a little bit rich. These are professionals whose livelihoods depend on their performance in the sandbox. American dressage is composed of mainly amateurs who work for a living and ride/show as a hobby. Should they be international quality? I'm not making excuses here. I'm saying priorities are very different for a professional within this industry and professionals within other industries who do this sport as a hobby.

                Comment

                • Original Poster

                  #9
                  Originally posted by cnm161 View Post
                  .

                  Furthermore, comparing the clientele of the average local recognized show to international competition is a little bit rich. These are professionals whose livelihoods depend on their performance in the sandbox. American dressage is composed of mainly amateurs who work for a living and ride/show as a hobby. Should they be international quality? I'm not making excuses here. I'm saying priorities are very different for a professional within this industry and professionals within other industries who do this sport as a hobby.
                  I'm going to have to agree to disagree with you on this one. Homework is homework. Any ammie can get their horse more broke and take it out of the ring at home--IF they take the sport seriously. It's about training. You should have your horse trained well before you go in the ring at a recognized show. Period. If you cannot, then you pay a professional to do it for you so your horse is safe and sane. It's better for the horse, too!
                  "And I'm thinking you weren't burdened with an overabundance of schooling." - Capt Reynolds "Firefly"

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Velvet View Post
                    I think the problem is people look at our sport and think it's easy. Because it's supposed to look that way when it's done well. So they think that they can sit around like their in a barcalounger and get a ribbon. They don't do their homework. They don't do their job. There is no due diligence that they feel should be expected of them before they step foot in the show ring. And when they don't win or their horse misbehaves, they blame someone or something else.

                    Bingo. It's just walk, trot, canter, and steer, right?
                    Donald Trump - proven liar, cheat, traitor and sexual predator! Hillary Clinton won in 2016, but we have all lost.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      What about the dumbing down of dressage in the US? I mean, posting trot at first level? Walk trot tests for adults? Come on.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        I've seen posts in the past about how airplanes flying overhead upset the horses at home. Mine watch them and follow them through the sky. They are just fascinated by the whump whump of helicopters.

                        I've seen posts in the past with people ranting about fireworks in the neighborhood scaring their poor horses almost to death. Last night we were surrounded by fireworks. The horses were grazing and napping through the 'usual' fireworks sounds, plus the one neighbor closest who apparently had spent a bundle on the most expensive fireworks he could find. They were truly spectacular, and the sound they made as they were launched were like heavy mortar rounds, whhuuummmpppp, whhuuummmpppp, whhuuummmpppp - not even an eyeblink.

                        Horses can easily become accustomed to noise - unless the owners are frantic and frazzled and transfer those feelings to the horse. Then they think, if Mum's scared, then maybe I should be!
                        Tranquility Farm - Proud breeder of Born in the USA Sport Horses, and Cob-sized Warmbloods
                        Now apparently completely invisible!

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Well I can only speak for myself, but I don't ride dressage because I'm afraid to jump. And I'd have to say the PSG schoolmaster I ride in lessons is so athletic, forward, and animated, that a scaredy cat would not last on him.

                          That aside, I agree that it's too bad these horses are trained/expected to be so fragile of mind. I hadn't thought about it much having grown up in the English method (one horse length between horses, no loud noises, don't applaud until the jumper is done, etc). When I started to notice the issue was when a Western riding friend invited me to one of her shows. I was APALLED at horses riding through the crowds, how loud the specators were, and how the horses were packed nose to tail into the chute.

                          Then I realized that all the horses took this well in stride. Nobody freaked out - neither horse nor beast.

                          I began formulating an understanding. It's about expectations. These riders expected their horses to act sane in most any circumstances. We, on the other hand (generally speaking) don't want (from other posts I've read in places) golf umbrellas being opened, people riding bicycles nearby, etc.

                          I understood from this experience, again as a generaliztion, that I wanted my English trained horses to have Western sensibility.

                          Paula
                          He is total garbage! Quick! Hide him on my trailer (Petstorejunkie).

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Oh man, it's the same old issues. It's all us LL ammies out here ruining the sport. Well bless your heart!

                            Horses have bad days sometimes. A horse that's never seen a bleacher stand full of people -- and they won't see that at most schooling shows -- just might find it spooky. My first recognized show was small and supposed to be a "gentle" introduction to "the big time" but certain physical aspects of the arena set-up caused many horses to misbehave, including some who were more experienced competitors. Mine (who had way more show experience than I did, and was better trained too ) was among them. Three weeks later, we did Dressage at the Seacoast at UNH, which is a huge, busy show, and my horse was *fine*. We didn't win, but our scores were high 50s/low 60s, which in my mind is perfectly respectable for someone's *second recognized dressage show ever*.

                            OTOH, I also think it would be better for dressage shows to be a bit more lively, and people to not insist on quietness etc. The person who said that a shout or a ruckus coming from dead quiet is much more distracting than if it comes from a noisy background is absolutely right.

                            It makes me nervous to see dressage barns where the horses are always ridden in an indoor and never get out into the big wide world. I do a lot to get my horse out and about; we trail ride, I ride her *towards* scary things as long as I feel safe, I used to ride her on the road at our old barn, where the road was a quiet country road but did have the occasional UPS truck/school bus/landscape truck pulling a noisy rattling trailer/farmer setting off smoke bombs in the groundhog holes in his hay field/big noisy motorcyle... not to mention trash cans, political signs, mailboxes, bicyclists, and people stopping because they wanted to get out of their car and pet the pretty horsie

                            BUT I had to make myself do it; I'm not the bravest person in the world. And it does not mean that she will be perfectly calm about everything. Unlike many here, I have some empathy for those timid adult ammies.

                            (BTW -- I do dressage because I *cannot* jump, and I am far from the only one in this situation. Doctors' orders, and it was a compromise from "not riding at all" which is what he wanted. This was after a bad riding accident in which I discovered that 44 year olds don't bounce the way 15 year olds do. 5 broken ribs, a partially collapsed lung, a shear fracture of my collarbone, which is now held together by a metal plate, 6 weeks of missed work, one month of no riding and 2 more months of doing nothing but the walk. All of my falls -- even from when I was a kid -- were related to jumping, so I stopped jumping. Not that I was falling off very much, but still.)
                            Last edited by quietann; Jul. 5, 2011, 03:45 PM.
                            You have to have experiences to gain experience.

                            1998 Morgan mare Mythic Feronia "More Valley Girl Than Girl Scout!"

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                            • #15
                              I attended World Cup one year - the announcer requested the crowd stay very quiet and still for ONE rider, and that rider was NOT an American. At the international levels, our horses and riders handle the crowds just as well as anyone else. At the lower levels, you do have more young horses, more inexperienced riders, why not cut them some slack? Reality is, not many people want to sit through 20 Training Level rides anyway, so why the complaint that those 20 rides aren't spectator-friendly?

                              By the FEI levels, I agree, horses should handle the crowds, riders should be more capable, and if you go to a bigger show (CDI), you will see spectators.

                              I also don't know why the great desire to pick at adult amatuer riders - reality is, without that population of riders, we wouldn't have shows. Or a horse market. Or many professional trainers. Or a great selection of tack stores.

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Comments for what happens at 1:29: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=06cTLVoDk9Y

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  I do dressage because I like it, not because I'm afraid to jump. The worst falls I've ever had have been while doing dressage, not jumping. (Well, and trail riding, but that one probably wouldn't have been very bad if that tree hadn't been in the way...)

                                  The stereotype may describe a large portion of adult female dressage riders, but I would hesitate to apply it to predict the motivations of individual riders. This is one of the problems with stereotypes of any kind. Is it that impossible to believe that dressage is simply more interesting and enjoyable than jumping for some people? I've jumped plenty, and while any time on the back of a horse is a good time I'd personally rather be doing dressage, and have felt that way since I was a little kid.
                                  MelanieC * Canis soloensis

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                                  • Original Poster

                                    #18
                                    No one said it's the reason all people get into dressage. It just seems that there is an 80/20 rule going on here and that 80% of the lower level riders these days seem to think that it should be easy and don't always do the home work. The home work would definitely show up in the ring if they did. I saw some ammies who did their home work and had really nice rides, or rides that were partially nice and partially mucked up somehow--but they didn't whine and complain or blame anyone. Again, this group would be about the 20%.

                                    If we had really nice rides and people doing a great job at their level, maybe the tests at the lower level wouldn't be so much like watching paint dry. Maybe you'd watch and think, "Boy, I can't wait to see them as they move up the levels." Rather than thinking, "Ugh. Another awful ride." or "Sheesh, just another train wreck entering the ring."
                                    "And I'm thinking you weren't burdened with an overabundance of schooling." - Capt Reynolds "Firefly"

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      First of all: Beautiful ride with nice, well matched music!
                                      The arena was very, very quiet until the cheering that caused the spook. Like it has been mentioned above, if there was more general noise I don't think it would have been so upsetting to the horse. Cheering is good IMO, but a burst like in this case is harder to handle for a sensitive horse. Should we get rid of all spectator noise because of it? I don't think so!
                                      Hoppe, Hoppe, Reiter...
                                      Wenn er faellt dann schreit er...

                                      Originally posted by mbm
                                      forward is like love - you can never have enough

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                                      • #20
                                        Originally posted by chancellor2 View Post
                                        What about the dumbing down of dressage in the US? I mean, posting trot at first level? Walk trot tests for adults? Come on.
                                        The comment was made by one of the "test designers", that it was easier on the horses.

                                        It most certainly is, when the rider can't sit the trot, or the horse has no business doing a First Level Test.
                                        Some riders change their horse, they change their saddle, they change their teacher; they never change themselves.

                                        Remember the horse does all the work, we just sit there and look pretty.

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