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Introduction & a bundle of questions...

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  • Introduction & a bundle of questions...

    Hello. I owe thanks to a knowledgeable friend for pointing me to this forum. I've already found a lot of useful and interesting information here and am happy to have a resource like this available.

    I am a novice rider recently moved back to the U.S. from Germany, where I was living due to military ties (now severed). I'm a lifelong horse lover and took lessons whenever I could as a child, although these were very basic. I have always wanted to develop more sophistication in my riding and was drawn to the hunter/jumper sport then. When I was finally able to pursue riding more seriously as an adult in Germany, I was pretty much starting completely over. I rode at a stud farm where the owners kept talented competition horses (and were established, successful riders in their own right) but my own lessons were given by one of the farm's young apprentices. I had a very strong working relationship with both my instructor and one of my mounts (not so much the other mare I sometimes rode) and I progressed pretty quickly in what *they* called dressage lessons. My lessons were very focused on developing a connection with the horse, with absolute proper position, and subtlety in my riding. I was still working primarily just on w/t/c, on more complex patterns in the ring to develop subtle, effective "steering", and beginning things like the volte. I could sit the trot, did many days of exercises without stirrups, working on the lunge without reins, etc. I knew that developing these skills even further and continuing along the path they had started me on was what I wanted to do. Riding brings enormous peace to my life, and it's the connection with the horse that I valued most.

    It's taken me a year since moving back to get a job and get settled enough to be ready to get back to riding. I do not have a horse of my own and have been e-mailing and calling various barns in the area in hopes of trying lessons, learning about their leasing programs, boarding, etc. I've only gotten one call back for lessons, and I had that lesson earlier this week. It was hands-down the worst ride of my life. Much was due to my own rustiness and the fact that I completely lost focus as things started to go downhill. Right now my confidence is difficult to muster. I do not want to give the impression of talking badly of someone who is obviously a VERY accomplished and knowledgeable horse person, I'm just concerned because some hind sight and deep thinking has led me to believe that this particular situation might not be the right route for me to take to get back to where I want to be in pursuing dressage. I don't think that it's a particularly strong match for me as far as personality or pedagogy. Now, I haven't given up...I am going back for another lesson on an easier horse. In the meantime, though, I've spent a lot of time discussing options with my fiancé.

    In evaluating WHY I ride and why it is such a significant positive aspect of life for me, it is that connection with the horse. I would be perfectly happy to learn alongside a horse...to pursue dressage as a means to better riding, and to compete only at schooling shows. I am a persistent and dedicated rider when I have access to horses and I know that I can do a lot better than I did the other day. I also know that I have oodles to learn and I WANT to learn. Because it is the connection that I value most, I'm really leaning toward buying my own horse. I want to know that I'm riding a horse that is a good fit for me and my desires as far as discipline and temperament. I want to develop a relationship with which riding is only one part. (so much for keeping this short, right? :wink grin So, I've got the following questions:

    1. Is there a requisite amount of time that I should be devoting to riding before committing to my own horse? (i.e.: to develop skill that is not mount-specific) I want to be realistic about my goals as far as _riding_ is concerned, but acknowledge that there is more to my joy in horses than just the riding.

    2. I'd really like to find a horse that I can progress with, but that is forgiving enough for me to ride now. I'm willing to engage the help of a trainer when needed, but is it realistic to think that I can find a horse that can safely and happily work at a very low level in dressage and progress with me over the years? Again, since a relationship with my horse is one of the most important reasons for going at it from this angle, I'm wanting to find a mount that will be with me for many years.

    3. There is no shortage of instruction in this area (I'm in Howard County, Maryland) but I'm afraid that my mention of having started riding in Germany is making people expect a lot more of me than is true (I think this was a major factor in the lesson that went awry this week). I try to be very explicit about my skill level but it seems that it's not translating well to how lessons are conducted here. What might you suggest I ask and say as I look for a good instructor? I felt that mentioning that my start was overseas was important because the methods and approach in Germany IS so specific (and they are adamant that what I was taking were "dressage" lessons even though it seems that much of what I was doing would be considered equitation here). Perhaps I am mistaken and this shouldn't be part of the dialogue?

    4. If I go down the road to being a horse owner and since I do not yet have an established relationship with a trainer or instructor, what are your recommendations for finding an expert to help me evaluate prospects? Basic soundness is important to me, but so is long-term ability to pursue dressage and perhaps some jumping. This is the part of the process that I really don't feel confident in at all.

    So, if you've made it through this, thank you. I'm hoping that some of you have some words of wisdom for me as I consider all of this.
    Last edited by Ellie Mae; Mar. 24, 2012, 07:07 PM.

  • #2

    My advice would be to be as honest about your abilities as possible (sounds like you are) and since you are in an area with an abundance of horse people try out as many trainers as you can. It may be that the your learning style and the style of that particular trainer just didn't match, but you might have better results with someone else.

    Have you thought about leasing a horse? Whether you buy or lease, make sure to have a vet check done first to make sure you will be able to use the horse for its intended purpose. A good pre-purchase exam with xrays may seem expensive at the time, but it is well worth knowing if there are any underlying issues that may cause problems in the future. I'm sure there are members of the forum that can recommend vets in your area. (My vet is awesome, but Oregon isn't exactly close )

    If you're set on a lease or purchase, feel free to post videos/photos on here, you won't find a shortage of opinions
    Last edited by Thoroughbred in Color; Mar. 24, 2012, 06:25 PM. Reason: ack! inability to spell
    It is only through labor and painful effort, by grim energy and resolute courage, that we move on to better things.
    Theodore Roosevelt


    • #3
      How far are you from Dillsburg, PA?
      chaque pas est fait ensemble


      • Original Poster

        Dillsburg is just shy of two hours away.


        • #5
          Ellie Mae, I sent you a private message ("PM" in forum lingo). If you look at the top of the screen, under the green nav bar, where it says (on the right) Welcome, Ellie Mae....
          there should be a link to your private message area....
          The big man -- my lost prince

          The little brother, now my main man


          • Original Poster

            Thank you so much for the info and encouragement, everyone....definitely good things to consider as I move forward!


            • #7
              Ellie Mae, welcome!

              I would not let one lesson discourage you too much - might just have been a bad match. As far as what to tell other trainers/instructors, I would not say much and let your riding tell the story. I would just say you are an intermediate rider, have ridden for X number of years but not owned a horse or that it has been a while and you are very rusty. All of the other information will come out more as you find a place to ride regularly and get to know your instructor. It's kind of like a first date - don't give away too much!

              As for buying a horse, I really think a good 6 months to a year of lessons or leasing first are important. This will allow you to evaluate whether the place that you are riding will also be a good place to board (if you plan to board). It will also allow your instructor to evaluate you and assist with the search. You'll be more confident and will be more likely to make the right choice. Right now it sounds to me like you could end up making a more emotional choice because you are happy to get back to riding and you are looking for that bond.

              I would caution you to really take your time and find the right horse. It's so easy to fall in love with a horse, why not make it the RIGHT horse?! Get something that you can take places and do various things with - shows, trail rides, hunter paces, obstacle challenges, charity events (like the Black Stallion Literacy events)... Young is fine if you have a good trainer to help you and as long as the horse is very sensible and has already been out and about somewhat. I see so many people in your position end up in a bad position because they end up with an unsuitable horse and try to make it work...

              Good luck and I thinlk you are approaching this in a smart way - just take your time this first year and I think you will end up with a good trainer and a good horse!


              • #8
                What witherbee said.

                Also, this is a great time to ride a lot of different horses so you can figure out what you like and don't like. The thing I miss most, now that my own horse is sound, is riding other horses. I just don't have the time.
                You have to have experiences to gain experience.

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


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Ellie Mae View Post
                  3. There is no shortage of instruction in this area (I'm in Howard County, Maryland) but I'm afraid that my mention of having started riding in Germany is making people expect a lot more of me than is true (I think this was a major factor in the lesson that went awry this week). I try to be very explicit about my skill level but it seems that it's not translating well to how lessons are conducted here.
                  Welcome to COTH!

                  You don't have to say you rode in Germany.
                  2012 goal: learn to ride like a Barn Rat

                  A helmet saved my life.


                  • #10
                    I didn't read the whole list of posts, but:
                    Hard to contact trainers/barns without actually showing up! I spent weeks trying to reach a BNT that had said in our first meeting that there was room for me to ship in weekly for lessons. After that, no return calls, no emails, gave up until months later when I ran into said person again.

                    Try going to the various barns at a logical teaching time- take a day of work if need be - and talk to anyone and everyone re the training style. Watch lesson if you can. IF you can find one that has a school horse or two, that would be fine for a while - but this is not that much the norm. Second option would be to find a lower level horse to part lease/lease for a while at a place where you like the trainer. That may be less difficult.
                    When you are ready to buy, don't get caught up in having the next great dressage horse, and think older. I was ever so lucky to find a 15 yr old TB, shown Prix St Georges, schooling GP stuff who had the mind and brain of a saint, knew his stuff well, could take a joke, and go trail riding alone. Besides that he was sound and inexpensive. He was also very happy to go back to snaffle bit while I conquered training level and learned to sit his trot (not so fun). By 19 he and I made MY debut at PSG.

                    These horses can be found, but it takes time and luck. That said they are worth EVERY penny

                    OH - someone somewhere suggested going to an area dressage show, watching trainers/students in the warm up to see what you think of style, type of student, etc. GREAT way to see who's who in the area.
                    We don't get less brave; we get a bigger sense of self-preservation........


                    • #11
                      Ellie May, Check out PVDA website (www.pvda.org).

                      There is a list of upcoming schooling shows and clinics that you can use to check out various barns, etc.

                      It can be challenging to find a dressage barn that has lesson horses available, but not impossible. There are a lot of eventer type barns in your area as well, which can often be a good resource to find a horse that has good lower level dressage basics and some cross country mileage.
                      Lowly Farm Hand with Delusions of Barn Biddieom.
                      Witherun Farm


                      • #12
                        Everybody else has GREAT advice! To chime in with my two cents, I would take the time to build a realtionship with your trainer. If you are looking at getting something that you want to grow with, you're going to need somebody that you trust to find the right match. Somebody that knows you, your personality, and style of riding. They can better match you with a prospect that you'll be able to reach your goals with, instead of the situation getting sketchy and you possibly losing your confidence. Also, from personal experience, find a trainer that has the ability to get on your horse every once and a while, and fix your mistakes. Just because you don't have Olympic goals, doesn't mean that your horse shouldn't be going in the proper fashion, and sometimes it takes a trainer getting on and doing it first for that to happen successfully. Best of luck to you!