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Beginner rider position in dressage vs H/J...

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  • Beginner rider position in dressage vs H/J...

    In my mind, they should overlap a LOT at the lower levels. Obviously as you advance they will begin to diverge and ultimately have different end goals. I think when it comes to the training of the horse, dressage and h/j seem to relate very nicely at the beginning levels. All of our jumping horses can perform at least 2nd level movements, if not beyond (We obviously don't do the higher level collected movements).

    But my question is, why do we have such a divergence in how we train our riders if the beginning levels are pretty similar? For example, with most (but not all) H/J trainers, we start with a medium length stirrup and a slightly forward seat. After the student learns to control their legs and seat as well as a decent independent hand, we then lengthen their stirrups for flat work (where the stirrup is near the bottom of the ankle bone when feet are out) and work in a deeper seat with more of a vertical upper body, only shortening our stirrups for jumping. But it seems to me that most (but again, not all) dressage trainers prefer to start in the deeper seat and long stirrup length.

    So why is this? Why is that preferable over developing control in a shorter length (lets say about mid ankle bone) with a slightly more forward seat before lengthening as they become advanced? Are there any benefits for a dressage rider to practice things like two point?

  • #2
    I think the lack of professionalism in the horse industry has allowed for a great range of poor practices to take ahold.

    Comment

    • Original Poster

      #3
      Originally posted by BaroquePony View Post
      I think the lack of professionalism in the horse industry has allowed for a great range of poor practices to take ahold.

      Can you elaborate?

      Comment


      • #4
        Back in the fifties many of the instructors that were teaching had a true cavalry background. Many were officers. Most were men. The few women that taught usually had certifications from one of the two BHS schools over on the British Isles, and that, too, was based on military riding and horsemanship. They were consistent and they taught what they had learned. There was a long tradition of horsemanship and riding that had evolved over centuries into what was thought to be the best way to train horses and keep them sound for their entire lives.

        Once the cavalry was disbanded, there was no system left in place to produce competent riders and trainers.

        That is only part of the problem.

        Comment


        • #5
          I would assume that is because it is very hard to go from what you describe as a beginning h/j seat to a dressage seat. Particularly a forward seat like we teach here in the US. I would guess that they don't have that problem in Germany where most people learn the deeper seat to begin with regardless of discipline.

          Comment

          • Original Poster

            #6
            Originally posted by NCRider View Post
            I would assume that is because it is very hard to go from what you describe as a beginning h/j seat to a dressage seat. Particularly a forward seat like we teach here in the US. I would guess that they don't have that problem in Germany where most people learn the deeper seat to begin with regardless of discipline.
            This is what I essentially don't understand. What is it about a forward seat that makes it so much harder (in the minds of some dressage instructors) to transition to a deeper seat?

            Comment


            • #7
              I don't know if I'd use the phrase "lack of professionalism," but I would say lack of consistency. Because I've moved a lot in my life, I've ridden at probably 30 barns, US and overseas, hunter/jumper and dressage. There's no centralized system that keeps everybody on the same page and the educational experience varies greatly even *within* the disciplines, let alone between them. There are ideals and guidelines, but still a lot of variety.

              Originally posted by hntrjmprpro45 View Post
              For example, with most (but not all) H/J trainers, we start with a medium length stirrup and a slightly forward seat. After the student learns to control their legs and seat as well as a decent independent hand, we then lengthen their stirrups for flat work (where the stirrup is near the bottom of the ankle bone when feet are out) and work in a deeper seat with more of a vertical upper body, only shortening our stirrups for jumping.
              What I have seen is that in "ideal dressage world," you start on the lunge with no stirrups, no reins and nothing *but* your seat, and you don't work on controlling your leg or developing an independent hand until you've got your seat first. All of those other things come *from* the independent seat, as I understand it.

              Overseas, at least where I lived, people learned a balanced dressage-esque seat FIRST before learning a forward seat for jumping, and people like me (with hunter habits that instructors were trying to remove) went on the lunge line with no stirrups whatsoever.

              Originally posted by hntrjmprpro45 View Post
              So why is this? Why is that preferable over developing control in a shorter length (lets say about mid ankle bone) with a slightly more forward seat before lengthening as they become advanced? Are there any benefits for a dressage rider to practice things like two point?
              There are benefits to two point and I've had dressage instructors, even the overseas type, use it. But I think there's a difference between occasional use of two point and beginning in a forward seat.

              I can only speak from my own experience, but I started as a hunter and frankly have spent most of my dressage experience trying to undo the muscle memory from those first years. Nowadays I can switch back and forth between the two styles with relative ease, although the hunter stuff always comes easiest to me (probably because it's what I did first). There are lots of similarities between the disciplines at the lower levels, but the basic body position is different in some key areas. The way you use your muscles is very different. It's not simply a longer stirrup, it's the way you use your leg and also whether you're opening the hips or not.

              Again this is just my experience as somebody who has been exposed to both disciplines here and abroad. I'm no expert so take it with a grain of salt.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by hntrjmprpro45 View Post
                This is what I essentially don't understand. What is it about a forward seat that makes it so much harder (in the minds of some dressage instructors) to transition to a deeper seat?
                It's hard to get your hips (and other joints) to open up and absorb the motion and be loose when your body has been trained to close those joints. Also, you develop ways of contracting certain muscles while riding with shorter stirrups and a forward seat (along with the turned out toes and some other things) that you then have to learn to let go of in order to sink deeply and fluidly into the saddle, and for me, learning to "let go" is the hardest thing of all. At least, that has been my experience. Actually the seat wasn't horribly hard to fix, but the leg position has been pretty challenging. The seat, perhaps because I lucked into the overseas lunge line thing, was OK.

                In any case, it's definitely not just in the minds of some dressage instuctors. There are a lot of former-hunters like me that struggle immensely with certain aspects of classical dressage position, so *something* about it must be challenging.

                Comment


                • #9
                  It's not just harder "in the minds of some dressage instructors", it actually is hard to transition from a forward seat to a dressage seat. It's not just the stirrup length, it's the use of the legs, the angle of the hips, the mobility in the hips, the placement of the hands, etc. Riding off of your seat is incrediblly difficult and completely necessary to advance up the levels in dressage. If that's the goal, why wouldn't you start teaching a student correctly off of their seat from the start.

                  I actually think Western riders have an easier transition to dressage than American taught hunter riders.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by hntrjmprpro45 View Post
                    So why is this?
                    Because you are Americans.
                    ... _. ._ .._. .._

                    Comment

                    • Original Poster

                      #11
                      Originally posted by NCRider View Post
                      It's not just harder "in the minds of some dressage instructors", it actually is hard to transition from a forward seat to a dressage seat. It's not just the stirrup length, it's the use of the legs, the angle of the hips, the mobility in the hips, the placement of the hands, etc. Riding off of your seat is incrediblly difficult and completely necessary to advance up the levels in dressage. If that's the goal, why wouldn't you start teaching a student correctly off of their seat from the start.

                      I actually think Western riders have an easier transition to dressage than American taught hunter riders.
                      I wasn't saying that the dressage seat was easy or that the switch would be easy. But it seems like there would be some benefits to starting in a more forward seat with a slightly shorter length. For one, it would save your horse's back and mouth from a green rider who has not learned balance or independent hands.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Western has the benifit of learning to ride more with posture but hunter/jumper has the benifit of riding more likely with some contact.

                        So honestly its a rough campaign with all.

                        In europe they learn to sit AND to ride with contact then eventually connection.

                        Very early they learn to have the horse onto the bit that is all a head start like none other compared to ANY of our base disciplines.

                        Dressage is harder being that the rider cannot make anything happen as much as let it and go with.
                        ~~Member of the TB's Rule Clique ~~
                        http://www.off-breed-dressage.blogspot.com/

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          The correct way to teach a beginning dressage rider is on the lunge, with the horse in side reins. Teaching a hunt seat just so the rider can ride off the lunge earlier is an inefficient short cut that will cause trouble because the rider doesn't know how to sit or keep steady hands. Ask me how I know.

                          If you just want to learn to ride, or if you want to ride hunters, hunt seat is fine, but if you're goal is dressage, then there's no reason to start down the wrong road. You'll only develop habits that are hard to fix.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by hntrjmprpro45 View Post
                            But it seems like there would be some benefits to starting in a more forward seat with a slightly shorter length. For one, it would save your horse's back and mouth from a green rider who has not learned balance or independent hands.
                            Do you have these riders in a dressage or a forward seat saddle? A slightly shorter stirrup length will aid leg stability, but what does the back position have to do with balance or independent hands?

                            Comment

                            • Original Poster

                              #15
                              Originally posted by NCRider View Post
                              The correct way to teach a beginning dressage rider is on the lunge, with the horse in side reins. Teaching a hunt seat just so the rider can ride off the lunge earlier is an inefficient short cut that will cause trouble because the rider doesn't know how to sit or keep steady hands. Ask me how I know.

                              If you just want to learn to ride, or if you want to ride hunters, hunt seat is fine, but if you're goal is dressage, then there's no reason to start down the wrong road. You'll only develop habits that are hard to fix.
                              I guess my next question based on this post would be, at what point does the forward seat come back to bite you in the butt (pun intended)? If a h/j rider consistently scores 7s in the rider portion, at what point/level will those start dropping? Or is it that they will simply have a much harder time achieving 8s and higher?

                              I recently went to a George Morris clinic (h/j) and watched many of the riders perform 2nd and 3rd level movements quite well. Is this where a h/j rider might top out without significant retraining?

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Originally posted by hntrjmprpro45 View Post
                                I wasn't saying that the dressage seat was easy or that the switch would be easy. But it seems like there would be some benefits to starting in a more forward seat with a slightly shorter length. For one, it would save your horse's back and mouth from a green rider who has not learned balance or independent hands.
                                Coming from a Western and Hunter background, I disagree completely. I, like other posters have said, have had to relearn and unlearn bad habits I picked up from riding Huntseat for so long. I was never taught to 'sit' properly, even though I have independent aids. My left hip is pretty much locked up (even when not riding), so learning how to 'open' my joints and properly absorb the motion, so to speak, has been difficult.

                                I think many of these issues wouldn't be issues if I had been taught to sit properly, SIT BACK, and move my joints vs. being perched up in shorter stirrups. In regards to "saving the horse's back and mouth", when you have a proper start/introduction to dressage, *in my experience*, you're not trotting along bouncing and flailing. My very first dressage lesson was 90% walking, and the trotting portion was to gauge my abilities. I didn't trot until the third lesson after we basically broke down my position to the point where I had to relearn it. Trot work was short until I was in better control of my body (my how incapable you feel when you ride a schoolmaster!).

                                Luckily I have always preferred longer stirrups due to knee problems and naughty dirty stoppers. I think teaching someone the basics in a deeper seat, with longer stirrups, and a more upright position is giving them a better foundation to build on because they will have better body control. JMO.
                                runnjump86 Instagram

                                Horse Junkies United guest blogger

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  I would much rather have a kid start with a dressage seat and move to learning more of a forward seat. As others have said, they don't have to unlearn the muscle memory. To go from a forward seat (which you can do with a long leg once you learn it) and try to retrain your core to take over is HARD. I still struggle with it and I ride all my dressage work in a "dressage seat" but I constantly have to remind myself to support with my core and not just go loose and jiggly. When you start with a more forward seat, get balanced in that, and then go to a longer leg and a more upright seat, I think your body tries to compensate in such a way that does NOT include using your core muscles. You either flop or brace. I wish I had started with more of a dressage background just to get that into my muscle memory first.

                                  I have to say, a lot of the hunter-jumper riders I see ride on the flat, although they can do the movements OK, don't have a very good "dressage seat." I'm always a bit amazed watching the George Morris Horsemanship clinic each year how good they are over fences and how sub-par their seat is on the flat. They don't absorb the movement very well. No, they're not bouncing, but they're not "one" with the horse. And I think that is partially responsible for the lack of thoroughness that many of those horses show

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    Leftover h/j forward seat habits, IMO, would show up as much in the horse's scores (collectives and individual movement scores) as in the rider scores. I can fake it well enough (I have excellent posture ) on a trained horse (who is being regularly tuned up by someone else) to get good rider scores. however, given enough time, I can also turn that horse into a far more tense, no swinging in sight, where did the gaits go? horse.
                                    The goal is to not have to have your trainer on your horse all the time fixing the stiffness caused by your inability to really sit with the horse.

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      If this thread was posted on the hunter/jumper forum, I wonder what the responses would be.

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        I think it would depend on whether any of the responders had ever tried to cross over to competitive dressage for an extended period of time. If so, I'd expect you'd get the same response. If not, well anyone can walk, trot and canter in a circle, right?

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