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Is this really dressage?

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  • Is this really dressage?

    I'm looking to get back into dressage. I haven't ridden since the 70's and am currently looking for a barn and instructor. I was watching a trainer and she kept telling the rider to "kick him hard" I was cringing but when the rider jerked on the reins and his head went up I gasped so loud the instructor heard me and asked what was wrong and I said I am not used to that. She tried to explain the horse wasn't listening and the rider was timid and shy but that didn't help me any. When I rode you never kicked the horse or jerked the horse. Is this a new type of dressage? As far as I am concerned this in not dressage.

    Can someone suggest a barn in Washington in the Redmond area to Snohomish or Monroe. Any suggestions positive or negative would be appreciated.

  • #2
    Um, no?

    OK, my mare can be super lazy and sometimes I do have to thump her pretty hard with my legs or hit her with the whip to remind her about "forward" but I've been working very hard on NOT jerking her in the mouth at the same time. It's a very mixed signal and does horse (and rider) no good at all.
    You have to have experiences to gain experience.

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


    • #3
      You're being pretty harsh and expecting us to join in your condemnation is really bad form. We don't know anything about the lesson you watched. If the horse is not moving and would barely move if someone used a cattle prod (due to some old training that was horrible) and the horse has no respect, and the rider doesn't even want to ask the horse to go, then this would be acceptable.

      No, it's not the result you're looking for. But to pick ONE moment, one lesson with one student and judge the person like this is not right in my mind either. Watch them with more students. Sometimes the student is to blame for not listening--and grabbing at a horse's mouth and making the horse overly dull. The point of dressage is to get the horse light and to train the student to be firm and yet fair and grow lighter in their aids as they create a partnership with their horse. The student might just be jerking on her own. If she's not, then the instructor is wrong unless the student is being runaway with around the arena (which doesn't seem to be the case).

      If you're watching a major correction type lesson, it's what it is at the moment. Especially if the student is inexperienced, scared or uncoordinated.

      Now, if the instructor teaches everyone like this--beginner, intermediate, advanced and has no school horses for you to watch and see if they are light, soft and through, then you can say they are incorrect.

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


      • #4
        I've had quite a few lessons and rides where it's been a completely nasty, ugly mess of a ride where I had the lay down the law pretty harshly. I've been approached by other people before about it, but they weren't aware I was riding spoiled horses. (Nor had they ever ridden one before.)

        When training any horse, there are times where you have to really get after them. An effective ride isn't always aesthetically pleasing.


        • #5
          Watch more than one lesson, different riders, different horses. It's really hard for any of us to tell you what it was you saw, since we weren't there. Could it have just been a 'moment'? Sure. Could the instructor be a real brute? Sure, that's possible too. Kinda hard to tell from here.......
          Different Times Equestrian Ventures at Hidden Spring Ranch


          • Original Poster

            Thanks all I can see dressage has changed a lot from what I was used to. I wash't trying to be rude but just want to be able to pick out an instructor. Now since I know this might happen in a lesson I will not be surprised but see it as normal at times and it all depends on the horse and rider and the situation at the time. Can any one tell me what are important things to consider when looking for instruction?


            • #7
              Dressage haven't change much.

              What were you used to? What is your background in dressage?
              Obviously, you know what you are looking for so why not simply ask about type of trainers you are used to.
              ~ Enjoying some guac and boxed wine at the Blue Saddle inn. ~

              Originally posted by LauraKY
              I'm sorry, but this has "eau de hoarder" smell all over it.
              HORSING mobile training app


              • #8
                I don't believe in hitting them in the mouth for correction at all unless you are being ran away with on a bolting horse. I don't care what my guy is doing i will not yank his head off. That said there are times when i have to give a little harder half halt then a squeeze, but it's never jerking him. I have had to thump him good with a leg a few times for sure. Usually not for forward since he is very forward and easy in that department. It's usually when he is ignoring my leg in a turn and wants to throw his shoulder etc.
                Horses aren't our whole life, but makes our life whole


                • #9
                  I agree. Dressage has not changed. I'm surprised the OP is saying that she has to get used to something different.

                  I think that the only thing that has changed is quite possibly the number of people who are learning dressage, their age, and their ability to actually DO dressage. Oh, and the attitude a lot of people display in their lessons. More people are in dressage. That's not a bad thing, but you'll see more bad riding as well as more good riding (hopefully). The bad riding these days often comes from people who think it's an easy sport and want to get into riding, but don't want to work hard. That means they've watched some really good dressage and it's looking like it should, but they just think that it happens overnight and that it's all sunshine and roses for the entire trip from the bottom to the top. It can be, but most often that is NOT the case.

                  We also have a LOT of people riding horses that just too much for them, or are backyard rescues that have a ton of baggage and a green rider. I always love those riders who want to rescue something that scares the heck out of them, but they don't want any help and yet they are beginners. It's just 10x harder to learn, but they often don't want to hear that. It's fine if they don't have unrealistic goals along the very long road they've chosen--and they're willing to learn to overcome their fear and work hard at the partnership with their horse.

                  These, and other issues, will make you run into lessons where an instructor is trying to solve a problem much more often than the old days. In the old days there were often more riding schools with some solid horses for people to learn the basics and then move on and get their own horse. And if it was green, they'd most often put it in training and still have access to the school horses.

                  Today, people ride what they have. They often want things easy (not everyone, just a generalization) and they want instructors who will verbally pet them and their horse at every turn. If an instructor is at all firm and deadly serious, many people run. It's a cultural shift. Personally, I don't think it's for the best. Do I like the old autocratic instructors that used to yell when they were the ones who were lousy instructors (but often great trainers)? Nope, but I also don't like the ones that pander to the students just to get money. They aren't doing the sport or the student a lot of good in the long run. This is a SPORT, and one with an unpredictable 1,200-1,400 pound partner. I think it's good for people to be very serious and strong minded, and take the bad critiques along with the good. JMO again.

                  I like the suggestion that the OP should post what she wants, so people can help her find it.

                  The art of dressage hasn't changed in the basics--unless you want to go down the rollkur path. Oops, forget I mentioned that.
                  "And I'm thinking you weren't burdened with an overabundance of schooling." - Capt Reynolds "Firefly"


                  • #10
                    Zacdos, you weren't being rude at all. I'm with you! I'd be appalled too! Kicking like a pony clubber is rarely if ever needed & jerking a horse until he throws his head up is NEVER needed. EVER! If both things are happening in a lesson then something is wrong.
                    Go watch a GOOD trainer & NO dressage is not like that! Period!
                    Producing horses with gentle minds & brilliant movement!


                    • #11
                      zacdos, you have another post complaining about a trainer...is this the same trainer?
                      Humans don’t mind duress, in fact they thrive on it. What they mind is not feeling necessary. –Sebastian Junger


                      • #12
                        Bogey, that's a good question for the OP. I just looked at those posts. Interesting. Sounds like the OP does not realize she is a beginner and needs to learn the basic timing of the aids. Maybe she needs some help understanding what to expect in a GOOD dressage lesson, rather than approaching it from a that was then and this is now angle of discussion. Or talking about a lesson she watched (and I'm guessing she misunderstood as standard rather than a bad rider with an instructor trying to make some major corrections).
                        "And I'm thinking you weren't burdened with an overabundance of schooling." - Capt Reynolds "Firefly"


                        • #13
                          Can any one tell me what are important things to consider when looking for instruction?

                          I can tell you what I prefer but everyone has a different learning style. Mine might be different from yours.

                          1. I first look for someone whose horses and riders improve throughout the lesson.

                          2. If there is an issue during the lesson I want to see that the student is given a reason as to why and a plan as to how to get through it.

                          3. I prefer those instructors who have a plan and give homework at the end of the lesson.

                          4. I work a lot on my own and start/back my horses/youngstock. As a result I need an instructor who gives me tools and explains why they work, their purpose and how I know I'm getting the desire result and as important, what are the pitfalls to avoid.

                          5. Because I do take regular lessons, I prefer an instructor who remembers what we worked on the last time (a bit of a reminder if needed is ok ) and can gauge early on in the lesson if we've been working on the homework given and/or progressed since the last lesson.

                          6. I really, really prefer those instructors who can ride through me, give me the feel I need so I can reproduce what we're working on later when I'm at home alone.

                          7. I want an instructor who will tell me how it is. I'm human so I like to get constructive criticism; but, I also have no need for someone blowing smoke up my ying yang. I know exactly what I own, the good, the bad and the ugly. What I am looking for is how to accentuate the positive and improve the negative as much as is humanely possible. If the critter is never going to have above a 6 walk, so be it; but that doesn't mean I don't want to learn as much as I can to do as much as I can with that 6 walk as is possible ie, I can still learn how to do correct walk pirouettes (feeling & timing) just as well with a 6 walk as with a 9 walk
                          Ranch of Last Resort


                          • #14
                            Exvet, I love that answer!

                            Perhaps I jumped in a bit too quickly... an entire lesson of kick and pull would make me run the other way unless I knew there was a good reason for it, but yes, things can get ugly in lessons... including my own, trust me!
                            You have to have experiences to gain experience.

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


                            • #15
                              I think that people who have never had to kick a horse live in a fantasy land. Many horses do not have a good work ethic or will not continue to go forward if their rider is not consistent. So in a lesson they may have to kick a horse to get it to respond to the leg and hopefully after enough kicks the horse will respond to a lighter aid.

                              I have no idea about the jerking. Sometimes horses can be head flingers or just sensitive or over reactive to the reins and an accidental pull or any pull at all can cause them to fling their heads in protest. i have heard an instructor tell people to "pull on the reins" usually it's because they aren't using the reins at all and the word "pull" gets them to just hardly influence the horse.

                              I've had an instructor call me timid in front of other people, didn't bother me as it is true and she's explaining what other people are seeing!

                              Dressage has not changed at all.


                              • #16
                                I will give the horse I good kick if I've asked nicely and was ignored. That's usually all it takes. Then next time I begin by asking nicely to give the horse a chance to give the correct response to a light aid.

                                I've seen school horses who do need a good kick to get going and need reminders throughout the ride. But I've often noticed that many instructors don't teach the beginner rider how to effectively ask for the horse to go forward. Instead, they let the rider flail and half ass kick so the schoolie becomes even more complacent to the leg. Then the schoolie speeds up slightly almost as if they're bored and have nothing better to do.


                                • #17
                                  No mouth jabs allowed!

                                  I have told a student to give a sharp kick with one leg or the other if the aid was being ignored. For going forward in general issues, I prefer a quieter approach. first a quiet request with the legs, then a tap with the whip if no response. Repeat,repeat, repeat.

                                  However, if the student is jabbing the horse in the mouth, at any time, under any circumstance, the student gets the reprimand!!!!!
                                  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.


                                  • #18
                                    Like others, I can't condemn what I didn't see. Using SERIOUS leg pressure I can understand, but I honestly can't think of a case where "jerking" on the reins is acceptable. Holding the chin to the chest, yeah...these days that is done all the time, but "jerking" is not and never has been.

                                    Jessica Wisdom is over in that direction somewhere, although not sure if she's close enough for every day work (she's moved and I don't have her most recent location.

                                    She is (I think) a lovely rider. She has been a test rider at the US Stallion Testing for 2 yrs, and she has started a number of youngsters.

                                    Some years ago I actually posted a video of her riding my youngster and only ONE person reacted negatively. I think it was a 2-3 pg thread. So (for COTH) that's a glowing recommendation.

                                    All that being said, sometimes it can get ugly in a lesson-- just like raising a kid, the horse/rider/teacher interactions can be less than pleasant at times, but everyone should come out the other side with better results.

                                    If Jessica doesn't work for you, just get a copy of "Flying Changes" and start visiting instructors. When you find one you like or find a rider who you like, ask who her instructor is.


                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by merrygoround View Post

                                      However, if the student is jabbing the horse in the mouth, at any time, under any circumstance, the student gets the reprimand!!!!!
                                      Yeah, well, if you're teaching someone and you've told them REPEATEDLY that it's not acceptable, but they keep doing it to the horse, you just remind them not to. Yelling doesn't work. Threatening doesn't work. After a while, you work with what you have in front of you and work on the issues that the student is open to fixing and work out from that point.

                                      There are a LOT of older people getting back into riding that just will NOT listen and sometimes cannot stop. And I'm not even talking about those who are just starting. The ones who return often think they can pick up where they remember leaving off. Um, lets just say that memories become flawed over the years and muscle memory disappears!

                                      To the topic at hand, Exvet posted a VERY well thought out way of finding a coach. My addition is only to the student. No matter what your age, you are paying to LEARN. If you disagree, ask your instructor for more information. Just be realistic, swallow your pride and be willing to unlearn or start over from scratch so you can later put all the pieces together as you ride up the levels.
                                      "And I'm thinking you weren't burdened with an overabundance of schooling." - Capt Reynolds "Firefly"


                                      • #20
                                        I think dressage has actually gotten better and more varied in the US in the past forty years., I rode at one of the first formal dressage school sin the Northwest when I was a kid in the 1970's (in Montana) and we had fewer options, fewer trainers, fewer competitions, almost no clinics, no publications to support us, no USDF to regulate competition. Now there are nuanced differences between competitive and classical, overlap, infusion of ideas from Europe and visa versa. So, your question about how to get back into dressage: FInd a variety of trainers and watch them over time. WE recently had a clinic with on of the finest trainers I know. He is also tactful and meets his student where they are at. A woman watching made the assumption that because he was not getting after the young woman about saddle fit that "saddle fit no longer mattered in dressage." Wrong assumption to make watching only a minute of a lesson.