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Spin-off: reasonable expectations for the CV of a coach?

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  • Spin-off: reasonable expectations for the CV of a coach?

    In another thread last week, people were making strong points about analyzing the CV of coaches via on-line competition scores. People were agreeing that if you wanted to let's say bring your young horse up to FEI, you should look for coaches who had brought up multiple young horses, and had successful students at higher levels.

    Out of curiosity, I ended up looking up the Equine Canada scores on half a dozen local "bnt." Not anyone that would be known outside our region, but the high-dollar competitive dressage coaches that ambitious amateurs would want to train with around here.

    I was following up some chitchat about a particular coach with 20 years experience that left me wondering what she'd really done. When I looked at her scores carefully, I saw she'd logged a lot of first level tests, a few third and fourth, and then a couple of years back started showing a new horse in his early teens at Grand Prix. That was the only horse she'd shown at FEI tests at a recognized show. He clearly wasn't brought along by her.

    Then out of curiosity I looked up a bunch of other local bnt coaches. One coach had brought along one horse from first level to Prix St. George. Everyone else seemed to have FEI horses that appeared on their scores without any lower level tests. When I searched the horses's names, they either had no previous results in the Canadian system, or they were also being shown by a client at first level concurrent with the coach showing them at FEI levels. I didn't bother trying to figure out how to track the horses in the American system, but some of them were American born (could be imported as a foal or school master or anything in between, of course).

    So it seems so far that none of our local coaches meet the test proposed by the COTH thread. When they show Grand Prix, it seems like they have access to a made horse that can get in the low 60s, possibly a school master imported by a deep pocketed client. From the scores, it looks like they maybe get access to one such horse in their career and that makes their reputation.

    We are very much a region where most riders top out at first level, whatever their initial dreams of "going up the levels."

    Realizing that few of the coaches have brought their own horses up the levels does explain some of what I see in training that seems counterproductive .

    Anyhow, I am not shopping for a coach. But this research made me wonder, is it actually realistic to expect a coach to have made up multiple horses to Grand Prix and to have students showing at upper levels, if you aren't in let's say Wellington?

    I will keep searching local trainers as various names come to my mind so I may well have missed someone obvious. But it certainly does seem like a trend. And enough of a trend that I don't think any individuals can be recognized from my details, since it seems to apply to *everyone.*

  • #2
    IMO, it depends on why you want to take lessons with someone who bills themselves as an upper level trainer.

    If your goal is learning how to ride the upper level movements on a schoolmaster, then I think it could go either way. Yeah, knowing the whys behind what you're doing is helpful, but at the end of the day the only thing that's mandatory is the how. How to sit, how to cue, how to use your hands, etc. And for that I don't think it's bad to train with someone who bought a made horse, but it'd be better to train with someone who brought up their own.

    I think the very enterprising amateur who wants to bring their horse up the levels might be better served by taking regular lessons with someone who is very, very skilled at training the lower/mid levels, and then hauling out to clinics with BNTs for the upper levels when the time comes (budget permitting, of course). Especially if there's a regular clinician who can give homework between clinics.

    Someone who's less enterprising should definitely try to take lessons regularly with someone who's made their own horses. Although I wouldn't be heartbroken if a trainer had only made one up to that point, so long as they had had other good results recently at the mid levels.


    • #3
      The point was made that most of the local riders top out at First Level. Yes, it could be that the instructor is not capable of riding above that level, but also, at Second Level you begin really using your body in different ways simultaneously. It takes ability, which some people do not have, and if you do have ability, it takes a lot of time and work to develop the necessary muscle memory. And at the same time training your horse.

      Those who teach usually have gained their knowledge the long hard way, horse by horse, level by level. Buying a school master is helpful but you still have to learn to ask correctly. An unknowledgeable rider can can some amazing rides from a thoroughly confused schoolmaster.

      However since a firm foundation in the basics is important, being able to control the length of stride and pace at all three gaits, with your seat and legs. I would look for that, then find an instructor capable of teaching S/I and H/I, Renvers, and H/P should follow easily once those are solidly in place.

      If you find yourself stymied and stagnant, move on.
      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.


      • #4
        I found my trainer doing a paper on our Canadian dressage PanAm team members.
        Didn’t knew she was living « close » to me.
        She trained her horse from crazyness to the PanAm.
        She knows the real techniques and the tricks. Moreover, she’s openminded and seeks help from other professionals.

        That’s when I also started to scribe more and take clinics from knowledgeable trainers and judges.
        Then I saw the kind of people I wanted to train with.

        There is no way I would train with your average BNT that has no accomplishment. Not that they can’t teach or aren’t good with their clients for now, it’s just that I want more.

        I’ve had many good trainers throughout my riding life, they weren’t all the best but shared with me what I needed to know at a certain point.
        ~ 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


        • Original Poster

          I also think that I see in general a lot of short cuts being taken to get a horse into the first level test, and that these short cuts don't give the proper foundation for upper level moves. Basically muscle the horse into a frame with no foundation for collection later.

          That actually makes sense if the coach's bread and butter is getting ammies into first level, coach has never really trained up the levels, coach's only FEI experience is on one made "horse of a lifetime" that can do a Grand Prix test at a score of 60.


          • #6
            I think the trainer's accomplishments need to be inline with a client's near-future attainable goals. That means that people need to be more comfortable moving on when the time is right, and trainers need to be less territorial.

            For example, a person just starting out needs a trainer who is encouraging, teaches good safe horsemanship as well as solid basics such as a decently independent seat. This "low level" trainer also needs to be very good at effectively communicating the HOWS as well as the whys. A trainer doesn't need to have a created a string of FEI horses to teach a person how to post without using the reins for balance.

            On the flipside, a person looking to truly understand the nuances of the upper levels needs someone who has trained horses and riders to that level, not just figured out how to pilot a made horse trough the tests.

            I definitely agree with posters in the previous thread that you should note how the students do as well as the trainer herself. Of course, not every student is going to succeed, but if you have a barn full of students who never seem to get out of training level...well, it's certainly not a good sign of the trainer's ability to teach.

            I guess my overall point is that you need to focus on whatever criteria is the most relevant to you at the time.


            • #7
              IMHO, there is a big divide between reality and ideal. Ideally, every trainer would 1) be able to show off a trained GP horse, 2) have brought a variety of types up from 3 to GP, and 3) be able to explain everything they're doing along the way so that a non-natural amateur can figure it out.

              I've ridden with many exceptional trainers over the years, and a very small number of those tick all 3 boxes. That doesn't mean I haven't learned quite a lot from all of them.

              Would it be great if every trainer working with 1st level riders understood how the trot-walk-trot transition becomes the piaffe, absolutely. But reality is that sort of quality instruction is both hard to find, and probably unaffordable to many. I'd love to see those training/first level riders with someone who has brought horses up to and shown at 3rd, and is encouraging and good at explaining things - even really basic things that upper level riders may forget they ever learned because they are second nature now.


              • #8
                Originally posted by joiedevie99 View Post
                IMHO, there is a big divide between reality and ideal. Ideally, every trainer would 1) be able to show off a trained GP horse, 2) have brought a variety of types up from 3 to GP, and 3) be able to explain everything they're doing along the way so that a non-natural amateur can figure it out.

                I've ridden with many exceptional trainers over the years, and a very small number of those tick all 3 boxes. That doesn't mean I haven't learned quite a lot from all of them.

                Would it be great if every trainer working with 1st level riders understood how the trot-walk-trot transition becomes the piaffe, absolutely. But reality is that sort of quality instruction is both hard to find, and probably unaffordable to many. I'd love to see those training/first level riders with someone who has brought horses up to and shown at 3rd, and is encouraging and good at explaining things - even really basic things that upper level riders may forget they ever learned because they are second nature now.
                Yes! In my case, since I'm a fairly recent convert to dressage, so swap out GP dressage horse for GP jumper or Working hunter.

                I've so rarely had a instructor tick all 3 of your mentioned boxes. What was important, however, was that I showed improvement in my riding and my horse in his/her performance. Where my scores in equitation steadily going up (as long as my brain stayed with me in the ring and I didn't make a clearly dumb rider error)? Yes. Did my one-rail per jump-off horse start leaving all the sticks up? Yes. And now, do I regularly score in the mid to upper 60's instead of the upper 50's? Yes. Am I happy with the results and is my horse happy with their life? Yes.

                If the answers to whatever questions you pose to yourself about your riding career and life add up so "yes" far out- weighs "no", and you can say that system is working for you, then only your can make the call whether you feel your time and money are well spent. That is a personal call only you can make.
                There's coffee in that nebula.


                • #9
                  I wouldn't necessarily be scared off of a trainer that has horses magically appearing at 3rd/4th/I1 level and the horse has no other scores anywhere. I know a couple trainers in my area that are perfectly competent to bring horses up the levels but they don't show those horses at recognized shows until 3rd or so. One doesn't bother till I1. If it's their own personal horses, they just don't see the use of the lower levels, expense wise. They use schooling shows for the "show experience" side of things.


                  • #10
                    In reality, not many trainers ARE bringing horses up the levels. Most of us understand the luck and deep pockets it takes to do so (theirs, or that of a client). And like AltersAreUs points out, many don't bother to show until the horse is further along.

                    So I'd be interested in seeing scores at various levels, sure. But I'm far more interested in how they teach and ride, so I will find videos of them riding either at shows or on sales videos of horses they have in training.

                    As an example, I'm in the process of finding a new trainer (for myself and a few friends). Looking up a potential trainer on Centerline, I see a variety of good scores from the past 10 years, ranging from 1st level to I2, but mostly 4th and up. I do see one horse was shown from 2nd to PSG under this prospective trainer. This is good, but being that I have no grand aspirations, and the other riders are currently training/first, I'm more concerned with how this trainer teaches and rides. So I've watched videos I could find online, and we are trying out some lessons.

                    A trainer may even have a fantastic show record, but they just might not click with you. Or may have minimal show record, but they are quite effective trainers (not in a drinking the koolaid way, but real dressage training). Having experienced both, I'm not overly concerned about show record.


                    • #11
                      OP, regarding your first post.... You wrote that most riders in your area top out at first level... Do you think there is a correlation between the abilities of the local BNT´s and this???

                      I do believe that a trainer who did train horses up the levels has more to tell you when you ride, then a trainer who didn't.
                      For example I am very impressed right now, I am doing a dressage course with lessons in Redefin Germany right now.
                      Our trainer was maybe not the most famous GP rider in Germany but he did train several horses up to GP and a lot of, mainly stallions (its the Statestud of Mecklenburg), up to I 1 and I2.

                      The state stud is owned by the government and he is employed by the Government as the head of the Dressage section of the State stud. So he is teaching the riders of the Stud with the stallions as well as all the classes for the public which are offered by the State stud. My son did two of his basic certifications there. So he really teaches riders from the very beginning.
                      In our class we are 6 adults which have very different levels. There is no requirement to attend. And it is a joy to watch, because his style of teaching is amazing. We are all riding the stallions (even the beginners) and the way how he structures a lesson is super. He starts with all the basics and then developes the lessons up into upper level dressage according to the abilities of the riders. And you really feel how the movement which you are riding right now might develope into something else later on.

                      Yes he is very experienced, and if he would not know how to train a horse up the levels, he might not be able to structure the lessons like this. Its pretty amazing and which I think is also amazing is that everybody in that course has at least taken it three times. Obviously he is very well liked. And nobody really brings his own horse. They have amazing lesson horses (all stallions) at the state stud, which can do all the upper level movements. They are breeding stallions and they participate in the stallion shows.
                      But the best thing is to watch him to teach people things. Today he let a woman (who does not even own her own horse, i think she leases a pony at home) ride a stallion who was just learning a flying change, and he let her do it. It worked out very well because he knew exactly what to tell her.... That is how you learn things....

                      So my point is supposed to be, sorry for the long post... A trainer who knows what he is doing is better for any student... Doesn't really matter what level the student is.........
                      Last edited by Manni01; Dec. 5, 2017, 12:38 PM.


                      • Original Poster

                        Manni, well, we have nothing like this system in North America. The closest thing we have to a state stud is BLM burros breeding feral on federal land.

                        As far as maybe the schooling shows accounting for some of the early days of horses in training, around here the schooling shows are almost entirely first level or below. In some you might have the option of requesting a higher test. But when I look at the online order of go that rarely happens.

                        So while coaches will take their projects in a schooling show training level, they are not going up the levels in a parallel show structure.

                        Some coaches only attend particular schooling series at their home barns but they are at a strata a bit below the ones I was researching.

                        My research suggests that even the biggest local BNT coaches are not bringing along their own horses and the Grand Prix ride that is featured in their marketing and on the web page tends to be a ready made once in a lifetime opportunity.

                        And yes I do suspect that if a coach is only getting her own projects to first level, coach might not be able to take a client above that.

                        However that might be OK with many clients. I think with the existence of walk trot and training, first level has become aspirational. First level is the new third level. You need to lesson forever and do a lot of training level tests first to get that perfect.


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Scribbler View Post
                          Manni, well, we have nothing like this system in North America. The closest thing we have to a state stud is BLM burros breeding feral on federal land.
                          LOL!! 10 points to Gryffindor!

                          There's coffee in that nebula.


                          • #14
                            IMO, I think there are a couple of factors at work, and the biggest one to me is what my goals are as a client of Trainer X. Sure, in a perfect world, everyone would be able to bring up multiple horses and show at all levels on all kinds of breeds, and impart their knowledge effectively on all sorts of clients. But ain't nobody got time for that. Or budget for that. And everyone learns/teaches differently, and those teaching/learning types aren't always compatible. So while there are a few people out there who can and have done that, I think they're Unicorns and not really relevant in the practical decision of choosing a trainer.

                            Firstly, I do think their is a bit of a tiered system, with local/lower level trainers who are capable of teaching well, and bringing a variety of horses/riders up from Intro/Training to 1st/2nd, and bringing their own horses along up to 3rd or 4th. And that's really what most people and horses need. If that person can do that well and consistently, that's honestly what I'm looking for as a client, because as someone who dabbles in dressage on the side (I'm a H/J/Eq person who wants good dressage as a good foundation for everything else), that's what I need. Then there's another tier, of the trainers who are bringing horses more up from the 1st/2nd level to 4th or lower FEI levels, and maybe get lucky with a couple GP rides These are maybe the bigger regional trainers, or are maybe the assistants to BNTs or work for somewhere like Hilltop bringing up young horses. Then there are the GP Trainers, who basically get the horses when they are going 3rd/4th/starting FEI and go up from there. I don't think it's that different from what you see in H/J land, just there substitute PreGreens for 1st and Working Hunters for GP.

                            Time is another huge factor. Both for clients, who as working adults have constraints on what they're capable of investing in moving up the levels, and in what a trainer can invest in moving up a horse versus selling it.

                            Which is the other big factor--cost. The horses that can do the FEI levels are expensive. It's expensive to get horses to top levels of competition, it's expensive to keep them there, and it's flat out expensive to compete. I feel like in dressage much more than in H/J-land, people budget out their competitions rather than spending weeks on the road. They might only do a couple shows a year, when they know the horses are ready to get the scores they want for their Medal/BLMS/Finals, and that might be it. If you as a trainer who is mostly in that middle tier can sell that horse at 3rd/4th to the BNT or their client to move up to FEI, from a financial viewpoint you're far better off making the sale than getting two scores at PSG.
                            A Year In the Saddle


                            • #15
                              I think it's hard for people to accept is that it is OK that a single individual NOT be your trainer forever.

                              Some trainers are better at teaching beginners than others; some trainers do better with students that already have a certain level of knowledge. So much depends on the client's goals and their individual learning style.

                              Some clients REALLY want to learn to ride; others may just want to go around safely and not be so much into theory and biomechanics and all that stuff I love.

                              I've had a trainer at one barn come right out and ask me why I didn't train with her. I explained that my goals were X and I didn't see her doing X so that's why I trailered out to ride with another trainer who had done and was doing X and beyond. She didn't like it, but she couldn't argue with me. None of it was personal.

                              I can see how a trainer might want to have a mixed bag of clients. I'm sure it's easier and less time consuming for trainers to teach a beginner lesson and have a beginner horse in training than it is to train an FEI horse and accompanying amateur rider. The bulk of a lesson for a beginner is sometimes right about the warmup for a more advanced rider.

                              So regarding the CV of a trainer, I look for someone doing at least two levels above me and with experience applicable to my goals.


                              • Original Poster

                                Yes, good points. Though there are not many folks around here showing consistently at third or fourth, ammies but also including coaches. I think if you bring it down a few notches, coaches are bringing horses up to first level and then selling them to clients, or doing a lesson and training package in clients horses geared to get them into first level, that would describe what I m seeing. For our local BNT.

                                Anyhow I agree that levels of coaches for levels of riders makes sense. My question is, what if *no* coaches in your area appear to be bringing on their own upper level horses?

                                I picked up the idea from COTH of reading the lifetime scores to see how the coach was bringing along horses, which hadn't occurred to me though I had been reading for scores and levels before. I was assuming that these coaches were bringing along horses and was surprised they weren't. It was a new way to crunch the data .

                                I'm sure there are market factors at play as well.


                                • #17
                                  Originally posted by Scribbler View Post
                                  My question is, what if *no* coaches in your area appear to be bringing on their own upper level horses?
                                  Move to Germany?


                                  • #18
                                    Originally posted by Scribbler View Post
                                    Manni, well, we have nothing like this system in North America. The closest thing we have to a state stud is BLM burros breeding feral on federal land.

                                    WOW really funny.... Great job...... I guess another one of my horrible posts. Well I did not recommend to implement the German System to the US please show me where I did that.....
                                    I expressed my opinion that an experienced Trainer will not only be able to train experienced students, but he will also be able to train lower level students better, maybe even in a way that they will be able to move up a little. And in our schooling shows you can enter any level you want. We have one rider who regularly enters PSG at our schooling shows, so not sure why it is limited in your area.

                                    And if there is no qualified trainer in your area, look around at clinics, and maybe look for other people willing to find a qualified trainer. Maybe they can get together and find somebody who would be willing to help them.


                                    • #19
                                      you need someone who can bridge collection, to mid-levels. Don't over-complicate this already difficult jump in difficulty! Some trainers are SUCH lower level that they have a very hard time communicating how the training scale builds towards collection, what is missing and how to get the proper framework in place.

                                      for me, it's not so much levels shown as how to articulate a training plan to your goals, and how your lessons build on each other. Also to be a feeling rider who can think independently.

                                      Of course, as someone who shows, I need a trainer to help me towards that, of course. It's just that they don't have to have shown I1 for my third level goal.


                                      • #20
                                        Not sure if more of a theoretical question but I am from the same area as Scribbler and there are not very many, but there ARE a handful of coaches who successfully both bring up horses and students to mid and upper levels.

                                        what I have noticed is a lot of them don't bother showing low levels. Sometimes they buy their students horse after 3rd level or so and train them up to upper level.

                                        Also noticed a lot of our local coaches seem to have a lot of Junior FEI students they have trained. Not so much adults, which may be missed by someone doing random searches.