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"Flatwork" v. "dressage"... Are hunters the demise of American Show Jumping?

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  • #21
    <BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>[B]Originally posted by Robby Johnson:

    In America, where it's all about the ribbon, I do think that many of the hunters are quick to take a shortcut to get to the winner's circle. Most of them have never worked a gymnastic line to develop their horses, and most have no idea what to do to help their horse travel better. I agree with DMK that the "trainer-saturated" market is responsible for producing the crike that's out there.

    I definitely think we've got it in place. I also think our geographic vastness - which allows sub-cultures to develop rapidly - plays a part in how American riders differ so greatly.


    Robby, while I agree with you in principle, for the sake of discussion, I'm going to disagree with you and DMK - I don't think it's the fault of the trainers, necessarily.

    Up here in Canada, and not that different from y'all, we do not have an oversaturated market. And yet 75% of the riders in the hunter ring have never ridden a horse with real hind end engagement.

    Yet most top trainers do tons of gymnastics. The whole point with the hunters is to "manufacture" that perfect jump if it doesn't exist 100% through sheer talent. There are no shortcuts to that end. But there are to basic flatwork.

    I'm going to simplify my argument hugely, in the interests of time, by saying that the very nature of the hunters ways of going is counter productive to the correct (dressage) approach to flatwork.

    A hunter's profile when working is so far removed from those German's that I am not surprised that correct shoulder ins and half passes are not taught. A hunter can be allowed to go around the course with it's nose poking to the outside and win Championships.

    Thinking like a trainer here: In driving school, they did not teach me how to drive Forumla One. They taught me how to drive. If I want to learn Forumla One, it's up to me to pursue that, once I have learned how to drive.

    Can that thought be applied to hunters? I think so. For jumpers I think it's a given. Any trainer whose flatwork program doesn't resemble a level 1 or 2 dressage program is doing a huge disservice to his/her clients.

    But hunter riders? I'm not so sure.


    • #22
      My daughter took a couple of years of lessons at H/J barn on school horses. She was jumping 2'6", not much, but still, it was jumping. Even went in a local show or two.

      Then we buy a horse. Guess what? Daughter can't ride the horse. Much frustration. Now, after one year of semi-sporadic (due to weather/budget constraints) "good horsemanship" (a.k.a. "dressage-type") lessons they are finally learning to communicate well with each other.

      So, who taught my daughter to RIDE?????

      "The simple truth is never simple and rarely true."
      -Oscar Wilde
      "My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we'll change the world." ~ Jack Layton


      • #23
        I agree with whoever mentioned that the problem doesn't lie in the hunters. The hunters aren't worse than the jumpers - they're just different, and because different qualities are being looked for in each, you can't really compare the two or blame one for being detrimental to the other. Now, one thing I do believe may have resulted from the influence of the hunter-style is emphasis on the wrong details. I have ridden with trainers from the U.S., Canada, Europe, and New Zealand, and the enduring difference between these coaches, I found, was that the North Americans emphasized style and proper position much more than any of the others did, despite being JUMPER trainers. Now, I understand that many people believe that form and function go hand in hand, but the Europeans have always seemed to place more importance in getting your horse going well and getting the job done before concentrating on yourself and how you look. I have seen many Euros with an over-fence position that would send George Morris into immediate cardiac failure, but they are usually poised over a horse that is jumping in unbelievable form and that seems to be under perfect control. I believe that that is not only a result of the dressage they do regularly but also of the mindset they have - none of them worry about being criticized for being ugly in the saddle. Over here, every time I've heard someone referred to as a seat-of-the-pants rider, it's been in the form of an insult. In Europe, whenever I've heard it, it may not necessarily have been issued as a compliment, but the person saying it always did so with at the very least a smile, a nod, and a note of wry admiration for the individual in question doing what he or she had to do. It may seem like a small detail, but it does hint at a very big, underlying attitude difference. I rode the hunters before I started doing the jumpers and I know many who have done the same. While I was fortunate enough to have a eq/hunter coach with the vision to teach me not necessarily about how to always look good but rather how to always look as good as POSSIBLE while getting the job done, most of those I know personally who have made the transition have the nagging habit of erring on the side of subtlety when what they really need at that point and time is lots of aggression. It's true that back in the day, the U.S. was more of an international contender and that those folks did it with style, the sport, like any, has evolved over time. Bigger fences, more technical courses, and horses that have more thrust and athletic ability than ever before call for a different form in the air and a different way of riding to the fence. As much as many may hate to admit it, sacrifices in many details we think are important are probably necessary before North America can start doing as well as the Europeans. The hunters can stay the way they are, but the jumpers are going to have to change their mindsets.

        Remember, I'm sorry for generalizing - I'm just theorizing based on people and experiences I have personally known. I'd post that picture of the Schmuckster jumping with heinous position but coaxing delightful form out of the horse again if it wouldn't make everyone vomit [img]/infopop/emoticons/icon_smile.gif[/img].


        "Change your thoughts and you change your world." ~Norman Vincent Peale
        "That's it! You people have stood in my way long enough. I'm going to clown college!" ~Homer Simpson


        • #24
          I have owned my ten year old OTTB for six months. When kids at the horse shows ask me when I am going to show, I say, 'I can't show because I can't canter through the turn.' They laugh and I have made it a joke, i.e., I am incapable of cantering and turning at the same time.

          The truth is, I can barely trot through the turn. Yet, a whole generation of hunter riding kids would think, 'You are trotting, you are turning.' [img]/infopop/emoticons/icon_eek.gif[/img]

          'If ignorance is bliss, why aren't more people happy?'
          You will not rise to the occasion, you will default to your level of training.


          • #25
            One of the guys I work with came up to me all excited the other day. He told me about his son who had just started taking riding lessons. He was so proud. He told me that his son must be good because on only his second lesson ever, "his trainer had him jumping!"

            I should have learned my lesson a long time ago with these people, but, I'm a slow learner so I said something about learning to develop an independent seat before jumping. All I got for my effort was a "how dare you insult my child like that look" so I went on my way wondering all the time how in the world that child was ever going to develop a decent seat, and praying that he didn't get hurt the first time a horse did something wrong and the kid landed face first in a jump.

            Unfortunately, I am very much afraid that there are many too many trainers out there who do this sort of thing, just to keep the people coming and collect their fees.
            If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.
            Desmond Tutu


            • #26
              I'm a long time event rider and have my horse boarded at a small private barn that belongs to a hunter rider. The barn manager who we all take lessons from is a former Grand Prix dressage rider. (Fun mix of horses and people!) I also spent two summers of my youth working on the A hunter circiut.

              It has been facinating watching our hunter rider's rounds improve as her horses dressage training progresses! Her amatuer horse has gone from the occassional hack ribbon to a contender in the hack. Her horses have learned to jump rounder with better use of all their body parts. Their body shape and muscleing have become rounder and stronger. She has found that now she has an educated frame from which to work and so can adjust that frame to the work required. She does her hack classed in a "long and low" frame--head and neck low but still pushing from behind and round over the topline. Her horses learn their lead changes in the dressage ring.

              No one questions the connection of her hunter ring success with her dressage progression EXCEPT the "big time" hunter trainer she works with on the road. He just doesn't get it!

              I loved what Robby said about our geography quickly creating sub-cultures. Around here most hunter people think you can't "do dressage" without the ring with the little letters. My friend is considered quite the maverick.

              I tend to agree with the original idea that there may be a connection with the understanding and application of dressage principles and success in the jumper ring. Just an aside--at least half of Anne Kursinski's book is dedicated strictly to dressage. sbk


              • #27
                It's her dressage background. She rode it seriously before switching to jumpers. It certainly helps, there is no doubt.


                • #28
                  Okay, so obviously you're not going to take a classically schooled hunter horse into a jumper ring and expect to win. The way of movement needed for both disciplines are completely different. I think that more dressage is certainly an asset to all hunter/eq/jumper riders. You also can't expect a horse to learn an entirely new way of going in just a few rides. WE have one horse that is learning to go,really pushing with his hind end and using his whole body, but if I relax and give him rein, he stretches into a hunter frame without becoming unbalanced, joyful joyful thing that is.

                  AS for youth today, I can comment becasue I still am one, at least for another six months, is that not all of us hop onto fantastically schooled horses. Riding greenies has helped me tons, though not necessarily with my position and I think riding bareback is a great way to develop an independant seat. I feel confident enough, in my horse, me seat, my training, to gallop him across the field we have bareback, sometimes in a halter even. My horse loves it too, I think he likes really being able to feel my seat and my leg without the saddle. Oh yeah, and my students don't get off the lunge line until they can post with no hand for three circles. Yeah for dressage cross training, it's helped my horses loads.
                  You know, if you took this jello, put it in a mold and froze it, you could be like look....an emerald. Dude, I'd kick some guys ass he ever tried to give me a jello ring.


                  • #29
                    <BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by InWhyCee:
                    ...except that many of the amateurs and juniors I have seen in Europe looked like pros to me... secure seats, total control, guts! Perhaps it's because the EuroTots tend to learn to RIDE before they start over fences?

                    "People... they're so
                    complicated. I suppose
                    that's why I prefer

                    Exactly! I've seen people at horse shows who can barely steer around a 2' course and make it over the jumps with a SAINT of a horse without falling off. To me, that person belonged on a lunge line working with no stirrups and no reins, and working on basic position and balance and CONTROL.

                    Use the Force.
                    Man plans. God laughs.


                    • #30
                      I think Caprilli would be shocked to watch the Euro jumper riders.

                      I do not agree that the fences today are higher than when Americans did well in International Show Jumping. The courses may be tighter and more technical, but someone who knows, like Linda Allen, can address that point.

                      The classic American style, and it is a style, is to interfere with the horse's way of going as little as possible. Everything is/was aimed toward freedom for the horse. Dressage, as I understand it, is more rider domination, and asking/forcing the horse into unnatural ways of going.

                      Flatwork, on the other hand, is simply teaching the horse to listen to the rider. Flatwork is necessary for any horse to be a safe ride; the rider's position, use of the seat and legs, and carrying speed and impulsion into a jump are very different in the American style and the German style. Personally, I prefer the concept of a free horse to the concept of a dominated horse,just as I have the same feeling about politics.
                      "I'm a lumberjack, and I'm okay."
                      Thread killer Extraordinaire


                      • #31
                        It's awesome!

                        When blood is the beverage of choice, the sharpest fangs feed first.


                        • Original Poster

                          Vineyridge, you'd better duck. [img]/infopop/emoticons/icon_wink.gif[/img] I'm counting the minutes until some DQ comes over here to take issue with your understanding of dressage. (and if no one steps forward, I will) Oh VEL-VET! Come hither!


                          • #33
                            <BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR> Dressage, as I understand it, is more rider domination, and asking/forcing the horse into unnatural ways of going. <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

                            I understood that dressage was the building block of all we ask horses to do with a rider on their back. Basic kindergarden all the way up, depending on where your personal aims go.

                            Obviously, only the very basic lessons are conveyed to a race horse, a little more to a hurdler. Pleasure horse, show hunter, eventer and ending with the Olympic calibre dressage test.

                            Dressage is not only teaching the horse commands, it is body building at it's finest, slowly developing the working muscle groups as the horse learns to perform, upon discrete command, and with the weight of a rider, the very movements that it is able to do at will when loose in it's pasture.
                            "If you would have only one day to live, you should spend at least half of it in the saddle."


                            • #34
                              I was going to say the same thing, rileyt.

                              chief feeder and mucker for Music, Spy, Belle and Tiara. Someone else is now feeding and mucking for Chief and Brain (both foxhunting now).


                              • #35
                                before it's too late! LOL!

                                Dressage is about riding the horse so that he uses himself naturally to carry his rider comfortably (for both). It's the essence of having a rideable horse. A horse that has been allowed to be "free" isn't really broke and can't actually be ridden by the classic definition.

                                When blood is the beverage of choice, the sharpest fangs feed first.


                                • Original Poster

                                  I can't stand it. I agree with ETBW Vineyridge... as for "unnatural movements", on the contrary, every movement through Grand Prix IS a natural movement... Dressage just teaches the horse to do it when asked. Granted, you'd never see a horse in a field to a string of 10 one-tempi changes... but you'd see them do a single flying change. The tempi changes are just 10 in a row. If you've ever watched horses get really excited in a field, you'll probably see some passage. Good dressage is most certainly NOT forceful. But I understand where your impressions come from... there is an awful lot of bad dressage here. [img]/infopop/emoticons/icon_smile.gif[/img]


                                  • #37
                                    Vas ees this? Canter ees disagreeing vif me????


                                    Canter, it just won't work - you can't even disagree with me for the sake of discussion, because I don't disagree with you at all! It ain't the hunter frame that is the problem, to be sure. It's the fact that a whole lot of riders (and I do exclude the vast majority at ANY upper level of the sport, btw) don't have a clue that there are different levels of engagement and collection for different tasks. Presumably they are not all dumb, but rather no one taught them that there was a reason they rode that jumper differently from a hunter (aside from self-preservation, of course [img]/infopop/emoticons/icon_razz.gif[/img] ).
                                    Your crazy is showing. You might want to tuck that back in.


                                    • #38
                                      <BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by vineyridge:
                                      I think Caprilli would be shocked to watch the Euro jumper riders. <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

                                      Ok, so in Europe we may not find the stylists such as Joe Fargis and Michael Matz (both of whom I think the world of), but the job does get done.....look at Ludger Beerbaum of Germany, granted he may not be a "beautiful" rider, meaning his equitation is not perfect 100% of the time, but watching him ride a course of fences is a lesson in itself if you know what to look for.

                                      I myself prefer function over form any day, I don't think one has to be a pretty rider only, one must have the technical skills as well.

                                      <BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>The classic American style, and it is a style, is to interfere with the horse's way of going as little as possible. Everything is/was aimed toward freedom for the horse.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

                                      And this is the very foundation of the Italian system under Caprilli and I know, I lived there and rode under that system for many years...as little interference as possible...let horse learn on his own thru gymnastics and cross country riding. I just wish we had spent more time on dressage basics.

                                      <BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>Dressage, as I understand it, is more rider domination, and asking/forcing the horse into unnatural ways of going.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

                                      Here I disagree 100%.......and to be fair, I do not think you have seen the "real" thing, because when you do, you would not have made such a statement. Ask doesn't equal force either. Have a look at Nicole Uphoff or Debbie McDonald for the "real thing." There are others too, such as Rudolf Zeilinger (he has great video tapes out) and of course the late great Reiner Klimke....no force involved and you would see that on their videos.....

                                      <BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>Flatwork, on the other hand, is simply teaching the horse to listen to the rider.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

                                      And that is what basic Training level dressage is all about....teaching horse to listen to rider---obedience, balance, and the list goes on and on.

                                      <BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>Flatwork is necessary for any horse to be a safe ride; the rider's position, use of the seat and legs, and carrying speed and impulsion into a jump are very different in the American style and the German style. Personally, I prefer the concept of a free horse to the concept of a dominated horse,just as I have the same feeling about politics.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

                                      While there are some differences in the American and German styles of riding there exists some commonalities (sp?), both are about riding horse forward either on the flat or over fences; both are about teaching horse to carry himself (self carriage) with little or no effort from the rider. Both are about encouraging horse to go into the bridle. Where some of the differences lie also has to do with the type of horse the Americans ride and the Germans ride. Americans appear to prefer the thoroughbred who requires a light and free way of going. The heavier German warmblood does not go well in that manner, he requires a bit more support.

                                      Like I mentioned, watch Ludger Beerbaum....he tailors his riding to the type of horse he is on, I have seen him ride both a TB type (Gladdys) and warmblood type (Goldfever). He is very good about leaving Gladdys alone to jump as she sees fit, but with Goldfever he will place him where he needs to be, more at the base of the fence.

                                      And of course, if you can, find some pictures of true stylists, the d'Inzeo brothers of Italy who were winning back in the 60's and 70's....they, at least for me, are the epitome of what show jumping is all about and that's because I saw them over and over again for many years.

                                      Hope you can change your ideas about dressage.....it's merely the initial training every horse goes thru prior to whatever discipline they will ultimately wind up in. I just think you need to see good dressage and it will change your mind..... [img]/infopop/emoticons/icon_razz.gif[/img]
                                      Bethe Mounce
                                      Head Trainer, AmeriCan Romance Equestrian
                                      Brentwood CA


                                      • #39
                                        I am NOT kidding when I say that two weeks ago I put my little horse in the roundpen, and he did 4 one-tempi changes in a row! [img]/infopop/emoticons/icon_smile.gif[/img] ...Honestly-this is my first level (barely) horse, granted never seen it before, and most likely will never again [img]/infopop/emoticons/icon_biggrin.gif[/img] , but HE DID IT!!!!!!

                                        Just thought to share....

                                        I too like AK's book-when we do our cavelletti/grid jump lessons, it is all under the premise that jumping is merely dressage with a jump in the way....


                                        "If you haven't gotten where you're going,you probably aren't there yet."-George Carlin
                                        Ellipses users clique ...


                                        • #40
                                          Perhaps I'm dating myself....if I recall, when the US was winning the jumpers, Bert de Nemethy was the coach. If I also recall, he was highly criticized for how much "dressage" he forced his team to do.

                                          So, 2 observations: Perhaps we're not focusing on dressage because it's become a "sub-sub specialty" an not what every horse did before going further, ie., jumping or GP (real dressage).

                                          Also, Bert was of the "old school" ie., military, my way or the high way. Today we're into the you're ok, I'm ok, everything's ok. Perhaps we lack the discipline the old cavalry guys used to instill in their riders.

                                          I saw a jumping clinic with one of our Olympic riders....Anne Kursinski, of all people after re-reading these posts. She was having riders do a gymnastic line asking the folks to canter 3 strides after the last fence and halt. They couldn't do it. She then stood in front of the jump. They almost ran her over. That got her REALLY hot!!! These were people competing at prelim-intermediate eventing and the local jumper crowd.

                                          The riders got rather upset when she set high expectations. I did not see any rudeness in her approach to the riders, just blunt and point-blank assessments about their riding capabilities. Perhaps, we're getting a little soft around the edges.

                                          I would volunteer that it's not the "dressidge", but the discipline that's lacking in our not being competitive in the jumpers.

                                          I just saw the Disney movie on satellite, "Nautical, the Horse With the Flying Tail". Talk about awesome jumping. They have incredible footage of Aachen, and Royal Horse Show....I wish I had videotaped it!!! Incredible jumping in a snaffle and drop noseband. It's like seeing a time warp. GM was a young kid, Bert de Nemethy, Hugh Wiley....great names....The awards were given by the Queen Mum, so Elizabeth was not yet Queen, so the flick must date from early 50's. Want to get inspired, go rent it....I'm actually thinking of buying it, it was so amazing to watch!!!

                                          [This message was edited by rosinante on Nov. 14, 2001 at 05:52 PM.]