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

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

    Whew! Thought that would get your attention! OK. Really not trying to start a fight, but provoke a good discussion. As some of you may know, I just returned from riding in Germany, and I saw lots of things there that made me think. Here is one. Recently, I think, despite good horses and good riders, the US has been only mildly successful in International Show Jumping. The Germans, on the other hand, have done quite well. I had a chance to attend a smallish show, and watched several jumper classes. Even in the 3 foot divisions, I saw almost NONE of the scary riding I see at the lower level A jumper shows here. The horses were 99% warmbloods. And went almost EXCLUSIVELY in SNAFFLES. I saw ONE gag, and ONE pelham the entire day. One thing I noticed... all of these competitors, even at the lower divisions... could have ridden a solid 1st level dressage test in a heartbeat. The horses went in much more of a frame, were far more engaged, and the riders rode more vertically and less forward than here. There is no "hunter" division in Germany. When the riders warmed up, they did "dressage"... in a first or second level frame. Now, I know some very good hunter and jumper riders whose "flatwork" really is "dressage". But I know far more whose "flatwork" consists of walk-trot-canter in a hunter frame... with an occasional smaller circle, or turn on the forehand, or shoulder-in. I'm just wondering if there's a connection.

    Do Germans learn how to engage a horse's hind end and RIDE the horse better than us?

    Is it because they are taught "dressage"? Instead of aimlessly cantering circles and calling it flatwork?

    Is the hunter "frame" (a longer, lower, more forward moving gait) and style a detriment when our hunter riders switch over to jumpers?

    Thoughts?

    Please don't blast me for picking on hunters... I think they have their place, and no one would fox hunt in a second-level dressage frame! But I'm wondering if the fact that most of the country starts with hunters ends up hurting us when they try to transition to jumpers.
  • Original Poster

    #2
    Whew! Thought that would get your attention! OK. Really not trying to start a fight, but provoke a good discussion. As some of you may know, I just returned from riding in Germany, and I saw lots of things there that made me think. Here is one. Recently, I think, despite good horses and good riders, the US has been only mildly successful in International Show Jumping. The Germans, on the other hand, have done quite well. I had a chance to attend a smallish show, and watched several jumper classes. Even in the 3 foot divisions, I saw almost NONE of the scary riding I see at the lower level A jumper shows here. The horses were 99% warmbloods. And went almost EXCLUSIVELY in SNAFFLES. I saw ONE gag, and ONE pelham the entire day. One thing I noticed... all of these competitors, even at the lower divisions... could have ridden a solid 1st level dressage test in a heartbeat. The horses went in much more of a frame, were far more engaged, and the riders rode more vertically and less forward than here. There is no "hunter" division in Germany. When the riders warmed up, they did "dressage"... in a first or second level frame. Now, I know some very good hunter and jumper riders whose "flatwork" really is "dressage". But I know far more whose "flatwork" consists of walk-trot-canter in a hunter frame... with an occasional smaller circle, or turn on the forehand, or shoulder-in. I'm just wondering if there's a connection.

    Do Germans learn how to engage a horse's hind end and RIDE the horse better than us?

    Is it because they are taught "dressage"? Instead of aimlessly cantering circles and calling it flatwork?

    Is the hunter "frame" (a longer, lower, more forward moving gait) and style a detriment when our hunter riders switch over to jumpers?

    Thoughts?

    Please don't blast me for picking on hunters... I think they have their place, and no one would fox hunt in a second-level dressage frame! But I'm wondering if the fact that most of the country starts with hunters ends up hurting us when they try to transition to jumpers.

    Comment


    • #3
      Uh, we ride our 2nd and 3rd level horses in a dressage frame for at least a little while at the beginning of a hunt.

      Comment


      • #4
        Those of us who are proponents of dressage have always said it is the basis for all good riding. If you can keep your horse rounded, balanced, and rated (using collections and extensions), what better way to approach a jump and get over it safely? Makes sense to me!
        www.bfkequestrian.com

        Comment


        • #5
          or is it just possible that anyone or his mother can hang up a shingle and say they are a "trainer"? And that same person can be in charge of passing on his or her craft (such as it is) to a whole generation of students... And if said trainer is awfully good at tuning on a made horse or piloting it around but never actually "creates" the work of art, then obviously he/she is limited in what they can teach their students.

          I think good riding is good riding - no reason why riding hunters in and of itself means you aren't prepped to ride jumpers. Now if you don't have a clue how to engage a horse and understand how and when to do it, that may be a different story.
          Your crazy is showing. You might want to tuck that back in.

          Comment


          • #6
            In the U.S.-
            1. Owners rarely buy horses so somebody else (pro) can compete. Therefore the primo horses might spent their careers in lower divisions.
            2. There are no government subsidies for raising horses.
            3. Horses are seen as an elitist pasttime (not a sport).
            4. There are too many other distractions - pro sports, computers, TV, movies - all very accessible to the public.
            5. Riders are not "forced" to move up to higher levels. An Olympic-level rider might compete against amateur or junior riders at some competitions.

            thoughts for now
            [img]/infopop/emoticons/icon_eek.gif[/img]

            Comment


            • #7
              Just wondering

              "we ride our 2nd and 3rd level horses in a dressage frame"

              Is the outline what you are talking about or true collection where the horse is carrying his weight on the hind end? What level--dressage--are you talking about? Just wondering

              Comment


              • #8
                I think it depends on the trainer.

                While you weere away, I took a clinic with GM, who is certainly representative of good .US hunter/jumper trainers.

                His comments to me were closer to my dressage instructor's comments than any other jumping intructor I have had.

                He was telling several others to make sure the horse was in front of the leg.

                He certainly EXPECTED people to know how to do a correct shoulder in ("NOT neck-in. NOT indirect rein").

                I think it has more to do with the variation in quality of the trainers. There are plenty of hunter, and even jumper trainers out there who teach "neck-in" with an indirect rein and THINK it is shoulder in.
                Janet

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

                Comment


                • #9
                  I am not a follower of most HJ stuff, but as an eventer, I jump and do dressage. I am now at a new barn, with some jumper folks. Here is what happened yesterday in my shared dressage lesson with one...
                  I rode first-getting my horse back into work after almost 3 months off. Worked mainly on getting him forward and relaxing thru the neck and poll to come up under himself. Jumper person watched.

                  Then jumper gal lunged her horse-gorgeous tall lanky WB I guess. Now, bear in mind she jumps this horse over 4 feet...yet, the knowledge of basic flatwork wasn't really there. New trainer watched as she lunged, and rider/lunger didn't know what a connected horse looked like on the lunge (he was putzing, not using himself at all)....I found this intriguing. A horse, in order to jump big fences, needs to be engaged and have strong hindquarters to be able to thrust. It was just an observation, but I truly felt that not knowing these basic pieces of true dressage (not flatwork-which is putzing w/o jumping?), it will impede future success. I think that is one of the reasons that event horses do well, in that they can negotiate an upper level dressage test, so thus have the ability to use that when jumping. Just a thought...

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


                  • #10
                    I don't think the reason we are not doing quite as well as the Germans in show jumping is because we have hunters. I don't think you can really compare our hunters with German jumpers. I would assume that most of our jumper riders don't come straight from the hunter ring.

                    The way most hunters are ridden (and won with) is pretty far from a dressage frame. If you trained your hunter to be a great lower level dressage horse you would loose the hunter look and way of going for the show ring. Sure, work on a bit of dressage with your hunter but if you train a hunter too much he will not be a hunter anymore, he will be a dressage horse.

                    As for jumpers, I believe that you can never do to much dressage. I love the way I see most German riders ride the jumpers. I would love to see more Americans ride like this. The nice snaffle and a strong powerful rhythm and a rocket-like jump, that is how I want my horse to go. How do I find someone to help me train my horse to go like that? I am not sure.

                    Anyway, I have no idea what I am saying here except that I want to ride my horse like a German but without hunting down Marcus Beerbaum with fistfulls of cash, it may never happen.
                    www.clospepe.com

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      When someone is spending megabucks to go to big shows, they (eventually) expect results. How does the trainer get the results? Especially in the hunters....
                      -lunging lunging lunging lunging
                      -drugs
                      -trainer rides horse until horse is perfect, then puts student up

                      You have to let the students take their licks, or they will never learn to solve the problems. They will just become really pretty passengers.

                      Bring back the outside courses!

                      The hunters DO encourage sit there and do nothing riding, at least at the lower levels. However, the riders should be encouraged to move forward once they are out of the novice divisions. Hunters should be the BASIS for jumpers. You want to move forward rhythmically and flow around a jumper course, not yank and kick.

                      Additionally, riders are athletes, and have to control animals weighing 10 times as much that are immensely stronger. Yet how many youngsters are out there TRAINING like an athlete? You need a lot of strength throughout your entire body to control an enthusiastic horse on a jumper course. Some riders have the trainer ride the horse all week, then meet them at the showgrounds. The horse is going great, but what has the rider learned?

                      The horse show world has evolved into a business where many of the riders have very little to do with the barn work and basic care of the horse. The trainers want the horses on full care, and the riders who can afford to do the A circuit can usually afford to pay someone else to do a lot of the daily care. It's a cycle.

                      I usually only jump my horse in lessons. His issues are not jumping issues, they are getting to the jump balanced and straight issues. Jumping won't solve them.

                      Use the Force.
                      Man plans. God laughs.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        because it denotes something solid and "boxed-in." A horse should be ridden from behind, period. When you know where he's putting his feet - and when you can place his feet there via riding - your horse will automatically be engaging his hocks, lifting his back, and stretching into the bridle. Much easier said that done!!!!

                        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.

                        For the big jumpers, in America it's usually always about getting over the jump, not getting around the course in a rhythm. This is not a broad statement for all of the jumpers in America.

                        For example, Anne Kursinski (surprise surpise, a GM product) does a stellar job of doing this (riding a course in a rhythm). I could watch that woman ride for hours. Chris Kapler, a GM product, does a stellar job of doing this. I could watch that man ride for hours. Ray Texel, a GM product, does a stellar job of doing this. I could watch that man ride for hours. You get my point.

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

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          For an indication of what at least some jumper trainers SEEM to think is the appropriate use of dressage/flatwork, check out his thread Help needed
                          Janet

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

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Basic dressage is essential for all disciplines. If a horse will not go forward and straight and slow down easily, that horse will ultimately not be a winner.

                            Correct flying changes can make the difference between first and fifth in the hunters. Although in hunters, the frame is longer and lower, if the balance is not there, neither is the winning performance.

                            In jumpers it is probably more important to work in some of the higher school movements in terms of physical development.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Doesn't this

                              go beyond Germany having better jumpers than here in that States? I think the way Europeans, in general, train/treat their horses in a fashion that the US should start following.

                              *Jenno*
                              "The man who makes no mistakes lacks boldness and the spirit of adventure. He is the one who never tries anything. His is the brake on the wheel of progress. And yet it cannot be truly said he makes no mistakes, because his biggest mistake is the very fact that he tries nothing, does nothing, except criticize those who do things." David S.
                              http://hometown.aol.com/pithegr8t
                              "Truth is incontrovertible, malice may attack it and ignorance may deride it, but, in the end, there it is." Sir Winston Churchhill

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Well, I was reading all through this thread, trying to phrase my reply, only to find that Flash44 had said it all, and said it better. Thanks Flash!
                                If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.
                                Desmond Tutu

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  hit the nail on the head-the rhythm and balance needed to ride a course (on any type of horse, hunter, jumper or eventer) is what is learned by schooling dressage. And I am finding more and more that true horsemanship is lacking in so many-not ignorance, but sheer laziness or not having the desire to take care of one's horse-be it knowledge of saddlery, veterinary care, grooming or feeding. I praise Pony Club for my well rounded knowledge-

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

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    true that anne kursinski is a GM product, but ALSO trained through Grand Prix dressage with Hilda Gurney.....

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      the last post reminded me of a clinic that I attended...geez, now who was it? welcome to middle age brain wasting...anyway, a dressage clinic...they had a story about riding in the open. She was working with high end dressagy americans, and made them get out of the arena and gallop on like a loose rein across a polo field in Florida..these riders (also with good seats obviously), freaked, and it took some time for them to want to do it, and feel comfortable.
                                      Just an aside, but I agree that kids don't ride in the open anymore, and enjoy a good bareback gallop across a field anymore....*sigh*...I'm getting old

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

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        ...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
                                        horses."
                                        \"It is by no means the privilege of the rider to part with his horse solely by his own will.\" -- Alois Podhajsky

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