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deequeue

"Defending" dressage

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(Disclaimer: Inky, if you want to delete or do the nuclear thing with this thread, go right ahead...I'm really on the muscle today... [Crazy] )

I've been reading alot about the more rational but passionate among us who feel that we need to "defend" our chosen discipline to other riders, or even to the unwashed around us.

I for one came by my passion for dressage honestly, as someone who used to ride WP, hunt seat, and breed events. I wanted to ride BETTER. But what scared me was the rep, either justified or not, that dressage was filled with uptight, stuck-up, wound-too-tightly "queens" who would sooner ignore me and my QH as answer any questions I might have.

Wrong-o.

Oh yeah, they're out there. The uptight, stuck-up, etc. types who give us ALL a bad name, whether we want to acknowledge it or not. My own trainer has a barnful of Appys that she takes to Appy shows and such because she simply can't survive on just doing dressage. How sad is that!!!! [surrender]

The "dressage ladies" as she calls us are a tight (as opposed to wound too tight) [Wink] little group who look out for each other and the Appy riders, and who try to promote the sport as much as we can. Wherever we can. And I can tell you that we've had at least 2 converts from the Appy crowd come over to our side of the arena, and are loving it.

I find it very frustrating and disappointing that I have to "defend" my chosen discipline to the snickering and fun-poking folks out there who simply don't understand and don't know. So the way I see it we have to do 2 things:

1)Educate, educate, educate in as friendly and open and unthreatening way as possible.

2)Take the stuck-up and snotty ones out behind the barn and beat the $&@&!@ out of 'em and tell them to stop making the rest of us look bad. Or not, but at least make it clear to these people that unless we open our hearts and arenas to those who want to ride better, or ride different, or whatever that this sport will left to the elitist few, with the horses getting the short end of the stick and become even more of a joke among non-dressage riders than it already is.

Okay, I've said my piece. [Mad]

[ 03-27-2006, 01:23 AM: Message edited by: deequeue ]

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Very well said Deequeue.

I will add that my horse is a much happier athlete and I am riding a whole lot better since taking on dressage! I have met a lot of very helpful and encouraging people in the dressage world. Waaay more than I ever met in any western, timed event I used to do.

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I have heard the stereotypes too. And I'm sure they come from somewhere. But when I took my young hunter to our first and only dressage show, the people I met were all friendly and encouraging. Maybe it helped that we were in the midwest, so dressage was a minority sport. IDK. I just know that it was much easier to stay calm with people willing to answer my questions. I even had someone ask about the breeding of my quarter horse. He was so tall and solid that she thought he was a warmblood! [big Grin] I haven't been to an east coast show yet to see if the atmosphere is any different.

Tracy

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There are more nice people in the sport than stuck up people! I know my fair share of the stuck up ones. The kids have always had any horse they've wanted since they were young, and most imported from Germany. I like to seeing people work for what they get and it makes a better person.

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The DQ is a dying breed. Dressage used to be fairly obscure and exclusive. It's now the fastest growing disipline in riding. People have discovered that you don't need a six figure horse to get into the sport (at the lower levels) and (when done correctly) is good for any horse's training. The main object of dressage should be to make a horse who is truly a pleasure to ride. To ride correctly takes a lot of concentration as we all know, and sometimes dressage riders don't have the happiest look on their face when riding a test. I think this gives spectators the idea that we are all unhappy and basically grim. I know I have to remind myself to smile! I've too, ridden many different disiplines and have heard the outsiders opinion of all of them. All we can do is try to be good embassadors.

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I know ya'll don't know me but I feel I have to comment on this. First of all, there are "queens" in every horse sport, from reining to eventing. I know, I have encountered them. I have seen where a woman at a reining event had to put cameras in her stall to protect her horse from someone who sent a threatening e-mail. I know of a certain reiner who would sit in the stands and quietly but loud enough, say whoooaaa as another rider was doing a run down for a slideing stop and I have met snotty eventers as well as good eventers. You have to learn to ignore. You are going to find people like this in any event. I think that's it's very sad that someone would have defend their chosen stlye of riding. I love dressage. I think it's a beautiful movement. I would love to learn. I also love trail riding, reing, reining cowhorse, rodeo ect. We are all horsemen/horsewomen and we should act as so regardless of the sport. [Mad]

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Well...I live near one of the snootier horse country areas...Northern Virginia. Land of the warmbloods and spendy imported horses. It is absolutely filled with people that wouldn't give your QH, Appy or Arab the time of day. In a word...closed minded. They really want an exclusive club and to keep out the "unwashed" as deequeue says.

Within the area there are many exceptions. There are good dressage instructors that don't mock your non $30,000 horse. However, in my neck of the woods they are few and far between.

I wrote the following many years ago. It's not meant to fan flames, it's just one perspective.

-----------------------------------------

What's Wrong with Dressage? (And you thought it was just boring to watch)

Once upon a time, when I first started learning to ride, I took lessons from my wife’s dressage instructor. I really just wanted to learn to ride, but the instructor tried to blend dressage techniques in on every maneuver. Shoulders back. Eyes straight ahead. Hold contact with the reins. Kick with every stride to “encourage impulsion.” Outside rein to support, inside rein for bend. Get him “on the bit.” Don’t talk to your horse…it’s a serious downgrade in competition…and on and on.

There were lots of rules and both my horse and I hated it. Now, Cowboy is pretty understanding; the worst he did was flip his head and counter flex a lot. But I could tell he wasn’t happy.

I’ve scribed for dressage judges in countless competitions. Every single thing you do on your horse is graded in excruciating detail. Dressage, in short, is the method of riding that requires you to micromanage your horse’s every movement. I got the feeling that what dressage is really about is not trusting your horse to carry himself correctly or think for herself.

It slowly occurred to me that the other riders’ horses that took dressage lessons from this instructor were not very happy either. Without fail they were:

Dead sided

Avoided the bit

Looked stiff and nervous

Were reluctant to move forward

Then one fateful day the instructor said to my wife, “You must ride with gloves or else the reins will cut your hands.”

That was it for me…anybody that teaches to pull on the reins so hard that they are hurting your hands (and the horse’s mouth) is completely messed up. No more lessons from a dressage instructor for Cowboy or me. The previous owner taught him western and I’m not going to mess up his lightness with a heavy-handed approach to riding.

I resolved to find a better way to ride. Clinton Anderson released his “Riding With Confidence” video series about this time and I tried my best to absorb it. My philosophy became, “I’m not using the reins unless absolutely necessary.” Most of the time they stay hooked over the horn and I use my legs and body to control the horse. We spent countless hours trotting and cantering on a totally loose rein. I slowly gave Cowboy more responsibility to think for himself. Yes, I’m there with the reins when he needs help, but as time went by he needed them less and less. He also became a much happier horse.

Are the actions of one dressage instructor a direct reflection of the entire dressage community? Not necessarily, but I think the basic philosophy of micromanaging a horse's every movement pervades the sport.

Of course, there’s no single “correct” way to ride. But I challenge you, be able to ride your horse at a walk, trot and canter on a loose rein and not have him run off or change gaits. Once you have a horse that can take responsibility for his or her own actions then you can proceed into other riding disciplines.

And you’ll have a happier horse too…

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PD, you are echoing a wonderful conversation I had with a woman whose riding I admire last weekend. She rides primarily dressage, but her focus is on having a happy relaxed horse not just a submissive horse. Her biggest complaint with the way dressage often gets ridden and taught is that many riders are afraid to let go of the rein contact. As if once they get the horse going well, "they" are afraid to let go. Lisa's point was that the free walk and stretchy trot circles are in the dressage tests for a reason. Her point is that you ought to be able to drop your reins, let the horse travel "on the buckle", then gather your reins back up and have the horse back in two or three strides.

I would love to take some lessons from a good reiner or cutter. I am *trying" to learn to use my weight and seat to better effect. But I still tend to go to my reins too soon. Fortunately, I ride a sensitive mouthed, sensitive backed horse who is teaching me to stay soft and subtle.

All disciplines have things to offer an open mind...

Tracy

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I have ridden many different disciplines over the past 30 years and have found that all disciplines are "slammed" by people who don't do that discipline. Usually because of lack of education and what they have "heard" about that discipline. I think it would be great, all though not likely to ever happen, if everyone would respect their fellow horsemen in their chosen discipline and be encouraging and supportive, rather than putting them down because they don't like that discipline, or for that matter even know anything about it.

[ 03-25-2006, 11:44 AM: Message edited by: Boocoo ]

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Each discipline has a sterotype. Unfortunately, there ARE those who fuel that sterotype image to live on. I know people like that, but I also know people like me, my friends, my trainer, etc. I am very much just starting in dressage but my respect for it is great, and I love working on it. Right now, I am working on improving the canter (both the gelding I ride and myself need improving...) so it will be show-ready, but heck, I love it! Dressage is a challenge to me. Trail-riding isn't an easy as it looks, but it rightfully is rewarding. And trail-riding isn't just for those not competing. Eventing isn't just for super-horse (and super-money). Etc, etc, etc. You see where I am getting at!

deequeue --THANK YOU! Thanks for finally saying this! We all need to acknowledge our responsiblility to CHANGE those sterotypes!

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I'm going to disagree with you PD--at least around here, if you are looking for a good really already going horse or one with FEI potential, 30,000.00 is way too cheap. My friend A---- is looking, quite seriously in the 75,000-100,000.00 and she is a genuinely kind, sweet, lovely person who is merely looking for a very competitive mid-level AA horse--she is neither a DQ nor a snob. She's not looking for an import either, but a very well-trained horse that know his stuff and will very quickly get her to competitve PSG. Luckily for her, she can afford that, because I know that I can't and I have to be able to develop my own horses and I buy young--yearlings from a breeder in the mid-west for much less and ship them here!

Now, for your other comments, I would be willing to bet that your instructor that you took from did not have really great credentials based on your experience, although as I write that I do remember that one of my very worst experiences with an instructor was with someone who is a well known FEI rider. SO, let me revise that last statement, based on what you said, it sounds like your experience, was a bad one and you prefer Clinton Anderson--so does my mom. For me, not so much. I'm sure that he has great techniques, but that is not my interest. My horses don't go off the bit in the ring because that isn't what dressage is about and that isn't correct training; however,

1. I've never been encouraged to kick, kick, kick every stride because that just makes for a dead sided horse and also makes your horse dull--a big no no where my instructor is concerned. We work on keeping the horse very light and if a horse can feel a fly, it should feel your leg. Kicking a horse every stride is WRONG!

2. While talking in competition will get you -2, we always talk to our horses during schooling and are encouraged to by our coach because it helps encourage a rapport and harmony which is one of the most important aspects of dressage.

3. You are going to have contact, but contact is not static. You have a soft, giving hand which rewards and encourages chewing. I get the idea that you think contact is hard and unforgiving which is not the case at all. Contact helps rebalance the horse, but should never be backwards and never be pulling.

4. There isn't exactly a lot of head flipping and counter flexing if it is done correctly--that doesn't really sound pretty and I'm thinking it's the person you trained with. Sounds like it was based on force, and harshness.

5. I've not really dealt with dressage as rules to follow, but as a training system to make my horse move better and happier. That's just how my coach teaches.

6. I've had some tough judges and I've shown for a long time. I've also scribed. I've not had the same experience. I disagree that dressage is about micromanaging your horse. I'm sorry that you feel that way and quite honestly think you had several bad experiences that coloured your way of thinking.

7. This is very telling and really says it all for me: "It slowly occurred to me that the other riders’ horses that took dressage lessons from this instructor were not very happy either. Without fail they were:

Dead sided

Avoided the bit

Looked stiff and nervous

Were reluctant to move forward "

Then one fateful day the instructor said to my wife, “You must ride with gloves or else the reins will cut your hands.”

That was it for me…anybody that teaches to pull on the reins so hard that they are hurting your hands (and the horse’s mouth) is completely messed up. No more lessons from a dressage instructor for Cowboy or me. The previous owner taught him western and I’m not going to mess up his lightness with a heavy-handed approach to riding.

Your "instructor" was doing it all wrong if this is what the end result was and for you to judge dressage from this standard is very, very unfair. This is NOT how I ride as a dressage rider, nor is it how I train, nor is it by the prinicpal I apply. For you to presume that I do that really isn't fair.

8. "Not necessarily, but I think the basic philosophy of micromanaging a horse's every movement pervades the sport."

You had a bad experience and this is something that you came up with and decided--again, I'm sorry that you had a bad experience and am glad that you "found yourself" and your happiness with Clinton Anderson, but that is not for everyone. Just as dressage is not for you, perhaps cantering around on a long rein is not for me.

To assume that I micromange my horse and his movement is supremely arrogant and obnoxious because you don't even know me. How many barns have you visited? Go around the East Coast often. Care to describe my routine to me since you know so much. I'm so sick of NH people telling me as a dressage rider what I do wrong. Enjoy what you do and do what you do and if you don't like dressage, stay away from the dressage board.

No one has a patent on how to do something right. Granted your former "teacher" did do it wrong, but as someone who had been in a similar situation, I knew I CHOSE the wrong coach--my mistake, and I got out. Take the responsibility where it belongs--with yourself. You put yourself there and should have left when it got uncomfortable.

9. "Of course, there’s no single “correct” way to ride. But I challenge you, be able to ride your horse at a walk, trot and canter on a loose rein and not have him run off or change gaits. Once you have a horse that can take responsibility for his or her own actions then you can proceed into other riding disciplines. "

Talk about DQ's being arrogant--this is the same stuff always spouted by NH people. Come and get your dressage horses off the bit and really ride. I'm so sorry you had a dreadful experience, but take it to another board. Coming here and blasting dressage riders on a dressage board is not cool. You had a terrible instructor and you decided that dressage was about a certain agenda. I would imagine that had you trained with someone qualified your experience would have been very different and you would have learned something positive. Your statement is just as arrogant as any DQ.

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Note to all: Please remember that this IS a family forum and swearing is not allowed as younger kids do frequent this forum. That is the reason for the censors on this board. Please do not try and go around them and please go back an edit your posts, I'm personally finding this an interesting conversation to read, and would hate to have to delete posts due to swearing. Thank you!

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I've done all sorts of riding, from reining to jumpers. In all honesty, the most "queens" I ever met were Hunter riders. Dressage riders, here at least, are awesome. Because we're in the west, Dressage is an 'unknown' sport (well in Utah). So when someone new comes in EVERYONE encourages them. There are a few who are stuck up and downright rude, but I only know like 3. Whereas in the hunter ring I knew oh about 10-15 who were like that.

All types of riding have snots not just one or another. All.

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Yes, queens are in every sport. Around here it's WP and they are cut throat vicious. I've been told that I "ride that sissy english". Soon after that me and my sissy english beat her hopped up over hyper barrel horse whose saddle horn she had to have a vise like hold on so she wouldn't fall off running barrels. Jaguar was responsive, had a faster time and didn't knock anything over because he was in control without a wire nose band to lean on and a nasty thin twisted wire bit in his mouth. Her husband tried to kick me off the fairgrounds for running in english tack, then I gave him a copy of the 4-H rules reguarding speed events and he had to leave me alone.

Every now and then a WP or speed event rider will ask me how I can get my horse to do all the transitions(stop-walk-trot-canter) up and down, turn in both directions, as well as leg yield, and back without my touching my reins(the buckle rests on his neck and I only touch in to keep the reins from looping down too much). It's called practice and sensitivity. I was always told seat and legs without hands, not hands without seat and legs.

As for gloves, I fought them at first. Now I never work without them. Why? Because they encourage me to be softer with my hands. I've got plenty of calluses from all the other things I do and reins don't bother me, so I use them to help me be more giving.

I think one day, as people become better educated, that all disciplines will use basic dressage principles and then specialize from there. Here and there I've seen glimpses of it, so if we dressage riders remain friendly and answer questions(which I love to do) maybe that will happen sooner rather than later.

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quote:

Originally posted by Inky:

P.S. DQ, I'm curious, define going nuclear?
[big Grin][Crazy]

[ROTFL] It's my newest favorite way of saying something to the effect of "detonating" a situation, statement, thing, whatever...I used it most recently when I had to have a little "talk" with my assistant about her job performance of late and basically told her that if she had to take the nuclear option (finding another job) I'd understand, as opposed to straightening up and start focusing on the job at hand.

BTW, thanks to all for your comments and PMs.

I've been around the block enough times to have run into those "queens" in other disciplines, too. I can laugh and take their queenliness with a grain of salt...but the viciousness and total rudeness and disregard of basic human and equine courtesy, especially towards those who are just dipping their toes in the dressage waters to see if they even want to pursue it, is hard to ignore and to my mind beyond excusable. Hence my singling out of the DQs in particular.

My personal goal is to "evangelize" and maybe, just maybe, get one (that's all--just one) to turn around and repent of her evil ways... [Crazy][Wink]

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Oh no DQ! We don't want anyone else discovering dressage. All dressage riders are snobs. It's a cruel, abusive sport. They don't care about their horses and will do anything to win. Don't ride dressage. You have to be rich and never trail ride or have fun on your horse. Of course, this is said with tongue inserted firmly in cheek and maybe I'll be the only one riding at my next show and bring home all the ribbons!

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