Monday, November 05, 2007

Classical vs Competition

Most of My Trainers Have Been Classicists

To reply to Muriel, I have been lucky to have good trainers all along the way.

There have been a few "rotten eggs" in my clinic experiences, but, like Steiner, I have ignored most of them. I learned long ago to "separate the wheat from the chaff," as my early riding instructor used to say, and take whatever good I could get from each clinic and throw away the rest.

My current trainer is totally convinced Tucker can do the upper levels. His approach and attitude are entirely positive. We both know Tuck's possible limits, and are working to reach beyond them. Our big problem was all the trouble we were having before the Ulcergard. Hopefully that is all behind us.

I do believe that years ago, I had a clinic with Racinet. If he is the trainer I think he is, he ended up riding my PJ for most of the lesson. He LOVED PJ because he was so light and easy to the aids. He didn't worry whether everything they did was perfect or not, but he just rode, all the while telling me what a responsive horse he was. PJ had a super trot and a dreadful canter--which was improved over time with lots of training. I think he would give any rider who was kind his whole heart and try anything he was asked to do. I was so proud that day, even though I hardly rode at all and really didn't learn much for me. What was a joy was to see someone else riding my horse and loving every minute of it.

Some clinicians I have ridden with have been bad teachers--no names this time--and one time I even had to "go to the videotape" after the lesson to try to figure out what in the world the "teacher" was trying to get me to do. Even then I couldn't figure it out because he contradicted himself a number of times.

My most enlightening moments have often come when the teacher has gotten on my horse after I have failed to do what I was supposed to do. More often than not, the teacher has had even less success using their methods on my horse than I had. That has been a bit of a laugh to me, but I NEVER laughed out loud.

Just to let you all know, I live in a very accessible area not too far from the US Equestrian Team headquarters. Since the horse is our State animal, there are many riding stables around and over the years I have had many opportunities to ride with different trainers at clinics. I was just doing a mental account and stopped at close to 20 different clinicians including International level trainers from: Holland, Germany, Denmark, Hungary, France, Britain, New Zeland, South America, and, of course, the USA. My present trainer works with a Canadian Olympian. I have remembered a lot of good exercises from those clnics, forgotten and equal amount of good things, and tried to remember the bad as well so I could try to avoid it.

I have also been very choosy about the regular trainers I have worked with and have been lucky enough to settle in with some really good ones. I visited dozens of barns and watched many lessons before I found my first serious trainer to help me with Russell when he began his jumping career, and have been just as choosy since. I am very lucky to have so many opportunities.

I compete in the show ring as a challenge to myself and my horses. I would, of course, love to win once in a while, but it that's not to be, it's fine. Riding a dressage test in competition is entirely different than practicing at home and it really does define where the horse's training really does stand. What I am sorry to see is that horses not correctly trained are often rewarded just because they are "good movers." Having scribed (written the comments during a dressage test) for some International judges as well, I have also seen some evidence of prejudice towards "name" riders even if their tests were not as good as the scores said.

Ideally, as I have said, every horse entering the dressage ring should be and equal and the test should truly be a test of training, not the horse's natural talent. There are some judges out there who score that way and some who don't.


  1. Lucky you to have access to so many trainers .. you can choose and pick ^-^

    I envy you to have had a clinic with J-C Racinet, even if you did not learn much, it is nice to have met him. I know I would have loved too ...

    I am glad you are not interested into thsi "modern Dressage" .. it is really dreadfull but "they" win ... So we won't see the end of Rolkhur soon ...

  2. I envy you your access to world class trainers too. I am trying to choose a trainer but I keep hearing such conflicting opinions of them all.


  3. It never hurts to try a lesson with a trainer to see if you are compatible. I have walked out of bad lessons, but most of the time I have managed to learn something, even if it is that I never want to work with that person again.

  4. I did wonder how you seemed to have access to lots of different trainers,top notch ones at that,and now I know!:))
    Lucky you must be great to have it all within reasonable travelling distance.
    We honestly dont get alot 'up North' but I have tried a few when it was possible and your right even if you dont get along with them or like what they are saying you do usually still pick up a trick or two!
    Ryan was an absolute find..he was lovely rider himself,charged next to nothing and was on the doorstep.Fantastic teacher and so positive,he gained quite a following around our area.We are all still working on him coming back for a crash weekend of lessons;))

  5. i do think that the important thing is to get on with the instructor and understand what h/she is talking about ( i don't of course mean language divide, although that's relevant, but the terms being used and what the aims are generally...)