Dressage through the decades.
Come one, come all.
As a newbie to the dressage world, I take every opportunity to go to competitions and watch from the first level up to the top.
For those who have been around, or done a lot of research, here is a question for you to think about.
Do you feel that dressage riders have changed over the decades? Have the expectations of judges for the riders changed?
Would you call it a development for better or for worse?
Also, youtube links and pics are greatly appreciated :D
Just thought it would be interesting to see how things have developed- even horses, training methods- anything :D
From my experience the main changes at least in the last half century is
One...the horses have changed, both in build and temperament (getting hotter, temperament wise so that they are not amateur rider friendly).
Two... the lower levels in who is competing and on the type of horse ( the later due to what I said above regarding temperament).
I don't know if this is along the lines of discussion you were looking for but I was recently thinking about how difficult it is for a lower level rider to get time in the saddle with a superbly trained horse. Ive started reading "Gynmasium of the Horse" and Steinbrecht basically says that in order to start correctly, the rider needs time in the saddle with a well trained and exceptional dressage horse. Mind you I think Steinbrecht was around in 1880?
Im guessing that at some of the larger and famous riding schools in Europe, you may see more exposure to the really nice horses but the reality of what I see is that no one wants a beginner (or low level rider in general) on their expensive, perfectly trained horse. So it seems these days we more often learn together with the horse to bring them up, unless you are very lucky.
Well dressage in NA is quite a young sport... I would say it has only really been around in the greater part of NA since about the 60s or 70s.. so the development that has happened is basically all just "catching up" to Europe - which is still going on. We are just now getting some very good horses that can compete with the European's horses... but we are still lacking hugely in rider education. I know most of the top riders were either born and trained in Europe or travelled there to train. My coach who has ridden in a few Olympics and a WEG was trained in Europe in the 70s and 80s as there was actually no one doing dressage in her area in NA at the time, she was the first. As Shasta has pointed out, we have a huge lack of well schooled horses as well. In Europe PSG horses are churned out through a well oiled machine... here our top riders are too busy, the financial burden is too high or they even dont have the skills.. Mummy and daddy bought the international dressage horse and they couldn't train one to GP if their life depended on it and have never sat on anything under 7 or 8..
As far as development in Europe over the last years - I agree wholely with Spyder, the horses have changed immensely and are no longer amatuer friendly. There comes a point where riders must now decide their "fate" in the sport with the lines they choose as something without enough "zing" will not take you anywhere in international dressage anymore. And the ones that do make it in international dressage are rarely ones that can be retired to an Amatuer... they are still barely broke even after the GP and require a very sensitive, compassionate rider.. I can't imagine myself being able to hop on Salinero, Totilas, Valegro, etc.. and put together a semblance of anything really, where as horses like Rusty, Ahlerich, etc.. I probably could have hopped up on, although they were hot horses as well!!
The judging is the same, a 60% is still a 60%, the riding has had to improve in the use of tact and stillness in the riders and training methods have become far more sensitive, I think. We understand biomechanics better, building the horse as an athlete, nutrition, maintenance of the horses' soundness and veterinary care are better and so is the technology in the fit of the tack and materials used... So all in all I think it is better, the horses are happier and better cared for and the competitions have become way, way tougher. Talking to people that have been around for a long time, like my coach or six-time Olympian Robert Dover or FEI 5* judges like Axel Steiner is very eye opening to me.. I think it is unfair for people on forums like these to be judging the sport so harshly having never experienced the top, or talked to those at the top and whom have been there for a long time... It is tough to get a good view of a family just peeking in the window at odd times...
I think a lot has changed and not all for the best. While the modern warmblood can produce spectacular expressive paces they are not always 'Tru' paces, too much movement in front without the equel activity behind.
Time is also one thing that has totally destroyed the foour legged ballerina that performed with grace and emotion. there is so much tension shown, tail swishing, teeth grinding, tight backs and stiff tails.
Watching the Spanish Riding School horses and you will see true classical work, soft happy horses able to work altogether and still produce exquisite work.
Today people push horses throught the grades often before work is truly established at each level. At one time you would allow a year between each level and would go out and compete only when the horse was working well at the level above at home.
Therefore you rarely saw a PSG horse that was under 10years old. They aree now worked too hard too early before hock and spine growth plates have fully closed.
One thing I have noticed is that judges in the lower levels are not so blinded by the front end of the horse anymore, horses behind the bit are being marked harsher.
I have a limited and narrow perspective on this compared to some of you, due to only being in my late 20s and have only spent time on the amateur scene. So take with a giant salt block. Still, even within a fairly limited time and geography, I have seen noticeable trends taking place in dressage horses. :-)
That said, when I started showing in the mid-1990s, everyone on the amateur scene in Colorado had quarter horses, TBs, Arabs, Appys, paints, etc. and there were very few warmbloods about. There were more in the upper levels but still, quite a few local PSG and GP thoroughbreds and even an app doing GP. And in the lower levels where I was at, virtually no one had warmbloods. Then overnight, it seemed, in the late 1990s and early 2000s everyone and their mother got bitten by the warmblood bug and even at Training and First Level, you were unusual if you didn't have one. All these people I knew who always rode little QHs, Morgans, and Arabs suddenly acquired warmbloods. The downside of this was you had a lot of amateurs struggling with hot, huge moving horses they couldn't handle very well, but the upside of course is that standard of dressage improved and the good riders and good horses were getting better and better.
Then it seemed as if everyone who wanted a warmblood but could not afford one got a draft cross. Okay -- like me, lol (nah, I didn't get her to be a fake warmblood; I got her 'cause I though she was cute). My Shire-TBX is about ten years, or more, older than most other Colorado bred draft-cross "sporthorse" types I've come across. When I got her, she was somewhat unusual. Now horses of her breeding are a dime a dozen and seem to be the poor man's sporthorse.
subbing - good thread. :)
I breed 1st cross and get a lovely type that has a lovely sane temperement, has the agility and paces that make a good al rounder.
No it is not.
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