An introduction and how do I tell if I've found a good dressage trainer?
I came to the dressage sub-forum a long time ago asking (snicker) for how to teach my horse to have and English style head set! I was very kindly guided in the right direction and I've taken the ball and rolled with it. My horse is green and we've been working on very general stuff when I'm not too busy with school so I havn't had time for lessons. I have been reading some good books about dressage.
But now, suddenly, I might have a chance to finally start taking dressage lessons so that I might be able to learn this passion I have. I just know that I love and want to do classical dressage even though I've read more about it than I've ridden it. Ha!
So please tell me, what should I be looking for in a dressage instructor? There must be warning signs that someone doesn't really know what they're doing or has the wrong methods. I took a few lessons with the closest person and while I learned a lot, she seemed to be more geared towards jumping and she kept talking about the horses head and neck. Not much talk about the back of the horse and when she explained collection it was all about the horse's head. It makes me wonder if I should look elsewhere. Can anybody help me out?
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Oh, and ah, this is an introduction because I plan to be more active in this forum and ask more questions as encounter them. I thought it would be fair to at least share a few sentences of background. :P
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1) Trainer should be encouraging. By that I don't mean he/she should say "sure, your horse can go to 3 (4, GP...) level", but that dressage is all about improvement and communication and that any horse and rider can progress and improve. I run into trainers who told me "your horse is useless (cheap, not well conformed, not bred for english, etc.), so you both won't improve, much less show". Run away from such trainers!
2) You have to learn something new and improve every lesson, and the instructions should be clear and trainer willing to spend time to explain and answer all questions (even dumb sometime :-) - I ask dumb questions all the time!).
3) Trainer is not forcing you to use gimmicks: tie down, speaucial bits, draw reins, etc.
4) You should enjoy the lesson. Unless you are happy you won't progress. :wink:
5) Trainer may invite you to watch several lessons of different levels to see if you like the way he/she is teaching.
I have nothing to add except that the trainer shouldn't be frustrated with you or on their phone all the time.
But Val nailed it, including the part about gimmicks!
To me a good instructor will focus on what the rider does and how that affects the horse.
They won't say "get his head down", they will say "ride to the bit and supple". They wont say, "he's falling through the corner" they'll say "sit up straight darn it!!", etc..
Dressage training is far more about the rider than the horse!!
When choosing my daughter's, who is horrified when yelled at and freezes, we just stayed at our barn till Kady, the trainer, came. But if I had a choice...
1) nice and never yells when training
2) doesn't say that the horse isn't capable of what we are wanting to do
3) has shown in 1-2 level and has done well...ish
4) doesn't necessarily need a liscense; Kady doesn't and I haven't found a trainer who works better with my daughter than her
5) knows that people and horses have good and bad days
There are several other things but my brain is dead, I may come back later
Thanks so much for the advice everyone. It is all very much appreciated. I think I'm getting a feel for what's important. No gimmicks rules out the person I just tried, they had me using a german martingale! But now I know.
I can't remember if you stated your riding experience bit I would expect the first few lessons to basically ignore the horse. I'd expect the instructor to focus on your legs seat hands and balance and getting subtle cues.
No point starting dressage if the horse needs a kick in the guts to go. That would need to be refined first
I'd be quite surprised if they'd even look at the horses head set for at least a few lessons.
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I like someone who will push me, and can prove that they know what they're doing - I.e. looking at how their own horses travel, and do their suggestions work?
Someone that pushes daisies and rainbows up my backside is useless. I'm not paying to be told that I'm brilliant because the coach wants some extra money.
Both of my coaches will happily yell at him, and it pushes me to work harder. If my horse is physically unable and lacks to talent to do something, I want them to tell me, not give me false hope. If I was aiming for Grand Prix and had a terribly conformed horse with no work ethic, I don't want someone to tell me how wonderful he is and that if I have 3 lessons a week with them we'll have him at Grand Prix.
Someone that tells you to to concentrate on the horse's head - say goodbye to them and find someone who knows what they're talking about.
I don't care about yelling as long as it's to the point. What I care about is trainer being honest and straight and both (me and horse) to progress.
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