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When I was first drawn to dressage, there were a ton of events going on in my area. Now 20 years into the future I have started teaching and training. There isn't much going on in the sport of dressage in my area. A huge venue that use to host large crowds with VIP tents, is closed. Active dressage barns have closed and trainers moved away.

This year the few dressage shows that will be hosted in my area, in rodeo arena's on hard dirt footing. My students are all beginner types with mixed breed horses. They all love their horses and love learning the basics of dressage. The top level trainers and people with money have all left to train in Florida for the winter. Our Championship show is to be held at another venue in a different state. That facility recently announced it will also be sold.

Is USDF concerned at all about loosing it's grass roots? Seems dressage is all about well bred warmbloods and money. Go to Florida to don't bother!! I try hard to stay motivated. Any one else concerned? Didn't the multi-millionaires start out some where? Maybe local shows? Or did all the mulit millionaires just go to fancy trainers and buy the most expensive horse offered for sale.

If this is happening, what happens to all the mixed breed horses that have amazing hearts and bring joy to their owners but are sold because the horse won't do well at shows or isn't invited to come to Florida. What about the trainers such as myself that want to inspire people to get into our sport.

Where do I continue to learn, when I can't afford to go to Florida. How do I continue to educate myself and bring it to my students. Does USDF or USEF care to support the grass roots that truly support their organization? Or are there simply enough wealthy people able to ship themselves and their horses to Florida to support the organization?
 

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Well, you've established that you're not in Florida. But, where are you and what communities have you tried connecting with?

I live in VT. All the "show people" here go to Aiken, Southern Pines, or Florida for the winter. That's not my world at all. I do some light hacking around the fields through the snow when the footing is safe, but without an indoor mostly my horse is just off in January/February. I used to dabble in low level dressage but without a trailer now, I can't get out to lessons. I am an aspiring endurance rider but use what I learned in my dressage lessons while on the trail. It's great for my mare, though what would be better for me is eyes on the ground.

Do I think the national organizations (USEF, USHJA, USDF) care much about the small, local competitors? Not really. Listen to podcasts like the Plaidcast from the Plaid Horse or the Dressage Radio Show to get a sense of the current tension at the national level. I don't really care about competition, so I haven't personally tried to address these issues since they're not really relevant. But, it sounds like if you're in an area where shows are hard to find, maybe you could get creative at your venue to host local schooling shows, and invite other local trainers/students to participate, and build a community that way.
 

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I've never lived in a dressage-y area. I've always had to travel. Are you a member of a GMO? They should be organizing clinics and seminars to help with educating their regional base. If they aren't, perhaps it's time to spearhead that initiative!

I don't see trainers/riders heading to FL to compete and train as a bad thing--if you have the talent and the means to go, why not?

I don't feel the "fancy" trainers have a cake walk either. Yes, they have all started somewhere. They may have a top quality horse now, but it's typically not their own. And not without a lot of hard work and results. They are sponsored by wealthy people. Being paid to do a job. And there is a lot of burn out and stress.

Warmbloods will always dominate the sport. But I don't care about that either. I'm going to just do me. Whether I'm riding a Friesian or a pony of unknown heritage.

Don't stop encouraging your students or people about dressage. It's not about the ribbons or the big championship shows. It's about connection and harmony with your horse. It's about developing a relationship with your horse. If you have those things, what really more is there?
 

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There's been quite a bit of internet blather about the phenomenon of expensive specialization such that it is no longer people with talent and drive who win, it is now limited to people with talent, drive, and megatons of cash. This is true in dressage as well as some other disciplines. This makes beginner or casual amateur riders simply not want to play.

What is happening in response, is the growing popularity of similar disciplines which are more amateur-friendly. For dressage this is Cowboy Dressage, Western Dressage, and others. In New England, which has an English tradition but not a huge amount of horses, there seem to be plenty of schooling, local, and breed-specific shows which have low level dressage classes.

I believe that the Only For the Wealthy disciplines will tend to get smaller and smaller, because the pool of new riders is dwindling. But spin-off disciplines will flourish, perhaps despised by those who imagine they are the Classicists (which they are not), but that won't stop people having fun at their own level their own way.
 

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I try hard to stay motivated. Any one else concerned?
I have no trouble with motivation because I'm not competitive, and because, honestly, I practice basic dressage as much for myself as my horses. It makes me feel good, and happy. I like to see progress, and aiming for more advanced movements; I bemoan setbacks (always happens after weeks of bad weather); I like the communication that schooling develops between horse and rider. And there is no "finished" to it. Like life, you just keep going, until, well, you're gone.
 

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Or did all the mulit millionaires just go to fancy trainers and buy the most expensive horse offered for sale.
I'm not into dressage, or competition at all. And I'm not American. But that is as it seems to a large degree here. A friend's daughter got a scholarship to a 'la-de-da' high school, who also offered equine studies. She was a 'horsey girl' from childhood, but wasn't rich like her classmates, who all rode six figure horses, who they whinged about, had Mummy to trade up when they 'weren't good enough', had grooms to fit the $1000's tack... She had an OTTB with 'issues' that she took straight off the track. Cheap tack was all she could afford. She was scoffed at about everything. Guess who won all the comps they held tho??

But...
Don't stop encouraging your students or people about dressage. It's not about the ribbons or the big championship shows. It's about connection and harmony with your horse. It's about developing a relationship with your horse. If you have those things, what really more is there?
Yes!!! Why should it be all about shows anyway? There are many who just aren't interested in that, and perhaps some who don't know there's a choice.

This makes beginner or casual amateur riders simply not want to play.

What is happening in response, is the growing popularity of similar disciplines which are more amateur-friendly. For dressage this is Cowboy Dressage, Western Dressage, and others. In New England, which has an English tradition but not a huge amount of horses, there seem to be plenty of schooling, local, and breed-specific shows which have low level dressage classes.
Yes!!! This is one of the reasons I've never been interested in competing myself. Tho I've recently discovered 'Extreme Cowboy Racing' and the likes, which has got me interested, not least because most of the 'players' are 'real people' & this is a GAME for them too. And they mostly seem to be in it to have fun WITH their horses, not just ON them.

So far as I'm aware, there's also no law against starting your own 'game' either. Perhaps look at your own goals & principles, look at those of people in your area who want to learn &/or you want to teach and see if you can make something of that, regardless whether it already exists or not.

As for how do YOU keep learning & bettering yourself, perhaps you might need to travel for that, or get someone in. Might be too exxy for you to do it on your own, esp if the trainer you want is interstate, but if there were a bunch of you - you & your students say... a lot of equestrian centres over here run 'clinics' & instruction days with big names, so they get the benefit but don't foot the whole bill.
 
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