Monday, August 30, 2010

You Decide

You decide, which horse and rider pair look soft, relaxed and in true collection? For me the real "tell" is the hindquarters - in my opinion the horse in photo 1 (ridden by Anky von Grunsven) isn't really engaging behind, whereas the horse in photo 2 (ridden by Alois Podhadjsky) is sinking onto the hindquarters and really using his body to carry himself. And look at the riders - which rider is braced and pulling, and which rider has just a whisper of soft contact? And look at the position of the curb bit and the amount of pressure being applied to it - which horse would you prefer to be?

For me, there's no contest - competitive dressage today at the highest levels has veered way off the track and lost its way, in my opinion - many of the principles that made classical dressage valuable for all horses and riders have been abandoned.



To all of those in the dressage world who stick to classical training methods and principles and avoid the pressure for flash over substance, a big thank you from this rider (and her horses)!

25 comments:

  1. I am far from an expert, but to me the horse in photo 1 looks uncomfortable (isn't that Rollkur??) and the rider looks stern even from a side view. I like photo 2 because the horse looks relaxed and so does the rider...they both look like they have the hint of a smile on their faces. :-)

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  2. We have moved into a society where everyone wants everything yesterday. No patience, because a person can afford something, they think they should have it. Because they can afford to do it, they do.

    No one stops to think about what they should or shouldn't do.

    Horse trainers pay their bills by winning and catering to their customers. Seeing as how customers can no longer take reality for an answer, many trainers go to extreme methods to make their customers satisfied.

    Definitely doesn't make them right. But there is a market driving this unfortunate trend.

    As long as we, as a society, continue to move forward with the ridiculous idea that we *should* be able to have everything we want, a society where status comes from things we have and not what we know, we will continue to have this problem.

    Also, anytime money is involved, the animal ALWAYS loses.

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  3. Not only which horse would you prefer to be, but which would you prefer to be on? I suspect Anky's horse would be a difficult ride with its hind end poorly engaged and the hyperflexion at the poll. Not a natural or comfortable way to travel

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  4. There's a great article in one of the horse magazines - perhaps just our local one, that calls current dressage just shameful because it's so lost it's way.

    It's part of how shallow our society has become on many levels. Looks means more than anything, and the look becomes more and more artificial.

    Do you think in today's world a Barbara Striesand could survive without a nose job?

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  5. Oh I so agree with you! I was just having this discussion with my sister yesterday! I simply don't understand for the life of me what has happened to modern dressage. It's like they're becoming everything they have criticized for decades.

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  6. Pity the horses being ridden by today's high level riders.

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  7. poor salinero.

    i always wondered how he can appear so relaxed during his tests. he must have an amazing personality to endure all that.

    he deserves pasture retirement and daily massage.

    ~lytha

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  8. The first horse looks to me like he is not only very forward in his stance, but also has his nose behind the vertical to relieve the pressure on his mouth caused by bracing. The second horse, on the other hand, looks light -- I don't know how else to describe it -- like he is dancing. I agree with you -- no contest!

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  9. I can't even look at photo #1 because it is a picture of cruelty and there were probably people CLAPPING while it was going on. Ugh. Disgusting. More of the hurry up and get it done mentality of our world today. Everything is to be fast and easy (easy for the rider).

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  10. Photo 1 - Anky Van Grunsven, forced and ugly, sums up everything that's wrong in the competition dressage world!
    Photo 2 - Alois Podhadjsky, lightness and beauty, everything as it should be!

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  11. Unfortunately Drivers is completely right about the need to keep clients happy and interested as a driving factor in the decline of all upper level finesse. To be fair though, Anky has come under so much fire (rightfully so) because of her training methods so I'd like to compare another winning dressage professinal. This link (http://admin.dressagedirect.com/uploads/images/5hMgYAno_8RZsllIETmITg/OG_GP_STEFFEN_PETERS-RAVEL_SMALLdd1.jpg) is to Steffen Peters riding Ravel at Piaffe. While not nearly as braced as Anky and Salinero Ravel still doesn't exhibit the throughness, engagement and softness of Col. Podhajsky and his Lippizan. Truly classical equestrianism seeks to work with the horse but throughout history the needs of the human have often outweighed the needs of the horse. Wouldn't it be amazing if we could affect a shift in the culture to promote the horse's enjoyment above the client and professional's so-called "needs" for fulfillment.

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  12. Today's competitive dressage has become more about executing the movements no matter what the cost, rather than teaching the horse to carry himself with strength and balance, gracefully beneath the weight of a rider.

    All of Anky's horses ALWAYS look stressed and tense to me. I would be willing to bet every one of them are on some kind of ulcer medication.

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  13. Well I won't buck the trend and anyone who knows me is aware that, like all of you, I am anti rollkur. However, even though in the past I have been very verbal in my damning of this practice I am no longer prepared to be so verbal and will try to show what good horsemanship is by my own work and let those who are totally blind to this cruelty to horses continue in their oblivion. You would have to be blind not to see fear in the eyes of a horse, right? There is so much 'in-fighting' in the world of classical training, lots of egos and money spinners and I'm not sure I trust many of them. Add that to the constant competition/classical 'debate' and where does that leave you? You will usually find more sense and reason in the pages of this and other blogs in my own humble opinion, where kind thoughtful folks are trying to better understand their horses and stand to gain nothing by sharing what they learn. Keep at it Kate.

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  14. Wow those two photos really show a difference, the second horse looks actually like hes enjoying his job. I am no expert, but i can see I would liek to be or ride him way over Ankys horse!

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  15. trudi - you are right - the only remedy is to work with our own horses to the best of our abilities using methods that consider the horse and its mind and feelings and don't just treat the horse as an object to be manipulated/used. People can change their minds about how to work with horses (I know I did) and examples often speak louder than words.

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  16. No contest as regards the photographs. I hope all this signals a slow turning of the tide away from the tension and force in dressage.

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  17. I'm in total agreement that horse #2 looks more relaxed and that this is an excellent example of good riding, good horsemanship.

    But to be totally fair about the comparison in engagement, we need to realize that horse #2 is doing piaffe, and horse #1 is doing passage. It would be much better to compare 2 photos of horses doing the same movement. Does anyone have a link to a photo of Anky doing piaffe, or to Alois Podhadjsky riding passage, so we can compare with the other photo shown here, to get a better apples to apples comparison on how the horses are using their hind ends as a consequence of the riders approach to using the reins?

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  18. Here you go, Anky in a piaffe: http://www.dressuurstal.be/images/Den_Bosch_2005/Anky_van_Grunsven_&_Salinero_2KC_8821b.jpg.

    What really burns me is how quickly all the international competitors are pushing their horses into competition. Whether they are using rollkur or not. In my opinion, a 6 year old doesn't have the muscular development to do Grand Prix period, and there are so many young horses out there being forced to do it. I guarantee that the horse Alois was riding in that photo was in his late teens.

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  19. Anon - good point and I should have mentioned that in my post or should have looked harder to find more closely comparable photos - Anky's horse in the piaffe is more engaged behind but the head/neck/reins/bit position is quite comparable and the impression is very "forced" in my opinion. Thanks for the link.

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  20. I should have said thanks to anon for the question, and thanks to smazourek for the link.

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  21. Very thought provoking post Kate! I agree with the above. Good things evolve with the sharing of knowledge.

    Side note; I like the changes you've made to your blog!

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  22. Wow, the difference in the engagement of the hindquarters is just astounding. Sheesh.

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  23. Oy. Anky (aka "Yanky") is an embarassment to the equestrian world. I saw her ride at the Eqxuis Dressage Masters Freestyle last winter in Wellington and I was apalled -- Salinero was extremely tense, braced, ears pinned, tail swishing, back tight...the poor guy looked so unhappy. And his front feet were glaringly uneven; one, he would pick up very high & it was very snappy & expressive, while the other was low & "sluggish." Someone on another blog pointed out that this is called "bridle-sore" (??), which I've never heard of.
    Anyways, to make a long story even longer, Salinero completely flipped out during the awards ceremony. He was spooking, spinning, leaping sideways, bucking, half-rearing, & looked like he was about a half second away from bolting (oh, and he WON!!). Meanwhile, Ravel stood there all chill on a loose rein with his ears all floppy and relxed. He got second. I was upset at myself for contributing to Anky's pocketbook by shelling out $20 for the show. It was sickening.

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  24. i couldn't agree more with this post and other commenters here. like many of them i also wonder if this new trend in dressage is the product of a larger social trend. the classical masters had their faults, but their motivations seemed somehow purer than those of our competitive idols today. i'm with others here in having decided to 'lead' by example. which is not to say i'm some great trainer or doing anything special, but i'd like to think my horses at least are happy and relaxed in their work. maybe if people learn to see the difference, and see that it's possible, they'll expect more from their trainers and riders... would be nice to think so anyway.

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  25. Good eye. Just from an old cowgirl perspective that first rider couldn't ride long. She would end up in so much pain at the end of one of my days. And in a battle, I rather have the handsome horseman on my side. He and his horse is ready to do anything and isn't that what horsemanship is about, isn't balance really about being in a state that you can go anywhere and do anything on a moment's notice.

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