Nov 11, 2009

Okay, So How Do We Fix Dressage?

  • Educate yourself.  Read books, read articles in print magazines and on the Internet.  Watch videos and study photos.  Ask questions from people you trust when you may not understand something.  It is so important to first have an understanding of what constitutes correct dressage training and I'm not talking FEI rules here.  I'm talking the centuries of available dressage (or riding) theory that existed far before we set up competitive rulebooks. 
  • Make small changes in every aspect of your riding:  This can be as simple as buying a drop noseband instead of a crank noseband.  Loosen the reins on a regular basis and check to see whether your horse is in proper self-carriage.  Don't overbend the neck in your corners.  If you're an upper-level rider, train in the snaffle more often.  Your goal is to be at or slightly above the vertical.  Don't be afraid to let that poll come up; encourage it to. 
  • Don't be afraid to speak up.  If your friend / trainer / barnmate is doing something that you feel strongly against, discuss it with them.  Question them.  You won't be able to change everyone's mind, but you can voice your opinion.  Keeping quiet just adds to the problem.  If you are unhappy with your trainer, you can say so and you can find a new coach.  You have the power and if you have the education to back yourself up, you have nothing to feel guilty about.
  • Write letters to the FEI, to the USDF, to any high-level trainers and riders you may know.  Express your feelings on hyperflexion.  Don't rant, don't make pseudo-scientific declarations.  Explain simply why you don't feel that it ascribes to the classical traditions of training and its use should not be rewarded.
  • Challenge riders and trainers at clinics and lectures when you see them riding BTV or in more extreme cases of hyperflexion.  Don't take clinics from people who do not ascribe to the same philosophy of training as you.  Don't waver on your dedication to your beliefs, no matter what anyone may say against you.
These are just some of the things that you and I can do on a small-scale that can effect change.  There are probably others -- feel free to leave comments!  Remember, this is not just about banning rollkur.  Sure, if you want to sign the petition going around, then feel free if it makes you sleep better at night.  But banning rollkur at the warm-up in FEI events isn't going to change dressage.  You can still train rollkur up until the final days of showing and then ride differently.  I'm not saying it's not a good idea, but it won't get rid of rollkur. 

What needs to happen is for all of us to write letters to the FEI, to magazines, to high-level judges and trainers which outline the need for a better judging and scoring system.  We need to be able to (and empower judges to) eliminate horses who have blow-ups in the show ring (like the rears and running backwards at the last Olympics); score very severely horses whose noses are behind the vertical (whether by a little or a lot); reward harmony and correctness over flash and showiness.  I admit that I don't have all the answers as to how we put this into place, but someone else can and will do.  But only if we demand it.

Oh, by the way, remember this?  This is how a competitive frame should look:


1 comment:

bhm said...

Excellent point. There's much in modern dressage that has got to change and ban rollkur is just the beginning. Insisting on basic collection would be a great start.

Keep up your dressage post as I enjoy reading your insights.