Dedicated Riders Who Don't Show? (Spin-off H/J Thread)
There is a similar post on the H/J forum - thought it was terrific and that I would start a similar post on the dressage forum! My response to the h/j thread is posted below in blue - please excuse the typos!
Thought this was a serious, reflective topic and I am interested in seeing the dressage riders perspective to the same question.
Original H/J Post by Treasured:
How many of you consider yourselves to be serious, dedicated riders who are interested in progressing and improving your riding but are not interested in competing?
What keeps you from competing? How do you stay motivated to continue pushing yourself for improvement if your not showing competitively?
Do you feel you are treated differently in your barn if you don't show and the majority of other clients do?
Not a hunter/jumper rider - dressage rather - but this is a wonderful post - and I think very insightful!
I consider myself to be very serious about my riding and horsemanship skills, and focus a lot of energy on improving both. I enjoy doing clinics and will ride in them every chance I get. I am very selective about which clinicians/riders/trainers I work with, and have ridden with some very high profile people in the dressage world. I enjoy every minute of the challenge that comes from clinic lessons. I feel that it is, most importantly, an opportunity to learn from some of the very best in my chosen discipline. It is an opportunity for feedback from an "outside" expert. I do ride with a coach, but am primarily responsible for my own training regeim for my horses and myself. I get outside feedback which helps me validate [or not!] what I'm doing at home, but the clinic experience is a whole 'nuther ball game. I get more feedback, I get the chance to show off my horse (because I'm pretty proud of her and what we have accomplished), I enjoy the public display of our own work but in a setting that alos allows others to watch and participate and learn. I don't feel that you get that so much from showing.
I'm not a particularly competitive person - not with others anyway. I do push myself to strive for excellence and accomplishment over where we have come from in our past. Its more of a personal "competition" that can be satisfied with the clinic instruction.
My personal opinion of showing is that it involves financial commitments that can be better spent pursuing more education. It also boils down to being judged against those other riders who bother to show up on the same day. We might be all great riders who do an outstanding performance in the show ring on that given day. Or we could all suck, and the judge will still rank us based on his/her own opinion. I just don't see any validation in getting ribbons when personally I know that I didn't perform up to the standards that I've set for myself and my horse.
I don't need the judgement of a show-ring judge to tell me if my training program is on track, or if I am performing my best as a rider. The only judge that I really need - when it boils right down to it - is the judgement of the horse that's under me! He/she will tell me if I'm doing my job as a rider correctl, but his/her attitude and way of going. At the end of the day, all my work with horses centers around the love I have for them and the desire that I have to spend the greater part of my life with them and working with them. The horse will always show the flaws - or the correctness - of its rider. It will always speak volumes about the manner in which it is trained, handled, and managed.
Showing is nice, and I will show occasionally. I do it mostly because I view it as another training opportunity that is really hard to replicate anywhere else but a show ground and in a show-type environment. Still, it is not the driving force behind my work with my horses.
Also, as an adult I work a full time job as a public school teacher in addition to having the horses and farm. That consumes a lot of my time; my job starts daily at 7:15 A.M. and many days does not end until 4:30 - 5:00 P.M. or later (due to required after school events). The care of the barn and horses comes before and after that job. It cuts into my riding & training time; when I am working with the horses is nice not the have the added pressure of knowing that shows are coming up for which I have to be driven to prepare for. The beauty with clinic riding and lessoning with my coach is that I can go to either with where we really are in the training process, get feedback for that moment in time that is educational and corrective and farm more valuable to me that ribbons or the comments on the test sheet for a mere six to eight minutes in time.
I think the pressure of showing causes a lot of riders to push themselves and their horses unnecessarily hard. It can quickly take the "fun" away from what we do; it can quickly skew our focus of our training. It causes us to rush because we are always pushing to "get ready" for that next quickly approaching show. Rushing causes more harm that good. It causes us to set our own personal agendas and not slow down and listen to what the horse is telling us, and causes us not to meet his needs in training. Rushing the training can cause physical soundness issues in horses over time, it can cause mental issues that can wreak havock on good foundations that have [hopefully] been laid in the training. Many times, rushing horses can cause major setbacks, or can ruin horses otherwise productive careers. To me, rushing is never, ever worth it! (Sounds like a dressage rider doesn't it! Ha! Ha!)
Showing most definitely does not necesarily equate with seriousness about horsemanship! I think I would run far, far away from any barn/facility/trainer that requires or strongly "encourages" their clients to show.Showing is NOT the BE ALL END ALL of horses.
Last edited by Strictly Classical; Mar. 3, 2009 at 12:11 PM.
I used to show a fair bit and had a fair bit of success. I have shown once in the past 6 years- this saturday.
It depends on your circumstances, doesn't it? I've had a run of other responsibilities in the last 6 years that precluded being able to spend weekends away at shows.
But I welcomed the opportunity to check for a second opinion, on the work I have done with my horse in the meantime. For less than the price of a 45 minutes lesson with my regular clinician, I got an expert's opinion. I chose my judge and my venue carefully. There'slots of things that you can't tell just from riding your horse. Things feel right and aren't. or in my case, they feel horrible and aren't...
But the judge did say something that makes me think twice. In my area, upper level riders are relatively rare- at any schooling show, you might see only one or two tests above third level. She said it was important for those who can ride above that, to show it to the lower level riders as inspiration...
Plus, at that particular schooling show, only one other competitor dressed in full show attire other than me. I thought that was rather disrespectful. I mean its a SHOW, even just a little schoolling show. What the heck are people doing riding in dirty pullovers?
"The Threat of Internet Ignorance: ... we are witnessing the rise of an age of equestrian disinformation, one where a trusting public can graze on nonsense packaged to look like fact."-LRG-AF
I consider myself a very serious rider, and I haven't shown in 3 years. My horse and I are now both far beyond where we were, so it isn't a matter of progression. In my case, the decision was made for these reasons:
(1) When I started with this trainer, I realized that the "gaps" I knew we had were like chasms, and I saw no point in showing until I felt we had addressed at least some of the gaps.
(2) I had been on the board of our GMO, and I was very unhappy with where it was going.
(3) cost - I decided I was getting more out of clinics, and can't do both.
(4) work - October and June, the dates of our GMO's rated shows, coincide with grant deadlines for me. In addition, because I regularly sit on review panels for the same, necessitating a few days' trip to lovely Bethesda MD, running to panel immediately after a show, while trying to meet my own grant deadline, was simply getting nuts.
I will show again, but only schooling shows. Yes, the judging isn't the same, but it's generally one day (easy to fit in with work), not far away (I don't have a trailer, so this requires organization), they're cheaper, I don't have to braid, and I don't have to shell out fees for USDF and USEF. Ted loved showing, I had a blast, but at this point, the negative aspects of a serious comittment to showing outweigh the positives.
There are a lot of us who have showed, and have found that the task of organizing a busy schedule to fit in a show, then the exasperation of the occasionally awful stabling, warm up areas strongly reminicent of polo scrimmages, footing, sometimes wonderful, frequently awful (but improving, thanks to the USDF), just isn't fun anymore.
For the same or usually a whole lot less money, I can stay home and have a trusted clinician not only assess my progress, but give me direction for my next goal.
Does it affect attitutes in the barn, NO! Does it affect other attitudes. I think so. Less qualified people are out there showing, and teaching, and because they show they are considered to be more knowlegable.
A really wonderful teacher and rider once remarked that in the public eye, you are only as good as your best horse. And to that I could add, your best score-no matter the level.
Some riders change their horse, they change their saddle, they change their teacher; they never change themselves.
Remember the horse does all the work, we just sit there and look pretty.
I would say I'm a dedicated rider. I take one or two lessons a week, bring my horse in for "tune-up" training for a couple of months every year. I am constantly improving and ride consistently, regardless of the weather.
I am not interested in showing, but I am judged every time I swing onto my horse. By her. When I am focused, relaxed and carefully listening to her, she offers up an amazing ride. She's fully capable of telling me, "you suck" without uttering a word.
I showed as a child, and enjoyed it then. Now, as a trailerless rerider, it's too much coordination and stress to be recreation.
I definitely fall into this category. I consider myself a dedicated and rather "serious" rider. I ride a minimum of three times a week, take lessons and clinic regularly, until recently was leasing a schoolmaster in addition to riding my own horse, and am at a small barn with several FEI riders and horses, which are all a great help in advancing.
For one, showing isn't all that important to me because the thrill of riding for me comes with every good piece of work. A great transition, the horse being absolutely straight, having and even contact on both reins, the horse being engaged and wanting to do it right etc. . Now, in the future I would like to show a little bit because I think it is a great, independent test of your skills and training, but my own horse is just finally doing better after years of soundness issues and I just want to focus on getting him stronger and suppler, my schoolmaster has been semi retired to plop around happily on a loose rein, and the other horses I get to ride are all competed my their owners at higher levels.
Soooo, I just keep working at it and will show when I get the opportunity perhaps with my next horse!
"Reite dein Pferd vorwärts und richte es gerade.” Gustav Steinbrecht
I consider myself a serious rider. I ride 6 days a week, two or three horses a day. (It was 18 degrees when I went out to ride my boys before classes today). I take lessons when I can, though not nearly as often as I would like.
I, for one, love to show. I am not a professional, nor do I have the fanciest horse/pony out there, but I love taking to oppertunity to show off my horse to other horse people. I don't show nearly as often as I did prior to leaving for college, but I doubt that I will ever take a total hiatus from the show ring. It gives me an additional satisfaction for puting in all of those hours.
I know quite a few people who don't show due to circumstances or personal choice. They enjoy their horses just as much as I enjoy mine, and I know that they usually try as hard as those who shows. And they are just as much fun to gossip about the ins and outs of dressage with, (though I refuse to be dragged into a conversation about your kids, sorry).
I did show a little bit at one point in my life. Showing is lots of work and lots of expense for just ribbons. Then, my mare was injuried and cost more than $10,000 to save her life. After that, I had some major medical issues. Today, my horses are all getting too old to put them through the hassle of a show, and I am not sure that I could pick up the pace again either. However, I still have this thought that maybe someday I can afford to bring just one more along. If I ever do, there will be some very limited showing done again, but definitely not with the pressure to which I put myself before.
Interesting timing on this question. We've recently added this statement to our Riding Program outline:
There comes a time in a student’s riding progression when the student is ready for independent evaluation of her skills and accomplishments. While XXXXX Farm is not primarily oriented toward competition, we recognize the intrinsic value of this external assessment. In addition to riding before impartial judges, the experience of practicing for a competition, and the added focus and drive this goal presents often kick-starts or elevates a student’s motivation. Preparing for and taking a horse off site to a busy competition grounds presents the student with an entirely new set of challenges and responsibilities, and offers a unique opportunity for accomplishment and satisfaction.
We do not school and train specifically for “showing.” We will support and assist any student we feel is serious, disciplined, and prepared for a competition, but the decision to compete will rely solely with the student, and, if the student is a minor, the student’s parent or guardian will be involved in the decision. We do not consider showing our ultimate goal, and absolutely do not chase ribbons, but happily engage in healthy competition as an opportunity to garner feedback and a chance to continue learning.
We school, school, school and love every working minute of it, but only visit the competition arena when it's time to get fresh eyes and take on the added challenges.
Like many of you, I consider myself a serious rider. I generally ride 5 days a week. We did take this winter off and are just starting to get going again, but once the snow is off the arena, we'll be back to 5 days a week. I went through a period of several years where showing was a big deal and provided focus to my goals for the year. What I learned was that I don't enjoy showing. If I'm going to spend that much money/time/energy on something, I had better be having fun, because this is what I do when I'm not being paid to work. So, now I ride by myself and take lessons and learn whatever I can to fill in the gaps in my knowledge while my mare ages. I use the tests as training goals and I endeavor to be a better rider for my next horse. When I took some of the pressure off myself and my mare, we started having a lot more fun together. That's now my primary goal.
Personally, I only show at schooling shows because I do it purely for the 'fun' factor of meeting other riders who are trying to learn, improve, and have fun with their horses but aren't really foucsed on points, ribbons, or standings. I'm just not overly competitive. I go strictly to see if I am improving from one show to the next, and from my past doing rated hunter shows I realized that the pressure of competition can often bring out the worst in owners, riders, and trainers, with the horse paying the price.
Then again, I'm one who would rather spent 2 years at Intro level than rush my horse's training or use any type of shortcut. Probably explains why trainers eventually all get ticked of and tired of working with me. Its not that I don't want to move forward, I just have more patience than Job when it comes to training than the average person, and most trainers want clients who will move up faster because it attracts more clients for them. You don't often hear a trainer bragging "my student spent 2 years at Intro level, and her horse is more solid on basics than any horse I've ever trained."
North of the Frozen Tundra, but I can see it from my house.
Originally Posted by Ajierene
So....how are you doing with your horse? Are you two enjoying the winter?
Thank you for asking! Yes, we are really enjoying the winter! We are at a great barn, very close to my house, with great footing in the indoor. We are doing great! Riding 4 days/week, and very excited about showing our canter progress to our trainer, who has been wintering in warmer places. Canter half pass is coming along very well. As Lendon says, half halt, set it up, and then (just) ride it. Thank you for asking! How about you, Ajierene? How is the winter working with your training routine?
I consider myself a dedicated rider -- typically I ride 5-6 days a week, and some days I ride up to three horses. My own horse gets 4-6 rides a week. 1-2 of those are in lessons. (It all depends on my work schedule.)
I took her to some wee shows this summer because they were either across the road or at our barn itself, for the experience, just doing the english pleasure classes against the western-horses-dressed-in-hunt-tack and the hunter-jumpers. I wouldn't mind doing a training level test or something if I can find an easy and cheap way to do it, just so I can see how we measure up out of curiousity's sake, but meh. Not worried. The cost, the time, the effort of preparation... not worth it to me.
But the DH, he loves showing. Loves it. I don't know if it completely defines his horse experience, but it sure seems to be a much bigger part of it for him than it is for me.