The Way We Think About Dressage Is Depressing

I know that there are two sides to every story and whilst I have very clear, definitive views of my own, I am able to empathise with other viewpoints and put myself in other people’s shoes.  I will always listen to a reasoned arguments.

DressageSo when it comes to the classical versus competition dressage debate I try to reserve judgement, I really do, although I have to confess to being a little impatient on the matter with a sigh and a roll of the eyes usually overtaking my demeanour involuntarily.

It took all of five minutes for me to catch sight of my first derogatory facebook post on the truly remarkable footage of our magnificent Team GB’s performance at the Rio Olympics.

You see there are those that liken Sir Carl’s (oh, yes count me in on that campaign) training methods to classical principles favourably.

“That is not classical, what are you seeing that is classical?” asked the keyboard warrior together with a full-on lecture about how competition dressage horses can never be trained classically.  On these occasions, if my interest is sufficiently piqued, I will click through to have a little look at the profile of the person in order to assess the likelihood that they might have some credentials to back up their argument.  Sadly and certainly, unsurprisingly on this occasion this post came from someone who appears to be in a league of their own when it comes to equestrianism – ’nuff said.


It bought to mind a so called ‘classical trainer’ I encountered a couple of years ago who had their client balancing a whip on her index finger for 10 minutes and admonished her much confused client for looking at the horse with a negative vibe!  I digress, because the reason I think that the way we think about dressage is so depressing came from a post I saw where someone was berating a fellow equestrian for pointing out that something wasn’t quite right about a combination riding at the Olympics.  “They are at the Olympics for goodness sake, I’d like to see you get there”.

Sadly, I recognised myself in the haranguing equestrian. I am in the habit of judging people’s opinions based on their ability to actually execute some level of dressage and am struggling to waver from this belief.  I still think that this is a reasonable thing.

Thankfully, we are fortunate enough to live in a democracy.  Hallelujah to that!

I am a fan of and we are all entitled to free speech.  Everyone has a right to express their opinion, or indeed ask a question … “what are you seeing that is classical?”  Shouldn’t matter a jot if they have achieved success themselves or not.  However, there is a fine line between free speech and hate speech.  I have seen the mark overstepped in social media, where the concept of the keyboard warrior (never write anything you wouldn’t say to someone’s face or discuss with them) overtakes and healthy debate turns into something which causes hurt or pain.  This can never be acceptable or hide behind the rights of a democratic people.

“Some people’s idea of free speech is that they are free to say what they like, but if anyone says anything back, that is an outrage” – Winston Churchill

“If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear” – George Orwell

“I do not agree with what you say but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it” – Voltaire

My personal favourite …

“I love free speech, I also love ignore, mute, block and unfriend” – Anonymous

In the sport of dressage we are aiming for perfection.  A row of 10’s for harmony between rider and horse which is virtually impossible, right?

Charlotte Dujardin riding Valegro – Grand Prix Freestyle Rio 2016Cp6zG21WYAAog94


Negative critique is the bedrock of good Dressage Training

Without it you cannot get out of your comfort zone and motivate yourself sufficiently to achieve your goals.  Fact is, the equestrian who points out that a combination doesn’t quite have things right is absolutely correct, that is if that combination isn’t our golden duo!

Social media is wonderful, it connects us all and as a result we have all become much more educated.  There is nothing you can’t find on the information highway; we have access to all sorts of people we may not ordinarily to choose to spend time with.  We are often given opinions which ordinarily we would not seek.  Diversity in terms of training methods and opinions abound.

So many of us have experienced the expertise we do not need from the armchair trainer at the yard.  This phenomenon has intensified in social media and yes, the way we think about dressage is depressing, but only because of those who are way too keen to jump in with their self-important diatribe.  It does not have to be this way.

Next time a keyboard warrior gets you riled try to remember their right to free speech (and don’t forget yours) and that no one is achieving perfection in our sport; even team Hester who demonstrate that competition horses can be trained on classical lines, lost points.  Improvement should be sought and can be found in everything.  Negative critique can, and often is, useful.Focus  Just be kind in its delivery.  Makes it all a little less depressing.

Patricia – The Dressage Tipster

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