You wear your classical dressage like a Prada bag

I’m a bit annoyed by the “OMG, it’s classical” crowd. I’m all for using whatever training works best for you and your horse, but when the label means more than the actual application then I start to question the driving force behind it. It starts to sound a bit more like “My handbag is Prada”, then an actual understanding of the training itself.

I know Jane goes to all the classical trainer clinics in the area. She only goes to classical dressage trainers. Jane is excited about going to a certain classical trainer’s clinic this year.  Jane explains how great this guy is because he’s, ahem, classical. I look up the trainer to find that he trained with a certain trainer who I took clinics from previously (lets call her Lisa). Lisa trained with Nuno Oliveria. You really can’t get more classical than that. However Jane refused to clinic with Lisa because Lisa did not advertise herself as “Classical”.  Jane’s newest classical trainer does label himself classical. Ergo, he’s classical while the lady that trained with the father of classical dressage is not classical.

Then another lady went on and on about how a certain classical trainer trained with Carl Hester. OMG. Carl Hester… I was impressed. But then I found out this meant the Classical Trainer rode in two clinics with Carl Hester. I didn’t know we counted clinics as “trained with”? Is that what we do now? Can I list every clinician I’ve ever ridden under for 45 minutes as “I trained with..”? Did my 45 minutes of riding actually imbue so much direct knowledge that I am suddenly a master of what that trainer had to teach? Somehow I doubt that.

Side Note: This also makes me question all the other “trained with” claims that were made by riders or trainers. Did you really train weekly/monthly with that person, or are you saying you rode for less than an hour with that person once or twice in your lifetime? It’s not really the same, is it?

Anyway, there was a post about classical dressage on a facebook group I’m in. I asked which theories of classical dressage differed significantly from competitive dressage. Most of the replies were poorly spelled insults that didn’t make much sense. I did get one good response, but in essence it said that if you rode well then you were a classical rider and if you rode poorly then you were a competitive rider. It’s nice to know that every rider that claims he/she is classical is a thousand times the rider a competitive rider is. However, since classical riders don’t compete, and never share video of their riding, then all claims of superb horsemanship by them must be taken at face value.  Which makes us competitive riders idiots.

You know why I love Because trainers can’t claim to be expert FEI level trainers without proof anymore. It’s our one defense against the Nick Peronace‘s of the world. But with many classical riders/trainers they’ve hidden their riding so completely that it is impossible to verify or refute their claim that they are excellent riders/trainers.

There are just as many bad apples under the umbrella of Classical Dressage as there are in Competitive Dressage, but at least in competitive dressage they shine a big bright light on that crap for all to see.

I think from now on I’ll give the die hard classical dressage folks a wide berth. They seem to be treading the path of the Parellisits.

10 thoughts on “You wear your classical dressage like a Prada bag

  1. What the heck? Classical riders don’t compete??? I mean, that unfortunately may becoming true, but more classical riders should compete… and the judges should start rewarding it. From my limited experience in USEA (not quite the same I understand), dressage judges have also begun to reward backwards riding- which I would consider the current “trend” in “competitive dressage.” But just because it’s a trend doesn’t mean it should be the standard, nor does it mean that “classical” dressage training does not exist. This sort of reminds me of when “peanut-rolling” became SO rewarded in AQHA that people were doing some pretty crazy things to get that desired effect- which was really not healthy for the horse (same thing with rulkur). It didn’t stop until AQHA started implementing rules and educating judges and putting time and effort into rewarding a more “classical” quarter horse frame. (While peanut-rolling is still preferred, it’s more a level top-line now-which is better-and less the NOSE ON THE GROUND that was being rewarded so much back then.) I’d say the same needs to start happening in dressage before competitive dressage can get back to classical roots.

    That being said… love your rant, and the rant about “labels.” While I’m all about classical foundations, it shouldn’t be used just like a label!!


    • It’s the die hard classical riders who don’t compete. They feel it directly contradicts the concepts of classical dressage.

      I was really happy to see that it seems the more correct training is starting to be rewarded again. At least that was my impression when watching a few of the higher rated shows.


        • Well, from forums, blogs, and speaking with die hard classics, the main points I heard were that classical riders felt the judges can’t tell what a correct horse looks like and therefore won’t score them well (i.e. curled necks and croup high are norm so anything different will be scored less), that classically trained horses do not have the flashy gaits to compete against todays warmbloods, and that competion creates timelines on training that could be detrimental to the welfare of the horse (i.e. rushing training in order to be ready for a show).

          ^ that has to be the worst sentence structure ever. I need a grammar refresher course. Haha


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