Pet Connections

Dressage Education ~ Rider’s Be Wary

Kristin Hermann

I came to Pittsburgh in 1978 to train with one of the only dressage trainers in the United States. I found him in the back of a Dressage & Ct magazine and put together that he was just outside Pittsburgh, and so was my grandmother. I interviewed one Easter weekend, totally intimidated by his European accent and lambskin winter coat. Needless to say, I got the job! Who doesn’t need an enthusiastic young adult in their barn?

At that time, dressage was just surfacing in the United States. The United States Dressage Association, or USDF, was founded in 1973, and our first local GMO was founded, I believe, 1976. Since then, I have been educating myself. At the time, I attended as many clinics as I could, and back then, we got many older European men who taught the “classics." Nowadays, when you attend a clinic, it can be anybody! America is the melting pot of everything!

So many European trainers have infiltrated American Dressage you never know what you are going to get. There are basically three dressage styles worldwide: the German method which the USDF has adopted, the French style, and then the baroque or Spanish. So, when one goes to clinics, you have to decipher which method you will experience. Or you can read about that person’s bio.

As far as taking lessons, we have to be careful where we choose our training or teacher because nowadays everyone says they teach dressage. But do they show dressage, do they actually train dressage, do their students show, or do they just let the trainer show their horse? And do they actually know what dressage training is? There are so many variables when it comes to trainer and student.

I have found that most students choose a trainer because they click with that trainer's style or personality. And often, it is just logistics like travel time to the barn. But other than just putting your expectations into one trainer as your education guideline, all students of dressage should read the classics. You mean I can’t just see it on YouTube, I have to engage my mind by reading?

When I came to Pittsburgh to learn dressage, I was given a list of books to study. I still have those books all underlined and highlighted. Now maybe I am old fashioned, but reading is still a good experience. And all of these books were written by what we call the classicists.  Today there are so many books, how could anyone know where to begin, every trainer has a book!

Many aspiring riders flock to the teacher with the highest dressage scores or the one that competes the most. But that “teacher” could be borrowing a horse that someone else trained just for scores. The question is, are they truly invested in your education or their own success? You have to figure it out.

You can tell when a trainer has a passion for teaching and not just their own elevation. At least, I hope you can. Just because you can show, and win does not mean you can teach!  We have teachers, riders, and trainers; rarely do you find these three qualities in one person.

The American Riding Instructors Association published in their fall 2021 issue an article about Ten Tips to Teaching Students to Learn, I thought I would share it here.  And reading it inspired the thoughts above. Caveat Emptor….

Riding Instructor Magazine – Fall 2021:

Another good resource for those who really want education is from the USDF



December 14, 2023
December 14, 2023


December 14, 2023
December 12, 2023