Dressage German based v French based training

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Up until a few weeks ago I had no idea there were 2 ways of basic dressage training. I now understand that the most common way is to be taught the German based way. However, following a recent trip to Portugal, my daughter was lucky enough to grab a few lessons with an extremely talented lady, who teaches the French way, and the differences were quite mind blowing, some being the opposite to what my daughter has been taught over the last 5 years. Now firstly I have to say her UK coach is amazing, taking her up through the ranks with some great coaching. However, my daughters pony suffers constantly with a tight back, and being a mare does not always want to do as asked - when asked (all been there yes?). After the two sessions on horses trained the French way she tried a few of the techniques at home and was amazed at how her Pony reacted in a better way. The main part was the fact that everything is slowed right down, rising less, and communicating everything from her core not the leg or the reigns. One of her main problems before has always been balance, the more forward the more unbalanced, however with the French way by slowing it down the balance was beautiful . So collection and softness was her next projects to work on at home.
Here is my issue.
Does she sacrifice balance for forwardness? In the eyes of a dressage judge what would they rather see? A slower more balanced routine or a forward going pony but a little less balanced.??? The problem with changing to this way means she will loose out on some pace?

Thanks for reading.
 

be positive

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My view is that while they need to be going forward if the forwardness is causing the horse to rush out of it's natural rhythm, to be unbalanced and therefore tense everything must be slowed down if it is ever going to progress, it has nothing to do with me following any system and everything to do with logic, a tense horse cannot work to it's full potential so slowing down, as long as it is still thinking forward, makes perfect sense to me, once they are working more confidently they will then start to show more power through the paces and should in theory be moving far better than if they continue to be pushed out of balance.

The dressage marks may change but you need to look at the end game and most judges want to see softness, a supple willing horse that is working confidently even if it is less flashy at first glance.
 

JustMe22

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I think the key is that the horse needs to be in front of the leg. You can go "slowly" as long as you have the feeling that if you were to add leg and ask for more impulsion, you'd get the reaction easily.

And of course, you want the horse forward and responsive - but not so forward that the horse is running on to the forehand and losing balance. Better off dialling it back a fraction and going slower. My instructor always says that it's about making the hind end quick but not lurching forward. Springy, not rushing :) but you can't create that by forcing the horse out of its rhythm by going too forward
 

Orangehorse

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Should I have a new horse to school I would go "the French way." The end result is the same, but getting there is different. The trouble for most people is finding a local instructor.
 

DabDab

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Go with whatever approach your daughter feels allows her to ride the most effectively. Yes you might get comments from the judge about forwardness, but with the other approach you may well get comments about suppleness and flow. So it's swings and roundabouts really.

But I would say that she is setting herself up for confusion and frustration if she's trying to ride and school in a fundamentally different way to her trainer's approach.
 
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I was once guilty of pushing a horse out of it's rhythm to have a 'forward' action. Did not look pretty, did not mark well! A friend and good rider gave me a telling off and we got it sorted! I think that its easy to mistake impulsion and forwardness for speed (as I did riding a laid back cob). As long as your daughter's horse has impulsion and is travelling forwards and in front of the leg then stick with the French method of she's enjoying it. It certainly shouldn't mark you down (though that doesn't mean it won't!).
 
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Thank you everyone for taking the time to reply with your ideas and thoughts.
The point of confusion obviously did cross our minds and one we are taking very seriously, and the out come of the discussions is we stay as we are with the current methods at least till the end of the season so as not to get muddled. Great points about impulsion and in front of the leg, as these comments are made when her balance is poor and vice versa, so we must strive for a gentler but still forward going movement. The issue she has is she rides a Pony, and is always up against Horses, nearly always being the only Pony in the class, and her Pony is not blessed with the longest of legs bless her so everything that requires the look of long forwardness is a touch hard - but she kills them on the 10m circles :)
I must say though it was a real eyeopener !
 

PapaverFollis

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We have been rather strictly "French school" with The Beast. It is working amazingly well for us. It's my husband who is the real scholar I suppose (enthusiast anyway) and The Beast is really his horse so I do as he asks (I would have probably ridden more forward to start, we spent months in walk and I was in a panic that we'd never get out of walk :lol: ). I think German school is also valid as it happens I just think it is done more so is more often done badly (pushing horse out of rhythm etc then hauling it in) and I'm guilty of that in the past for sure. Approaching things in a French school way has been a revelation for me, but has not been without it's frustrations...but consistently more and more of the work she's producing is just such a joy to sit on. We are very much amateurs and just feeling our way along but I feel happy in this groove. We don't have much opportunity for competitive dressage though and even if we did it isn't a priority. I suspect we'd be told off for not being forward enough currently. But I have faith that a bigger trot will develop because it's already developed from a very small jog to a much more normal trot. But she's supple! And balanced! And so,so responsive. And her free walk is always stretched and swinging.

Same end results though. Just different paths really.
 

tristar

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think french means you can go further and reach a high level, and german means you could wreck it at the start, totilas`s last performance shocked me to my core, apart from the fact he was lame.

german looks to me over demanding, before the horse is ready to convert the energy generated into the ideal posture.

french is all about posture, attaining the relaxed suppleness to arrive at collection naturally

your horse has already shown you you are on the right track, i am sure many a horse must heave sigh of relief when ridden this way, who cares what dressage comp judges think, horses tell you when its right.
 

milliepops

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Well lets not knock the Germans too much for Totilas eh? The rider who originally trained him is notorious for ruining horses. .
a valid point here though in a funny way Totilas is kind of relevant to the topic, started as he was in a "dutch" way (for want of a better word), the difficulty really seemed to stem from making the change from that system to the german one.
If you totally change the way you ride and train a horse, you have to expect some fallout. How dramatic that is, will vary!
 

tristar

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the question for me is why a lot of horses struggle with german based school of riding, yet all horse i have ridden seem to understand french.

the school of dominance or the `school of lightness`

i think totilas was the perfect example of a horse really getting pixxed off with the hamfisted rider in his last performance, his body language was a lesson i shall never forget.
 

Cortez

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The so-called French school is actually the original way of training horses (dressage is a French word, which means "training"), the German way is much later and based on the campaign method. The purest dressage, in my opinion is still found in Spain and Portugal. I know which style I prefer (and I have done both to FEI level). If I was still interested in competing I'd have to do a bit of "German" to gain top marks, but for my own conscience, pleasure, interest and sensibilities I am happy to ride Alta Escuela and Doma Vaquera, or try my very best at least.

In the wise words of one of my riding masters in Spain: "doma es doma" or "training is training", which means good training works, no matter what you call it, and the principles are the same.
 
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shortstuff99

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i think totilas was the perfect example of a horse really getting pixxed off with the hamfisted rider in his last performance, his body language was a lesson i shall never forget.

I'm not sure why you keep bringing up totilas? He wasn't trained the French way? He was originally trained using Rolkur? Which in itself is a whole different debate. And as mentioned above it highlights how horses can get confused from changing systems but lets not pretend he was ever an example of good or correct training.
 

SEL

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Interesting post. I grew up in Germany (military family) so its fair to say that style was ingrained early on. Definitely not working with my current horse and all her issues, so this has me thinking now.
 

Wheels

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I am trying my best to follow Philippe Karl's school at the moment. I watch as many of his UK clinics as I can get to and i pick up so much just watching and then going home to try things out. Recently I started working with one of his licensed teachers, my second clinic with her is this weekend and I can't wait.

PKs school is a systematic approach with different resolutions for horses with different conformation, attitudes and abilities using lunging, in hand and ridden work. I love the system because it can take ordinary horses and train them to do extraordinary things.

There are many classical riders that I admire but this system is one that I feel most at home with and is the most accessible for me.
 

milliepops

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*tongue firmly in cheek*
Yesterday the germans won team gold, whereas the french didn't send a team to WEG :rolleyes:

I think as cortez indicated, competitive dressage does generally seem to look a lot like the german school.
 

Wheels

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What is the difference between German and French dressage?
This is a very simplistic take on it from my own rather limited experience but I have found a few differences such as;

The French school follows a principle of legs without hands and hands without legs. So no driving the horse from leg to hand and keeping a separation between the aids. Legs are used for forward and are not active (or at least not as active) in turning and bending.

Half halts are not used in the same way or for the same things

You apply an aid and as soon as you get a response the aid ceases

French school uses the body, weight and seat aids in a different way

Contact *tends* to be lighter

In the main walk is the training pace and once done well in walk it is perfected in trot and tested in canter

More attention is paid to overall balance

French school strives for correct paces and biomechanics

Longitudinal flexion comes after lateral flexion

BTV is not accepted, of course a horse may lose balance and drop BTV but it should be corrected immediately.

I'm sure some of these things also happen in the German school as well but horses still seem to get marked well in dressage comps even if their paces are not regular and they are btv
 
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ycbm

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After four lessons which started well, I've realised that my trainer is not as flexible as I had hoped with a horse who is not a warmblood, and is imposing a German method on a horse who can't take it. I lost track of the number of times last week that I was told to drop my hands, when I know for a fact that we would have got the passagey trot that she was so pleased with at the end in half the time if I had been allowed to raise my hands to free his shoulders, as Philippe Karl teaches and as Fuego's rider does consistently in his tests. I know it because I get it at home and have watched a friend on him get it too.

German methods, as far as I can see, don't work so consistently well with horses which are not big bouncing warmbloods.

I'm thinking of going instead to a trainer who competes Lusitanos.

Or can anyone recommend me someone collabarative, open minded, and fun who wants lightness in the hand in the area where Cheshire/Staffs/Derbyshire meet?
 
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I looked at videos of both French and German dressage. It looks very different. Is the French type of dressage less handsy? (I saw a loop in the riders' reins)

Do the French type of dressage riders prevent impulsion from going out the front end just by using their seat. (As opposed to seat and hands)?
 
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Wheels

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After four lessons which started well, I've realised that my trainer is not as flexible as I had hoped with a horse who is not a warmblood, and is imposing a German method on a horse who can't take it. I lost track of the number of times last week that I was told to drop my hands, when I know for a fact that we would have got the passagey trot that she was so pleased with at the end in half the time if I had been allowed to raise my hands to free his shoulders, as Philippe Karl teaches and as Fuego's rider does consistently in his tests. I know it because I get it at home and have watched a friend on him get it too.

German methods, as far as I can see, don't work so consistently well with horses which are not big bouncing warmbloods.

I'm thinking of going instead to a trainer who competes Lusitanos.

Or can anyone recommend me someone collabarative, open minded, and fun who wants lightness in the hand in the area where Cheshire/Staffs/Derbyshire meet?
Is Knutsford too far?

Or you have facilities at home right if someone came to you?

Shame you didn't get on with new instructor, I've tried a few grand prix riders and with all of them my horse ended up so heavy in the hand it was horrible
 

Wheels

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I looked at videos of both French and German dressage. It looks very different. Is the French type of dressage less handsy? (I saw a loop in the riders' reins)

Do the French type of dressage riders prevent impulsion from going out the front end just by using their seat. (As opposed to seat and hands)?
Shifting weight and balance is an important part yes, that can be done in a number of ways
 

milliepops

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I looked at videos of both French and German dressage. It looks very different. Is the French type of dressage less handsy? (I saw a loop in the riders' reins)

Do the French type of dressage riders prevent impulsion from going out the front end just by using their seat. (As opposed to seat and hands)?
I think it's easy to oversimplify things a bit, are you watching WEG? the german riders on the team are for the most part very subtle riders compared to others (mentioning no names, it's easy enough to see what is harmonious and what is not), I don't think you can produce a fluent picture if you're relying on your hands to keep the horse on your seat. I guess it all boils down to whether you want to pursue dressage for its own sake or for competition because even at prelim level if you present a horse to a judge not drawing into the contact with loops in the reins, that is not correct according to the definitions of acceptance of the contact IMO ;) regardless of how light on the forehand it is :)

I also don't think it's necessary to look for a "school" when seeking out a good trainer, someone who gets your horse and can help to train it can be following any or no school :) it's about getting a good general fit, I think, rather than abstractly picking one way or the other. JMHO, I have weirdo horses and I know when we're onto a good thing, and I also know the people I would pay money NOT to train with :p (one of my most horrible sets of lessons was with a well respected member of one of the Iberian schools so I guess that turned me off things with a label a bit!)
 
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PapaverFollis

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We use the seat to slow the horse and contain the impulsion. Hands are there to back it up if needed but mostly hand are very light and still and just asking for the jaw to soften and flex with tiny finger wiggles. When she's worked in right and warmed up The Beast does everything from the seat with hardly any hand or leg aides. The feeling down the reins when it's right is like a whispered conversation. Honestly I find it all a bit surreal when she's really on the money.
 

milliepops

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see, PF, I think you could say the same if you watched say Carl or Charlotte, there's little in the way of visible aids when the horse is really tuned in, small adjustments and a very good seat. I think that's the mark of good riding that most of us would aspire to :eek:
 

paddi22

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i have a danish trainer who used the german method, and my horse is very light in the contact when he's working through his back. But we did work through a lot of stages to get there, but i would never consider myself having a driving contact or him being very strong in the contact. i only have power in one arm so i have to ride through my seat and legs, but i never found any conflict with that and the german method i was taught.

I love watching french style dressage but there are no trainers near me. I do think you see a lot of people 'trying' french dressage with a horse who isn't working through their back or using their hind enough. I think a lot of people starting that style often assume a light contact is correct, whereas when you look at the horse it isn't working properly.

I would love to really understand and learn the french style. I know my way of riding now is very strong in the seat and the leg.
 

ycbm

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see, PF, I think you could say the same if you watched say Carl or Charlotte, there's little in the way of visible aids when the horse is really tuned in, small adjustments and a very good seat. I think that's the mark of good riding that most of us would aspire to :eek:
If you watch closely, imo, Charlotte frequently has fists of iron, and has to completely brace herself in the saddle to hold the contact and not be pulled forwards by the horse.
 
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I haven't been watching weg, I must have a look tomorrow.
What makes me curious is some of the really nice western equitation riders I've seen video of. They dont have much in the way of rein contact and the saddles are so bulky, they must do everything with weight aids.
Are these horses taking the contact and light in front or behind the contact, as in avoiding bit contact?
 
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milliepops

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If you watch closely, imo, Charlotte frequently has fists of iron, and has to completely brace herself in the saddle to hold the contact and not be pulled forwards by the horse.
I don't have an axe to grind on either side, but I think you have to look at both ends of the reins to assess the quality of the contact.
You don't often see tense or open mouths against her hand. I don't have a problem with a secure contact, I would have a problem with the absence of one or a tooth-grinding gobbing mouth :) I think few riders are as secure in their core as Charlotte and that can make her look forced sometimes by comparison.
 
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