Saturday, June 7, 2014


recently I read an article that Eventing A Gogo shared on Facebook about the demise of the "Super Stallion, Totilas" and it got me thinking...

I have never actually thought that Totilas was super star-more like a super fake. Gal, like may Europeans trained him with rollkur and fancy front leg movement which adds that "spark and flourish" the judges sadly like to see these days. They reward gimmicky training for proper training and its very apparent in the breakdown and eventual end of Totilas's super career. I always found it rather sad that his neck was so cranked in that he could barely breathe and his front end movement was so exaggerated that he looked like a walking horse, while his back was flat and his hind end trailed out. I will never understand how the judges always scored him so high. Perhaps they were blinded by his front end whipping around like something out of a big lick show.

I started to notice it more after that article (I wish I could find it, very good read) the horrible epidemic of incorrect training that this world seems to be revolving around, especially prevalent on social media. DO NOT get me started on the teenagers giving "advice" to each other on Instagram (so comical, really, I don't know why I even troll there anymore) on how to train their dressage and event horses. Twitter is no better and there is even talk of "head-sets" on my beloved OTTB Connect page on Facebook.


A "headset" is a term in the HUNTER WAND WESTERN WORLD. It might be "acceptable" to see the hunter and pleasure queens yank yank yanking their horses heads down with pelhams and harsh hands but that is NOT what dressage is about (DISCLAIMER: I showed on the Hunter circuit for 7 years-I HAVE SEEN this first hand. Sure, there are soft, kind, correct hunter riders, but they are few and far between. Do not try to argue this. Its ridiculous and thats why I gave up hunters). If you want to get super picky and technical, I GUESS you could call when a horse is on the bit and soft and engaging their whole body and brain to the rider and where they carry their head a "headset", but no, not really.

A horse reaches the point in training when they accept the bit and have the appearance of a bent neck ("headset) at the POLL. The key term being "reaches". It takes TIME to train a horse to accept the bit and it not reached in a few weeks. In fact, dressage means TRAINING. It is a continuous, lifelong process. It takes a soft hand correctly training from the inside leg to a connecting but giving outside rein, with the supporting inside rein and outside leg to ask the horse to come through the bridle. ASK. Not force.

Too often do I see the dressage and eventers yank yanking their horses into a false frame  and getting rewarded for it in the ring! WHERE IS THE TRAINING? WHY ARE THE JUDGES DISREGARDING PROPER ENGAGEMENT? WHY ARE HORSES PLACING SO HIGH WITH FLAT BACKS AND TRAILING ENDS?

Am I the only one frustrated here?

Its scary, coming from the event world, to hop on a horse trained in western or hunt seat and feel them traipse along the most crooked and flat. Like, I can't even.

I went and tried out a horse the other day for my good friend and HOO BOY is she a western  horse. Crooked as can be and so downhill I wanted to slap skis on and take a ride.

Oh hay downhill
This was me and her fighting for about ten minutes before I realized she has no idea what I'm asking her (western trained, WUT ARE SNAFFLE BIT) and I just dropped contact and sat like my old hunter days.

She's actually a really nice mare. Very quiet and willing, just oh my god crooked and maj upside down.

He's buying her and is putting her in training with me to re-learn how to carry herself and accept contact.

I am just happy I'll have another project and that I can perhaps un-do all the yank yank training done on her.

So grateful for my dressage background. I will never regret switching from hunters to eventing. While there is bad in every sport I truly believe eventers (most of them. THOSE HUNTER QUEENS ARE INVADING) have their heads screwed on right and take the time to condition and train their horses properly. And they're just plain nice.

Have a good ride! ;)


  1. I almost wrote a post the other day about the exact same thing (I read the same article) big thought when you look at all these Grand Prix horses is "what ever happened to the POLL being the highest point???"

  2. Amen. Amen. Amen. It reminds me of that story The Emperor's New Clothes.

    You might like this article originally published in Dressage and CT in 1992 - Face Behind the Vertical - A modern deviation from the classical ideal - written by Erik Herbermann. Linked in series on my sidebar - here's the first one.

    Thanks for writing this and good luck with your project! :D

  3. BBT Gif!! Win!!!

    Sorry, got distracted. Actually you're not wrong about the big lick comment... GP competitive dressage is getting ridiculous! :( I saw the article too by the way.

    That mare is really pretty. I hope you'll update us on her progress. :D

  4. You mean it's not correct?? I thought the head just had to be down!

    Like blog posts I read that say "trainer was helping me get the horses head down"...uhh what?

    Someone asked my friend whose horse is for sale "Does she go in a frame?" Like it's some sort of trick. I said..."Do you know how to ride into the contact and engage a horse? That is the real question".

    Amen sista

  5. agree (mostly).

    Though I did see an article in response to the totilas thing (I'll go hunt for it) that was talking about how we've ended up with horses who's conformation belies the whole front-leg-parallel-to-the-hind-leg thing which allows "larger" front end movement without being incorrect. Not saying that totally explains what we've seen with totilas, but I do think it's a fair point - and explains what you seeing rip roaring around the auctions....(and is obviously what is being bred for right now..)

    Also, I had to giggle at your Hunter comment, as a newly minted cross over into that world (still confused by it most days) I'd have to say that more often than not I see inverted, hollow horses traipsing around with their butts behind them rather than anything with a cranked in low "headset". Even with the pros!
    So many cute horses just lollygagging around with no engagement and their heads in the rafters, and they tend to pin well so long as they are dead quiet and make the strides.

    Makes me grateful I work with someone who uses lots of flatwork to educate both her horses and her riders on a correct, balanced ride!

  6. 100% agree with you regarding Totilas...