Sylvia Loch
Eden Hall
Fax: ++44(0)1890-830667

Classical Dressage - An Easier Way For Your Horses

Whatever anyone tells you there are no easy answers in riding. It's much the same in engineering and design. Everyone knows that the principles behind erecting a tall building are relatively easy. It must have good foundations, be built of the correct materials and above all remain vertical (no leaning Towers of Pisa!) To build such a structure however requires real expertise; the principles may be simple and logical, but to put into practice requires several years patient study at architecture school.

So, how can one hope, nowadays, to apply such scholarship to riding? Sadly, the days of the classical riding academy, where the science and art, theory and practice of correct horsemanship were taught and developed over many years, are long since vanished. With the demise of combat on horseback, the requirement for a uniform program of instruction at national level has disappeared. There was a time when a cavalry horse schooled in France, England, the USA, Denmark, Holland, South Africa, Germany, Spain, Hungary would answer to exactly the same aids, the same (classical) seat.

Improving the riders' tone and feel for the correct position is an essential part of the first two years' training at the Spanish Riding School, Vienna.

Now styles are diverse, different methods and seats are employed, while the conventional and correct aids for the horse are often not even addressed, let alone understood.

Today quick-fix methods and gadgets and contraptions that make horses do this and that abound. In addition there are differing schools of thought as to the physical exercises, which will develop the horse into the desired mould, something akin to a sports machine. Whilst placing immeasurable strain on joints, muscles and ligaments by providing insufficient time for them to adapt and grow, a rigid insistence on fixing the horse's outline from an early age, can play havoc with the horse's back and central nervous system.

Too often force-feeding the work results in quantities of confused, damaged and stressed horses, those that become hysterical and dangerous, being quickly sidelined. It's the few brave survivors, who by their stoicism do the greatest damage to their fellows, for it is they who unwittingly have to fly the flag for the latest fad and fashion. "You see my trainer's method really works!" boasts the winning owner, blithely ignoring those teeth as they gnash behind closed stable doors.


Classical Dressage - The Only Way For Your Horse

From a teaching perspective, only the Spanish Riding School of Vienna in Austria has consistently maintained the status quo. Here, those proven classical guidelines developed over so many centuries, handed down by master horseman to master horseman, have remained intact. In short, no one kids you about the commitment. Here, the work is laid down in precise detail and meticulous order, paced always around the horse and never for the ambitions of the rider. The role of the Chief Riders is to guard and guide the work ethic, making sure its steady and natural progression towards the ultimate goal is never compromised.

Happily there is also now a revival of the Classical Art of Dressage at national level in Portugal and Spain, and the French at Saumur and Swedish at Stromsholm have largely maintained similar traditions. There are also many committed teachers throughout the rest of Europe, North and South America, and Australasia who have studied at these institutions, or at least worked under maestros who have themselves come from such a background. For much as theory is important, it is practice which makes perfect and it is for this reason I have to warn against those whose experience is more armchair than on horseback and from the real world of Classical Dressage.
Abuse Comes In Many Forms.
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