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

Classical Dressage - Abuse Comes In Many Forms

The word abuse in equestrian circles immediately sums up visions of bleeding sides raked by vicious spurs, bruised and damaged mouths and chins from overuse of bit or curb, and horses which fly to the back of the box when their cruel owner approaches.

Unfortunately, abuse can be much more subtle. It can even result from so-called classical methods - clearly illustrating how words can be misused. Unfortunately, there is no copyright on the word classical, so anyone can use it! I have seen people who call themselves classical riding a horse in piaffe or passage for over 20 minutes without a break and thinking themselves marvellous - this is abuse! Equally, I have seen riders who would never call themselves classical but claim to be humane, scraping their horse's sides with the spur in every stride or winching their flash noseband so tight, it indents the sensitive skin of the nose. Both scenarios constitute abuse!

Abuse is the sight of a small horse being ridden by a very heavy rider. Abuse is a horse being worked deep for more than l0 minutes at a time. Abuse is being asked to jump, turn or ride circles in a badly fitting saddle. Abuse is a badly balanced rider expecting balance from her horse! The instances of abuse are all around us even although the perpetrators of these crimes against the horse may remain blissfully unaware.


Natural Horsemanship - Natural Can Be Most Unnatural

One of the latest fads which comes under the guise of natural horsemanship shows us just how unnatural some of this work can be. We see horses being encouraged to trail wearily about on the forehand with disconnected backs and hind legs left behind whilst everyone applauds the kindness being done to it. Riding without a bridle can indeed be a joy to behold when done by an expert but when amateurs are let loose in this way, it can cause enormous discomfort and back pain to the horse. After all the rein is a vital ingredient in the aiding process; it is as important as the gear box in the car and is our means of harnessing energy so that the horse can understand how to balance and support our weight. For most, it is only by means of the leg, seat and hand, that the unnatural activity of placing a large body on the horse's back may be counterbalanced and rendered bearable, even - hopefully, to become a pleasure...


Beware Of False Prophets

Unfortunately, the very medium through which this text comes to you has made it too easy for quite uninformed people to jump on the classical bandwagon. There are those Internet gurus who have read up their stuff, taken whole sections of ideas and words from other people's work, and who have turned themselves into instant experts without ever having schooled a horse from start - let alone to finish!

After a long day of judging Spanish horses in Australia recently, I found myself next to an Internet groupie at dinner only to be asked why I wasn't famous enough to be "On the net"? Since I have been all the way round the world and back on several occasions and all by invitation - judging, teaching and lecturing to hundreds of people over the past decade or so - I thought this was quite rich! Politely I replied I had been too busy in the real world of horses to find the time, but I took her point. It might have been churlish, but I'd have been less than human if I hadn't pointed out that the trouble with the net has always been that anyone can produce a website! You can download about horses all day and every day, but that does not mean you have ever sat on one! But at the end of the day, it is the horses we work with that provides our yardstick and that is why I don't think I would want to write another word without a horse at my elbow. You have to live and breathe your art to walk the walk as well as talk the talk.

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Fax: ++44(0)1890-830667

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