Wednesday 26 September 2018

Rainy Day Reading - Dressage Edition

I unearthed not one, but two boxes of riding related books while I was in the basement looking for my extra bottle of saddle soap. I thought they were in storage, so thanks, previous me, for putting those boxes in the basement instead!

With Sophie in mind I did a quick re-read of one of my favorites - Basic Training of The Young Horse with Ingrid and Reiner Klimke. I've reviewed it before, I still love it. If you've got a young horse, you might find it useful. Lots of great common sense insights and lots of tips to help you from handling a foal all the way to riding at their first show.

Next up, one I don't remember reading previously: Elements of Dressage by Kurd Albrecht Van Ziegner. This book ties in really nicely with the Klimke books, and is equally jam packed with useful tidbits.

The book is organized with an introduction, and a description of his training process, which differs a little from the training pyramid you usually see used as an example. There is a chapter dedicated to each of the 10 elements of his training tree:

Similar to the standard pyramid you're probably seen before, but with the order a little different and some of the components broken down into 2 distinct elements to emphasize them more. 

The ten elements make the base or trunk of the tree, and all horses, regardless of discipline, should have a good base. The crown of the tree is the special, discipline specific training.


- Start under saddle around 4, first two years under lunge and saddle are basic training. Which, yes, isn't surprising. But, just like the Klimke books, the author goes on to say he'd expect the horse to be going Second level, and confident over all sorts of jumps and terrain (ditches, water), hacking on the trails and in traffic. This is a horse with basic training and at this point should be enjoyable to ride. I'm pretty sure the European definition of basic training differs hugely from what we expect locally :)

- Basic training is basic training...It's not new school, old school, there are no shortcuts. The basics haven't changed since Xenophon.

"Keep your horse happy. Happy horses don't get tense."

"Take your time. Relaxation does not equal fatigue."

-Advocates caveletti and free jumping to help horses learn to use their bodies (emphasis on using their backs to promote relaxation, regularity of gaits, and strength)

-Short rides, forward seat for the first few months. Again, looking to build strong, correct back muscles and relaxation before sitting in classical position.

-Purity of rhythm depends a great deal on riders seat, aids, feel. Riders who cannot follow or feel the motion or deviation in rhythm or tempo best spend time improving their seat on a well trained horse.

-People who are not musical may not hear the difference in footfalls, but they should see it/feel it. Canter beat sounds like "It is fun"

-A lot of discussion throughout the book about 'leg movers' vs 'back movers'. Makes a point quite often that back movers are the correctly trained ones, leg movers should be penalized and have been trained incorrectly.

-Talks a lot about Prix St James test, proposed to be first part of a PSG test (essentially, you would ride them both back to back and get one score.) "Here, the goal is to show that no "tricks" lead to FEI, only solid basic training, whose fundamental elements of submission, throughness and impulsion are highly valued."

Overall, this was an interesting book and well worth reading. I'm glad I picked it up!


  1. Replies
    1. I liked it too, the pyramid idea makes it seem like the things closer to the top are less important, the tree analogy makes them part of the base.

  2. The British trainer that I rode with briefly before she passed always preached that every horse should be going Second in dressage and/or Prelim in eventing--that was her baseline. Meanwhile I was over here like, today we picked up the right lead and you didn't immediately tell us to stop? :P

    1. My coach is a lot like that- they're definitely considered quite green below second and/or prelim. I get what they're saying - generally speaking a horse with that amount of training is pretty solid and fun, but yeah, I'm with you. I can't see myself ever getting all that done in two years, hell, maybe even in this life, lol

  3. I love the note about happy horses not being tense.

    1. The entire book is very much focused on being considerate to the horse and keeping them sound and happy. I enjoyed that aspect a lot!

  4. I still love the word "Schwung"!

    1. Right? We had a german dressage coach come a couple of years ago and some of the terms she was using were wonderfully descriptive and fun :)

  5. I love horses. I love books. I love (good) horse books!

    1. :) I have a very large collection of horse books - they're definitely my favorite!