Feb. 24th, 2017

lantairvlea: (Tru-D)
This is a Dressage classic by many standards. It is not nearly so dense as D'Endrödy's "Give Your Horse a Chance," but quite a bit more specific than Oliveira's "Reflections on Equestrian Art."

I enjoyed it. It's always funny to realize how much things have both changed, but stayed the same. He lamented several times over people taking shortcuts with their horses, competitive dressage not holding the same standard for correctness as the Spanish Riding School, and horses being overbent. The reading level is moderate. It isn't overly technical, but I wouldn't recommend it to someone who isn't familiar with horses either.

He starts outlining history, naming many master horsemen of the distant past and the written works some of them left behind.

He outlines important principles of riding and training, such as "the self-taught person can never become more than a workman; only on a foundation of theory can riding develop to the realm of art." That is so true. I know I wouldn't be anywhere near the horseman (man used in the sense of huMan kind rather than apecifically gendered) I am today if I had to rely on just my own experience and experimentation.

He tries to keep the scope of the book focused, but he does touch on the importance of knowing as much as one can about the horse as a creature and not merely as something you ride. Good advice includes "any rider would be well advised to study the conformation of the horse he proposes to train" and he goes on to explain that while he is laying down the principles "there is no definite rule as to how to put them into practice." He further reminds us that "there are no rules for any difficulties that may appear. Remesies that are successful with one horse may prove unsuccessful with another." This coming from a man who spent 26 years at the Spanish Riding School, I am inclined to believe that there is no single training method that will work with every single horse. He reiterates this point several times throughout, that you should not be rigid in your application of training and to tailor it to the individual horse.

He thoroughly discusses the various gaits and paces of the horse and various other aspects including having the horse "on the bit," collection, "Raising the head and neck by action of the hindquarters" (what some would now term relative elevation), bending, and the aids.

On the aids he notes that one should only use their own body plus a whip and/or spur, anything else is a gimmick. He is careful to note that "the spur should never be used sharply as an aid, because it would then no longer be an aid but a punishment."

With the reins he warns that contact should never become a steady pull as the horse is guaranteed to win the tug-of-war.

While discussing the balance between rein and leg aids he states "the rider should never push more with his legs than he can control with his reins, or hold with his hands more than he can absorb with his legs and seat." The later makes more sense if you know that the rein aid does not act within the rider's arm alone, but should travel through the rider into his seat so that it can then transfer into the horse's back and haunches.

He talks in detail about the place of punishment, prefacing it with the warning that it should be restricted and "thevalue of punishment shouldnever be over-rated and employednas a substitute for correct aids."

He discusses the training of the horse from the lunge line to under saddle and in-hand work up to the airs above the ground.

Here he discusses the purpose of dressage, which is doubly to obtain clear, pure paces, and to make the horse stronger and more beautiful. This theme is visited again and again, which can be boiled down to the quotes "If during the course of training the natural paces are not improve, it would be proof that the training was incorrect" and "if the horse does not become better looking innthe course of his training, it would be a sign that the training was incorrect."

There was an annoyance in the middle of the book where the pages were printed out of order. At page 145 in order to follow the text properly younhave to jump to page 148, then 147, then 146 before proceeding to page 149. What editor didn't notice that?!

Much of the book is full of things I am already aware of from reading other volumes, but it is also good to go back to source material and see the foundation that others have built on. Some day I'll bridge the gap between Podhajsky and Xenophon, who Podhajsky quotes multiple times.

I'm slowly making mybway through my equestrian library. Next up Mark Rashid's "Horses Never Lie" before tackling Dr. Gerd Heuschmann's other two books.

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