Classical versus Modern Dressage

Hello. My great passion with horses is dressage. This may surprise some of you but as always, it's about approach and application. There is little difference between a classical dressage rider and a competitive rider in the hands of a master, but the methods of training are very different. The two methods are different from the standpoint of how to develop lightness and self-carriage.

At this time in history the classical school of dressage is very strong and is suffering little conflict in their theories and methods of training. However, the competitive world is suffering greatly. There are a lot of horses that are being rushed through the process because of the desire to compete. They are ridden with new methods of training to shortcut the old methods through the rider's talent to take a horse falsely to the FEI levels.

Currently there is an upsurge in the classical methods helping the competitive world. I have had a lot of personal success using these classical principles and theories with riders and horses. I would like to suggest a book by Sylvia Loch, The Classical Rider. It points out that dressage riders in the top levels of competition, even at the Olympic levels, are utilizing classical methods to achieve lightness and self-carriage in their performances.

How I compare the difference between the competitive and classical methods is that the competitive school focuses on riding the horse into the contact with forward expression of the horse's gaits while the classical method focuses on lightness of aids and contained expression of the gaits in self-carriage.

My Methods of developing a competitive performance resonate to the theories of the classical school. I prefer the classical methods of training because they focus on developing the dressage horse through the fundamentals of procedure, ground training, lightness of aids, harmony and unity. I also believe that the classical method provides the competitive rider with more support in developing the rider's skill in horsemanship for dressage. All the problems that are occurring in the competitive world could be corrected by using the classical methods of dressage.

If you think about it, once you put the leg and rein aids on the horse correctly, the horse is like a piano. A piano is a generic instrument. You can play classical music or jazz on the same piano. The only requirement is that the piano be in tune.

There are many ways of developing the dressage horse. My interest is to use the lightest aids from the beginning to create the maximum performance in each horse. I find that taking the time to develop the horse through the fundamentals of the classical methods builds the horse's understanding and willingness to perform. In the end it is the fastest way to create a fully schooled dressage horse. Using the principles of the classical school of dressage, no horse or rider is put to a task that they can not achieve.

In unity there is harmony. Dressage is the practice of unity between horse and rider. Unity is an art, the formula of practice, and the first and last step in dressage. Getting the resistance out of a horse when the horse is resistant is not dressage.

It is important to remember to keep the philosophy of dressage in the act of riding and training your horse. One rule that should never be broken is to never ask your horse to perform any movement before he is prepared and willing to try.

Hope you found that interesting. Enjoy your weekend