Posts Tagged ‘Alois Podhajsky’


Alois Podhajsky with Norman.


Colonel Alois Podhajsky was an Olympian and Director of the the Spanish Riding School in Vienna for 26 years. Podhajsky was known to bring out the best in each horse he rode, and to rely on patience, understanding, and affection in the training process.

Podhajsky detailed his riding, training, and competitive experiences in the renowned book MY HORSES, MY TEACHERS, which was first published in English in 1968. By sharing the stories of each of the horses he worked with over the course of his career, we learn his methods, mistakes, and discoveries. One horse he writes of was an eight-year-old, part-Trakehner gelding named Norman, who helps us learn the lesson that sometimes we have to go back in order to go forward.

Norman had been taught quite a number of things by his breeder in Germany. He knew how to perform lateral work, flying changes, and even some sort of passage…most of it was superficial…. Once again I met in Norman a horse without sufficient urge to go forward unless pushed and often he offered a passage without its being demanded. But his passage was not the artistic solemn movement but a tense sort of hovering trot which had its origin in his reluctance to go forward. It is a great temptation for the rider to accept an exercise that the horse offers but would have a very negative effect on the rest of the training. The idea of dressage is to cultivate and improve the natural movements of the horse so that he executes them upon the slightest aids of the rider. If he anticipates these aids he proves that his obedience is not sufficiently well established. Besides, a horse will anticipate only to make work easier for himself and execute the exercise incorrectly. Consequently the standard of work will decline. If this is the case the rider must interrupt his present work and go back again to the basic training until it is well consolidated. 

We had the greatest trouble making Norman strike off into the canter from the trot. Either he tried to run away or he offered his “passage.” He had been taught to strike off into the canter exclusively from the walk and became nervous and excited upon this unusual demand. However, it is a very important exercise which improves suppleness and helps achieve the correct activity of the hind legs in response to the actions of the reins. It also furthers the will to go forward and establishes obedience and is therefore a necessity in thorough gymnastic training. Besides, it is much more natural and easier for the horse to strike off into the canter from the trot. Nevertheless it took quite a long while until Norman understood this unaccustomed exercise and I had to allow him his lapse of time because I did not want to confuse him or make him nervous.



Walking Norman on a loose rein.


Once again I relied on my proven remedy—good for anything and everything, one might say—which is to teach the horse to move correctly and with suppleness and balance, to make him understand his rider and follow him without reserve. I began to take Norman on the same course of training I pursued with my young horses, with the exception that I spent less time on the various phases. That is, I moved on when I saw that he had understood and was able to execute my demands. Of course I observed him closely all the time and found that I could establish his confidence much more quickly after a few rounds at the walk on a loose rein at the beginning of work and that he paid much less attention to his surroundings than if I had had begun our daily session with the reins applied.

In this way, Norman had a chance to look around in the open-air arena and the adjacent paddocks, and when he was satisfied with what he had seen, he would concentrate entirely upon his work. The rider should always give his horse a chance to look around before beginning serious training. His horse will never become “fed up” with dressage if the rider respects his particularities and allows the freedom of mind necessary for concentrated work.


Click image to order

You can read more of Alois Podhajsky’s stories in MY HORSES, MY TEACHERS, available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.


CLICK HERE to order now.

Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of equestrian books and DVDs, is a small business based on a farm in rural Vermont.

Read Full Post »

Photo by Gabriele Boiselle from Building a Life Together--You and Your Horse by Frederic Pignon and Magali Delgado

Photo by Gabriele Boiselle from Building a Life Together–You and Your Horse by Frederic Pignon and Magali Delgado

The sun changes this time of year…the light feels softer, pensive, less insistent. In many places this signals a shift of routine with our horses as competitive seasons wind up and our partners get a few weeks of well-deserved turnout before the frosts hit the late summer grass and fallen leaves hide any remaining morsels beyond reach of all but the most insistent grazers.

It is a good time for deep breaths, deep thought, and a few reminders of what this horse thing is all about. Here then are three messages from TSB authors to carry with you to the barn this week:


“On numerous occasions I have been confronted with the intelligence of horses in the course of their training. They rewarded the patience with which I tried to understand their characters by giving their best, just as they manifested their unwillingness when I demanded too much or had been unjust or too fast in their training. These are the moments of truth when the rider has to pause and reconsider his line of conduct. Whenever there are disagreements, it is best to seek the fault in oneself.”

–Alois Podhajsky, My Horses, My Teachers


“The art of training young horses is learning how to be fresh every day and not let their problems overwhelm your own spirit. Good training exalts the horse and the rider. When you realize how lucky you are to live the life of a horseman, there is nothing about the lifestyle that should be constantly depressing. Any authentic life will have some rough patches…You cannot control fate, you can only control your reaction to it. Training horses gives you chances to practice this every day.”

–Paul Belasik, Nature, Nurture, and Horses


“Everyone wants instant results but horses have their own rhythm, closer to nature, and at variance with any ideas involving deadlines, profitability, or even over-enthusiastic pressure toward some goal. Whether it concerns a horse being prepared for a show, or someone who has invested in a Grand Prix horse, or just an amateur rider with one hour per week to spare, there is only one rhythm to work to and that belongs to the horse.”

–Frederic Pignon, Building a Life Together–You and Your Horse


Find more horse wisdom from Trafalgar Square Books in our online bookstore–CLICK HERE TO VISIT NOW.

Read Full Post »


Those of you who, like us, reside in the Northeast are waking up to snow this cold Friday morning, with blizzard warnings in the forecast and a weekend ahead that promises shoveling, perhaps skiing, but maybe not SO much riding!

So what can you do when winter weather keeps you out of the saddle and in front of the woodstove? Here are a couple of ideas on how to continue to grow as a horseman while staying snug inside:

50FIMI[1]1  Improve Your Vision, “Feel,” and Timing

Adapted from 50 5-MINUTE FIXES TO IMPROVE YOUR RIDING by Wendy Murdoch

Sit in your favorite chair and look around, becoming aware of your face, especially the area surrounding your eyes. Do you feel pulling or tightness around your eyes? Do you narrow your eyes to focus on specific objects? Are your eyebrows knit together?

Close your eyes and use your eyelids to “press” your eyeballs back. Open your eyes and stare intently straight ahead. What happens to your balance in the chair? Usually people notice that “pressing” back with the eyelids shifts their weight backward, while staring ahead shifts it forward.

Excessive tension in the muscles that move your eyes and the surrounding facial muscles, such as you would notice in the first steps of this exercise, creates tension in your entire body. And the smallest balance shift forward or back in the saddle is sensed by your horse, who then shifts his own weight to compensate.

In your chair, practice “softening” the area around your eyes so your eyebrows broaden, your cheeks soften and drop down, and you feel the corners of your eyes relax. With your eyes open, recreate the feeling of your eyes resting back in their sockets (as they were when you “pressed” them back with your eyelids).

With this simple change in how you look at the world while sitting in the saddle, you can ease tension in your horse and shift his weight off his forehand and back toward his hindquarters.

KnowYouKnowYrHorse250[1]2  Determine Your Social Style, Your Horse’s Personality, and How You Can Best Work Together

Adapted from KNOW YOU, KNOW YOUR HORSE by Eunice Rush and Marry Morrow

Download the Human Social Style Questionnaire and the Horse Personality Questionnaire from the KNOW YOU, KNOW YOUR HORSE page on the TSB website (CLICK HERE).

Take the two quizzes to determine if you are an Analyst, a Powerful, a Mediator, or an Advocate; and to see if your horse is a Thinker, Worker, Actor, or Talker. This can be the first step in determining what you need to do to change your personality to better match your horse’s, as well as giving you ideas as to the kinds of training techniques and riding styles that will help him learn and perform his best. What kind of match are you? Take the quizzes to find out!

Dressage-w-MBS-300[1]3  Create a Mind Map of the Training Scale Using Images, Color, and Your Favorite Exercises

Adapted from DRESSAGE WITH MIND, BODY & SOUL by Linda Tellington-Jones with Rebecca M. Didier

Popular psychology author Tony Buzan wrote his first books on “Mind Mapping” in the late 1960s and early 1970s. His books, lecture tours, and now software (www.iMindMap.com) have popularized his technique of diagramming words, ideas, tasks, and other items around central key words or ideas, providing a graphical method of generating, visualizing, and classifying ideas. It is a way of using both the left and right brains when organizing and studying information–and a great way to get a better understanding of the concept of the Classical Training Scale and how you can apply it in your work with your horse, both on the ground and in the saddle.

Choose a central word or idea from which all other words and ideas will radiate. Tony Buzan recommends keeping this to a single word, as that gives you more room to “play.” You can use “training” and “scale” together as one “idea” or perhaps begin with your name, or your horse’s.

Use color and an image to illustrate this idea. What do you picture when you hear the central word or words spoken? For “Training Scale,” perhaps you think of a golden pyramid, such as the ones in Egypt. For your horse, maybe it is the symetrical white diamond on his forehead.

Radiate outward with the principles of the Training Scale: Rhythm, Suppleness, Contact, Impulsion, Straightness, and Collection, and give each an image (what comes to mind when you think of Rhythm? Musical notes?) and a color.

From each principle within the Training Scale, map out further,
with exercises, techniques, bodywork, and sources of inspiration that can help
you and your horse “find” what you’re looking for. Scribble down anything that comes to mind—cavalletti for Rhythm? Carrot stretches for Suppleness? Illustrate whatever comes to mind and allow yourself to get excited about new ideas you can try to implement when the snow melts!

7ClinicswithDVD-Series300[1]4  Watch All the Free Sneak Peek Lessons from Buck Brannaman 

From 7 CLINICS WITH BUCK BRANNAMAN by Cedar Creek Productions

Visit the 7 CLINICS YouTube Channel (CLICK HERE) and watch all the short, free lessons from the new DVD series 7 CLINICS WITH BUCK BRANNAMAN. We can all learn so much from Buck, even in three or four minutes! You’ll come away with new ideas of how to better communicate with your horse and take your partnership to the next level.

MYHOMY[1]5 Read a Great Horse Book

At TSB, we love great horse books, whether they’re instructional or fiction, classic works or brand new. As the snow piles up and you hunker down at home, pull something great off your bookshelf and lose yourself in it for an hour or two. Race across the sand with Alec and the Black, feel your pulse quicken as you turn the pages of Thunderhead, rediscover what it means to connect with a horse in Alois Podhajsky’s My Horses, My Teachers. Wherever the magic is for you, find it. Even just for a little while.

All these books and DVDs are available from the TSB online store, open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, whatever the weather!


Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: