Posts Tagged ‘Arthur Kottas’


Arthur Kottas-Heldenberg was accepted as a student at the Spanish Riding School of Vienna in 1960 and rose rapidly under the tutelage of Colonel Alois Podhajsky to become the youngest ever First Chief Rider in the history of the school. Internationally respected, Kottas has successfully trained many horses and riders to Olympic standard in dressage. Here he provides easy-to-try solutions for three of the most common problems found with the horse’s walk.


Problem 1: Breaks Rhythm (Pacing)
Common cause: Tension in the back.


  • Using poles or low cavalletti can encourage freer steps and regularize the rhythm. An average distance between poles for walk work is 0.9m, but be prepared to alter this to suit the horse’s stride length.
  • The rider needs to be able to feel what is going on in his horse, otherwise the timing of the aids depends on luck, and this can affect the clarity of the gait. If the rider does have difficulty feeling the movement, he can practice calling out the leg sequence. Riding without stirrups and with a deep seat will help the rider to feel the horse’s motion and leg sequence clearly.
  • Riding up and down hills is useful. A forward stride downhill normally improves the walk to four clear beats.
  • Ride transitions from free walk to medium and to free walk again. This will encourage relaxation of the horse’s back muscles. (Note the rider must take care to retake the rein contact carefully, so as to keep the relaxed quality in the medium walk. Taking a strong hold will create tension that will affect the walk rhythm.
  • Riding a walk shoulder-in is a good way to clear the pace to a correct four-beat rhythm.
  • If the gait is very hurried, this can cause the walk to become lateral. Try slowing the walk right down until the walk becomes four-beat again.



Walking up and down hills can help fix rhythm issues in the walk. Photos from the book DRESSAGE SOLUTIONS by Arthur Kottas.

Problem 2: Walk Too Fast (Breaks into Jog)
Common cause: A nervous or excitable horse.


  • Be very patient and spend long periods in walk on a long rein to relax the horse.
  • The rider must sit very still and quietly, so that eventually the horse tunes into the rider’s calm state and begins to relax, too.
  • Some horses become tense when they feel the rider’s legs on their sides. Keep your legs very light, so that he will gradually accept them without becoming tense.
  • Some young or cold-backed horses benefit from being longed before ridden work. This gives them time to relax without the disturbance of the rider’s weight on their back.
  • Use half-halts and frequent transitions to a square halt and walk again to gradually settle the walk.


Problem 3: Lazy Walk
Common cause: Dullness to the aids; poor rider position or aiding.


  • Try giving alternate leg aids, coordinated with each hind leg stepping forward. You should feel the moment through your seat bones. Apply the leg just before the hind foot on the same side leaves the ground.
  • It is important that the rider is not tense or stiff in his back, or it will inhibit the horse’s freedom to walk forwards freely.
  • Strong rein contact can have the same effect. Try making small forward yields in the reins and keeping the wrists relaxed, to remove the “handbrake.”
  • Legs that constantly kick or grip tightly will dull the horse and make the walk feel lazy. The rider should keep a light touch with his legs on the horse’s sides and use the aids sparingly, supported by a touch from the whip if necessary. When the horse responds, the rider must cease the aid and sit quietly with relaxed legs that “drape” around the horse’s sides.
  • Riding over ground poles can improve the activity of the walk. Once the horse is negotiating them calmly, the distance between them can be slightly lengthened to encourage a longer stride. Pole work or low cavalletti can introduce some variety into the schooling and many horses enjoy this and we can therefore achieve improvements and give the horse some fun in his work.
  • Making frequent transitions up and down will help bring the horse onto your aids more attentively.

For more training and riding advice from Arthur Kottas, check out DRESSAGE SOLUTIONS, available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.


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

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The winter sun rises over the TSB warehouse in Vermont.

The winter sun rises over the TSB warehouse in Vermont.

As we wrap another year in the Trafalgar Square Books offices here in Vermont, it feels good to pause and look back at the results of our hard work, as well as ponder the things we learned about horses and horsemanship over the last 12 months.

We take great pride in our authors and in the horse books and DVDs we have published and released over the years—now over 600 titles. Here, at a glance, are the new books and DVDs we added in 2014:


Click the image above to get a quick review of the TSB 2014 books and DVDs.

Click the image above to get a quick review of the TSB 2014 books and DVDs.


3-Minute Horsemanship

by Vanessa Bee (January)

The Riding Horse Repair Manual

by Doug Payne (March)

Games for Kids on Horseback

by Gabriele Karcher (April)

Centered Riding 2 Paperback Edition

by Sally Swift (April)

Good Horse, Bad Habits

by Heather Smith Thomas (April)

Dressage Solutions

by Arthur Kottas-Heldenberg (May)

The Riding Doctor

by Dr. Beth Glosten (June)

Building a Life Together—You and Your Horse

by Magali Delgado and Frederic Pignon (June)

Collective Remarks

by Anne Gribbons (July)

Creative Dressage Schooling

by Julia Kohl (September)

When Two Spines Align:Dressage Dynamics 

by Beth Baumert (September)

Kids Riding with Confidence

by Andrea and Markus Eschbach (October)

Success through Cavaletti-Training DVD 

by Ingrid Klimke (November)

5-Minute Fixes to Improve Your Riding DVD

by Wendy Murdoch (November)

5-Minute Jumping Fixes DVD

by Wendy Murdoch (November)

Beyond Horse Massage Wall Charts

by Jim Masterson (November)

The Art of Liberty Training for Horses

by Jonathan Field (December)


by Eckart Meyners, Hannes Muller, and Kerstin Niemann (December)


Trafalgar Square Books (www.HorseandRiderBooks.com) is the leading publisher of equestrian books and DVDs. CLICK HERE to visit our online storefront or DOWNLOAD OUR NEWEST CATALOG.


Have a wonderful, safe, joy-filled New Year!

–The TSB Staff, North Pomfret, Vermont

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Arthur with his daughter Caroline.

Arthur with his daughter Caroline.

When your horse is slow or reluctant to respond promptly to your leg aid, he’s not “in front of the leg.” We all know how much work it is to ride a horse that isn’t in front of the leg—it feels like no matter how early you prepare the horse for the upward transition, how much you indicate with your seat or squeeze with your legs, he still shuffles forward on his own schedule or ignores your aids altogether.

In his new book DRESSAGE SOLUTIONS, former First Chief Rider at the renowned Spanish Riding School and international trainer and clinician Arthur Kottas-Heldenberg explains the many causes of this problem. He also gives us clear and easy-to-implement ways to improve the horse’s reaction time and get him solidly in front of the leg.


Cause: The horse may not understand what is being asked of him, therefore is hesitant and lacks confidence, making him slow to react. Consider whether the aids are being applied correctly and with good timing.

Solution: If the rider’s lower leg swings around, the horse will feel it accidentally bumping his sides in different places. He thinks this is an aid, responds forward, but the rider pulls on the reins, not realizing he was the cause of it. This confuses the horse so that in future he does not know whether to respond to the leg in case it leads to another pull on his mouth. In this example the solution clearly lies with the rider and he must work on his seat position in the saddle to improve the stability of his lower leg. This could include work on the lunge without stirrups and ensuring that the lower back is supple so that a deep seat can be maintained at all paces.


Cause: Strong hands can be the root of the problem. Again the rider needs help with his seat, trying to improve his balance so that he does not use the reins to keep himself in the saddle. Only a rider who can remain in balance independent of the reins and stirrups for support can achieve good hands. Behind the leg can also be a tack issue—ask yourself, “Is the bit too strong for my horse?”

Solution: The horse may have a sensitive mouth and be afraid of going forward if the bit is severe and the rider’s hands are not subtle. An experienced trainer can advise whether a milder bit would be more suitable and encourage the horse to relax and go more freely forward from the leg aids. Our aim should be that our horses go happily in a simple snaffle bit with a cavesson noseband, or a correctly fitted drop or flash noseband if he opens his mouth. Later the double bridle can be introduced, but only when the horse is accepting the snaffle correctly and the rider has achieved a level of sophistication in his riding skills. The double or full bridle should never be used as strong brakes, or to manipulate the head and neck carriage into an arched position. When our horse has been trained to a level where all the work can be achieved harmoniously in the snaffle bridle, then the double can be used to add refinement to the aids.


Cause: A lazy or phlegmatic horse may be slow to react to our leg aids.

Solution: We can sensitize this horse to our legs by making many transitions, both between the gaits and within them. By doing this we focus the horse’s mind, and the frequency of the transitions will bring him onto our aids and can also make the hind legs active. If he is dull to our leg aids, kicking his sides is likely to cause resentment and further deaden his responses. Keep the legs light and, if he ignores the aid, tap him with the schooling whip by your inside leg. It is important to time this with the leg aid so that the horse associates leg and whip as meaning the same thing. This way we can teach the horse to respond to light touches from the legs. If the horse is feeling sluggish, then we can raise his adrenalin levels with some canter work. After warming up, try some canter in a light seat. Encourage him to make some tempo changes, whilst maintaining control and balance. The priority is to activate our horse, as it is his energy we channel when we put him on the bit, and without controlled energy we have nothing.


Cause: Some horses can become stale and lethargic if their routine never varies. For them we can vary the day-to-day work program.

Solution: Include some hacking in the country once or twice a week. Use some small cavalletti. This can be fun for the horse and sharpen his responses to our aids. It is also a good way to gymnasticize the horse, so that we achieve one of our aims in a different way than usual. Take your horse to different arenas occasionally. A different environment may make the dull horse brighter and easier to ride. Some horses thrive when they are worked in company and this may help improve his responses to the aids.


Cause: If the horse is young or physically weak, fatigue can slow his reactions to our legs.

Solution: Consider changing the work program to shorter sessions so that you can finish while he is still fresh and enjoying his work. If possible, ride twice a day but for shorter periods so that he can recover his energy in between. Continuing to work a tired horse is a mistake and can lead to evasions. Review the horse’s diet, to ensure he is fed a balanced regime that provides all the carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals he needs to perform his work. If you are not sure, then seek the advice of an equine nutritionist.


Both the new DRESSAGE SOLUTIONS and its predecessor KOTTAS ON DRESSAGE are available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.



Need help from Arthur Kottas in person? Riders and auditors can now sign up for his June 2014 clinic at Windhorse Dressage Farm in Sherborn, Massachusetts, and Bear Spot Farm in Acton, Massachusetts.



Tuesday, June 24, Wednesday June 25, and Thursday, June 26

Windhorse Dressage Farm

34 Great Rock Road, Sherborn, MA 01770


Friday, June 27, Saturday, June 28, and Sunday, June 29

Bear Spot Farm

276 Pope Rd, Acton, MA 01720


The cost per ride is $290 per lesson. Riders and grooms are welcome to audit all day for free.

The cost to audit is $30 per day ($15 per day for current NEDA members). Rider spots are assigned on a first come, first served basis. Contact Irene Greenberg with questions at either 603-770-0939 or irene.e.greenberg@gmail.com.


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TSB author Arthur Kottas is a unique individual, equally well versed in both the classical and competitive sides of dressage. Kottas joined the Spanish Riding School at the age of 16 and achieved the top position of First Chief Rider in 1994, eventually retiring in 2003. He is also a recognized dressage judge and has trained and ridden competitively since childhood.

Kottas is known to be a fantastic teacher—knowledgeable, open, and accessible. His recent book KOTTAS ON DRESSAGE has received rave reviews—check them out!

“The best [book] to be written this century.” —British Horse


“Kottas-Heldenberg’s years of training experience shine through in his book. It’s organized extremely clearly, making it an excellent reference guide that you can refer back to without much page-flipping . . .Timeless dressage lessons for both horse and rider.” —Horsemen’s Yankee Pedlar


“There are various reasons why I loved this book, but a main one is its extraordinary clarity, in part a result of that organization. . . . If for some reason I was forced to abandon my considerable dog-eared dressage library and was allowed to take with me only a single book, this one would be it.” —Dressage Today

KOTTAS ON DRESSAGE is available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is always FREE.

Click here to read Arthur Kottas’ thoughts on measuring degrees of collection on Equisearch.com.

Arthur Kottas is teaching clinics in two New England locations next week: October 16, 17 & 18 at Capstone Farm in Madbury, New Hampshire, and October 18, 19 & 20 at Bear Spot Farm in Acton, Massachusetts. Auditors are welcome (the audit fee is $20 per day for current NEDA members and $30 per day for non-members) and there are a few openings for riders. If interested, contact Irene Greenberg at 603-770-0939 or irene.e.greenberg@gmail.com.
Unable to attend a Kottas clinic? Read this great piece by Kottas about measuring degrees of collection on Equisearch.com, and don’t forget to get his book KOTTAS ON DRESSAGE.


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TSB author Wendy Murdoch has filled her spring/early summer clinic schedule in what is shaping up to be another VERY busy year!

Wendy, author of the bestselling book 50 5-MINUTE FIXES TO IMPROVE YOUR RIDING and the DVD series SIMPLIFY YOUR RIDING: RIDE LIKE A NATURAL, holds a Master’s Degree in Equine Reproductive Physiology from the University of Kentucky (1986). Her background includes intensive study with Linda Tellington-Jones, founder of the Tellington-Method; Sally Swift, Founder of Centered Riding; Dr. Joyce Harman, holistic veterinarian and noted authority on saddle fitting; Bettina Drummond, the only authorized representative of the Nuno Oliveira School in North America; Jon Zahourek, creator of Zoologik® Equiken® Anatomy in Clay, system for learning anatomy; and Dr. Hilary Clayton, recipient of the McPhail Chair at Michigan State University to study biomechanics in dressage horses. She is a certified Feldenkrais Practitioner.

Wendy’s latest book 50 5-MINUTE FIXES TO IMPROVE YOUR RIDING zoomed to the top of the equine book bestsellers list with its superbly illustrated, easy, step-by-step instructions for bettering your position in the saddle and communicating more clearly with your horse. You can order your copy of Wendy’s book and DVDs at the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is always FREE!

Don’t miss Wendy if she has a clinic near you!

Don't miss your opportunity to learn from Wendy Murdoch, author of 50 5-MINUTE FIXES TO IMPROVE YOUR RIDING, at a 2012 clinic near you!


Mar 2 – 4 Coming Out of Winter Dressage Clinic with Bruno Greber and Wendy Murdoch

Ashanti Farm, Gordonsville, VA

Heidi Ryder info@ashantifarm.com 540-832-0775


Mar 5 – 6 Private Lessons, Mounted Only

Morven Park Equestrian Center, Leesburg, VA

Shannon Pedlar sgp588@hotmail.com 703-431-5663


Mar 7, 14, 21 Private Feldenkrais Lessons

MStudio, Middleburg, VA

Shannon Pedlar sgp588@hotmail.com 703-431-5663


Mar 10 – 11 Open Clinic

Diamond TR Ranch, Perryville, AR,

Theresa Vogelpohl theresa@diamondtr.com 501-681-7767


Mar 27 – 29 Private Lessons, Mounted and Feldenkrais

Happily Ever After Farm, West Chester, PA

Sue Neilson susanneilson22@yahoo.com 484-356-8335


April 14 – 17 Open Clinic

Fly-A-Way Stables, Middleburg, VA

Pam Woolley pam@tteamva.com 703-622-4230


April 21 – 23 Clinic

Wellborn QH, FL

Andrea Haller andreainwellborn@yahoo.com 386-963-1555


April 28 – 29 Open Clinic

Spring Willow Farm, Mendon, MA

Lorna Palmer swhf@comcast.net 508-473-8630


May 5 – 8 Open Clinic

Colfax, IA

Brandie Gean morgunr@gmail.com 515-664-1620


May 18 – 20 Open Clinic

Joyful Noise Farm, Pryor, OK

Larry Lees L.Lees@sbcglobal.net 918-633-9288


May 25 – 28 Open Clinic

Northwest Trails, Deer Park, WA

Sally Shepard jvcougar1@msn.com -999-3796


June 2 – 4 Open Clinic

The Netherlands

Tessa Roos goodluck@xs4all.nl +31 6 10 92 33 19


June 5 – 6 Feldenkrais for Horses and Riders

The Netherlands

Tessa Roos goodluck@xs4all.nl +31 6 10 92 33 19


June 22 – 24 Retreat with Bettina Drummond and Wendy Murdoch

Windhorse International, Bethelehem, CT

Sharon Knies sknies@windhorseinternational.com 203-710-5809

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