Going Back in Order to Go Forward: A Lesson from Alois Podhajsky

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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.

 

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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.

MYHOMY

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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.

Quick Quiz: Riding Position Puzzle

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Can you tell which movement this rider is “riding” from the correct position in the left photo above, and the common mistakes depicted in the middle and on the right?

When correctly positioned (left photo), the rider is looking to the inside, her shoulders and pelvis are likewise turned to the inside and aligned. The left leg (when on the left rein as shown here) drives sideways and the right leg is guarding the horse’s hindquarters.

Common mistakes when riding this mystery movement include: collapsing to the left in the waist with the weight shifting too much to the right, with the shoulders and pelvis lower on the left side (middle photo); and leaning to the left away from the direction of movement, the rider’s weight on the left side as she pushes the horse away, and crooked shoulders and pelvis (right photo).

Which movement is she riding?

 

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The answer is the shoulder-in!

In the shoulder-in, the horse’s inside hind leg and outside front leg are on the same track (as you can see here). The rider’s upper body is turned slightly toward the inside of the arena without collapsing or succumbing to the other common mistakes mentioned above.

In classical dressage authority Anja Beran’s new book THE DRESSAGE SEAT, she breaks down the physical requirements of the rider’s seat on the horse, as well as its responsibilities during various movements—from the gaits and paces to lateral work, lead changes, piaffe, passage, and pirouettes.

Watch the trailer here:

 

THE DRESSAGE SEAT by Anja Beran is available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE to download a free chapter or to order.

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

Quick Quiz: Which Horse Is Bending Correctly?

Look at this image. Can you spot the differences between the horse on the left and the horse on the right?

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Which one is a horse that is bending correctly?

If you guessed the horse on the right is bending correctly, you were right!

The horse on the left shows how in an incorrectly bent horse, the vertebral column kinks to the inside in front of the horse’s shoulder. This gives the illusion of bend to the inexperienced eye.

“Never bend the neck more than you can bend the trunk of the horse,” says Dr. med. vet. Gerd Heuschmann in his book COLLECTION OR CONTORTION? “All additional important elements of bend derive from this maxim. Only a neck that ‘grows with stability out of the shoulder’ and is stabilized by the muscles in front of the shoulder can contribute its important part to the correct bend of the trunk. If a horse has an unstable, loose, ‘wobbly neck’ in front of the withers, he can’t be ridden in the proper balance, nor can he bend, straighten, or collect. Only well-developed pushing power helps the horse’s neck become stable on its axis…. To this end, it is explicitly required to regularly ride transitions from working trot to medium trot in the horse’s first year under saddle. On the other hand, suppleness of the inside trunk and the inside hind leg leads to the development of carrying power and correct bend of the neck. Said another way, the initial bending work and the required stability of the neck promote flexibility of the hindquarters. The neck must be seen as a stable component of the body that is securely attached to the horse’s trunk. Bend runs linearly and evenly through the whole trunk from the poll to the sacrum.”

COLLECTION OR CONTORTION? is available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE for more information or to download a free chapter.

GOODBADBEND

 

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

9 Tips for Better Flexion and Bend from Uta Gräf

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German Grand Prix dressage rider and trainer Uta Gräf has made a name for herself in international dressage circles, not only for her cheerful nature and wild hair, but also for her beautifully ridden, content, satisfied horses.

Now Gräf lets us in on all her training secrets in her new book UTA GRÄF’S EFFORTLESS DRESSAGE PROGRAM. She shares her schooling exercises, as well as the techniques she uses to incorporate groundwork, long-lining, trail riding, creative play, bombproofing, and turnout in her training plans. In the excerpt below, Gräf breaks down 9 quick tips for achieving better flexion and bend in your horse—first the “classical” way, and then her own helpful ideas to add to the mix that adds up to success.

 

 

9 Tips for Better Flexion and Bend

The Classical Way

⇒ Develop the horse’s foundation and improve straightness through lateral movements: leg-yield, shoulder-fore, shoulder-in, and travers.

⇒ Ride on curved lines: serpentines, spiral-ins and spiral-outs, voltes, figure eights.

⇒ Ride corners carefully, especially in counter-canter, taking care that the “jump” of the canter isn’t lost.

⇒ For lateral movements, carry the flexion and bend out of the corner or the volte and keep it without having to adjust it.

⇒ End a lateral movement as soon as you lose flexion and bend: Ride voltes or serpentines to get it back; then start again.

⇒ Ride shoulder-in or leg-yield when you are losing the quality of flexion and bend; then start over again.

 

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CLICK IMAGE TO ORDER

And, Give This a Try

⇒ Ride around cones or jump standards (voltes, figure eights, or serpentines).

⇒ Ride squares away from the wall: half-pass alternating with leg-yield. Reduce the square as you ride leg-yield; enlarge the square with half-pass. When the horse responds well to the leg, ride with flexion and bend into the half-pass. Don’t lose flexion and bend as you get to the wall or the half-pass doesn’t actually get finished. It’s better to end the diagonal with a leg-yield or ride the second track in renvers. The horse must still cross his legs well without “bogging down” the half-pass.

⇒ Alternate riding a steep or shallow half-pass.

 

UTA GRÄF’S EFFORTLESS DRESSAGE PROGRAM is available now from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE to download a free chapter.

 

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

This Is What Top Equestrians Are Thankful For

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Photo by Keron Psillas from The Alchemy of Dressage by Dominique Barbier and Dr. Maria Katsamanis

In almost every book we publish, we invite our authors to include a page of acknowledgments; this is their chance to thank those who may have had a hand in their careers or the making of their books. While it isn’t every day that we look back through to see who they’ve thanked over the years, it seems appropriate on this blustery, cold, Vermont afternoon, the day before Thanksgiving 2016. As might be imagined, there is one resounding theme that emerges…have a look at some of the words of gratitude TSB authors have put in print. If your book was about to be published, who would YOU thank?

 

“They say success has a thousand fathers—I thank from the bottom of my heart all those who have taken an extra minute out of their day to help me down my path.” Jonathan Field in THE ART OF LIBERTY TRAINING FOR HORSES

“Thanks go out to every horse I’ve ever had the pleasure and privilege of riding…they’ve taught me the importance of caring, patience, understanding, selflessness, and hard work.” Daniel Stewart in PRESSURE PROOF YOUR RIDING

 

TSB author Jonathan Field with his family and "Hal."

TSB author Jonathan Field with his family and “Hal.”

 

“Most of all my greatest thanks go to Secret, the horse who has taught me so much—she is a horse in a million.” Vanessa Bee in 3-MINUTE HORSEMANSHIP

“We owe the greatest depths of gratitude to the horses.” Phillip Dutton in MODERN EVENTING WITH PHILLIP DUTTON

“Thank you, Santa, for bringing the pony when I was little.” Jean Abernethy in THE ESSENTIAL FERGUS THE HORSE

“Thank you to my partner and wife Conley, without whose moral support and inspiration I would be sitting on a tailgate by the side of the road holding a cardboard sign that reads, ‘Will work on horses for food.'” Jim Masterson in BEYOND HORSE MASSAGE

 

TSB author Linda Tellington-Jones.

TSB author Linda Tellington-Jones.

 

“Thank you to my beloved parents. You were so wonderful to let me chart a path with horses, which you knew nothing about.” Lynn Palm in THE RIDER’S GUIDE TO REAL COLLECTION

“I thank my beloved equine partners—my most important teachers.” Dr. Beth Glosten in THE RIDING DOCTOR

“Thank you to all my wonderful students and friends for always being there.” Jane Savoie in IT’S NOT JUST ABOUT THE RIBBONS

“I really need to honor the people who have invited me to work with them and the horses that have allowed me to be with, ride, and train them over the decades. I have learned some things from books, but most from the people and horses I train.” Heather Sansom in FIT TO RIDE IN 9 WEEKS!

“I give thanks for all the horses over the years who have taught me so much.” Linda Tellington-Jones in THE ULTIMATE HORSE BEHAVIOR AND TRAINING BOOK

“I am grateful for all my teachers, two-legged, four-legged, and winged, for all they have taught me through their own journeys.” Dr. Allen Schoen in THE COMPASSIONATE EQUESTRIAN

“Thank you to every horse that came my way over the past 45 years. Each one had lessons to teach me.” Susan Gordon in THE COMPASSIONATE EQUESTRIAN

“I want to thank my parents who finally gave in to the passionate desire of a small child who wanted a horse.” Heather Smith Thomas in GOOD HORSE, BAD HABITS

“Most of all, thank you to all the horses.” Sharon Wilsie in HORSE SPEAK

 

TSB author Dr. Allen Schoen.

TSB author Dr. Allen Schoen.

 

“I am extremely thankful to all of the horses in my life. I would not have accomplished so much without them. The horses have been my greatest teachers!” Anne Kursinski in ANNE KURSINSKI’S RIDING & JUMPING CLINIC

“I need to thank all the horses.” Sgt. Rick Pelicano in BETTER THAN BOMBPROOF

“Thank you to students and riders who share my passion in looking deeper into the horse and into themselves.” Dominique Barbier in THE ALCHEMY OF LIGHTNESS

“Thanks go to the many horses that have come into my life. You give me great happiness, humility, and sometimes peace; you always challenge me to become more than I am, and you make my life whole.” Andrea Monsarrat Waldo in BRAIN TRAINING FOR RIDERS

 

And thank YOU, our readers and fellow horsemen, who are always striving to learn and grow in and out of the saddle, for the good of the horse.

Wishing a very happy and safe Thanksgiving to all!

The Trafalgar Square Books Staff

 

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

Horses and the Happiness Factor

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There’s been something missing from the news in general of late (and if your life is anything like mine, you can’t seem to escape that constant flow of “what’s happening”…all day, every day, yesterday, today, tomorrow). The problem is, it seems the “what’s happening” is all pretty dark, pretty frightening, pretty fractious, pretty upsetting. If you dig deep below the fold, you might find a story that dares flirt with sunshine, but that takes effort your weary self might just not have on tap.

Of course, there is a ripple effect to take into account here, too. Our glowering brow impacts everyone we come into contact with in the course of a day. Our frustration spreads faster than this year’s norovirus. Our anxiety transfers with a worried look or concerned cough. And not just to people—our mood wreaks havoc on our horses.

Over the past few years, TSB has published several books that highlight the importance of manning our mental ship and preparing ourselves emotionally in order to interact with our horses in a fair, calm, and positive way: Linda Tellington-Jones’ DRESSAGE FOR MIND, BODY & SOUL; Dr. Allen Schoen and Susan Gordon’s THE COMPASSIONATE EQUESTRIAN; and Dominique Barbier and Dr. Maria Katsamanis’ THE ALCHEMY OF LIGHTNESS.

“I think joy is the most important ingredient in everything we do, say, share, and experience in this world,” writes classical dressage master Dominique Barbier in THE ALCHEMY OF LIGHTNESS. “We see so many people who are so serious about things all the time. And it’s like the seriousness, the worry, the guilt—all that ‘fear stuff’—is killing the very essence of what they want to accomplish.

“Joy is a product of love, which is one of the two emotions I’ve described as having a direct impact on our riding. Joy and love are thus, in effect, the same. When we are happy and able to give happiness to others, transmitting our joy and love to our horses and to other people, we experience what has to be one of the most powerful feelings known to man.

“Constant perseverance means that we need to be dedicated to joy and the ‘giving’ of happiness to others. We need to make an effort, a constant effort. It is so easy to get up in the morning and find 500 good reasons not to be happy. We have only one real reason to be happy, and that is that we want to be happy. Therefore, we need to ‘practice happiness.’ We need to ‘practice joy.’ And we need to constantly remind ourselves to constantly be in that state of joy.

Click image to order.

Click image to order.

“There is always, in life, some kind of serious situation going on. There are some moments when we must see the ‘true face of life,’ and sometimes it is not very enjoyable. But I think that at the end of the day we have to count our happy moments and be satisfied. (Our horses will love us for it!)

“We have to make a decision about the ‘Happiness Factor’ before our day starts: Are we going to the ‘Depressing World’ or the ‘Happy World’? There are a lot of happy things, joyful things, happening all around us. Just the simple act of putting smiles on our faces can produce many smiles in the people we meet each day. A smile goes a long way.

“Remember, our mind can be our best friend or our worst enemy. We need to free ourselves from confirmed ego and from destructive emotions. This is the best thing we can do for ourselves and others. This is the best thing we can do for our horses.”

 

If you, too, hunger for the “Happy World,” you can make the Happiness Factor work for you. It is easy enough to take the first steps recommended by all the authors mentioned in this post: smile and breathe…and go spend time with your horse.

 

THE ALCHEMY OF LIGHTNESS is available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is always FREE.

CLICK HERE to download a free chapter.

 

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

Acknowledging the Power of Intent and How to “Be of Two Minds” with Horses

“Intent” is a bit of a buzz word around horses these days. Supplied with a variety of related definitions by Merriam-Webster, and the scientific and pseudo-scientific communities, it is most often used in reference to a rider or trainer “having the mind, attention, or will concentrated on something or some end or purpose.” Horses, by nature, survive by a keen awareness of “intent,” which may be due to the near constant exchange of energy that occurs between beings, each other, and their environment.

“Directed intention,” writes bestselling author Lynne McTaggert in The Intention Experiment, “appears to manifest itself as both electrical and magnetic energy, visible and measurable by sensitive equipment.”

 

Horses can be aware of our intent...before we are. (Photo by Keron Psillas)

Horses can be aware of our intent…before we are. (Photo by Keron Psillas)

 

“It is possible for a horse to be aware of our intent (our determination to act in a certain way) before we are conscious of it,” says classical trainer Dominique Barbier in THE ALCHEMY OF LIGHTNESS, the intriguingly philosophical book he wrote with Dr. Maria Katsamanis, recently published by TSB. “On the molecular level, transmission of intent occurs before our human consciousness is ‘up to date.’ I think that animals have the extraordinary ability to know ‘in the now’ when things are in the process of happening. Their security, their safety, is based on that knowing. In the wild, when the horse is not aware of the mountain lion’s proximity, he is eaten, gone. Therefore, he has developed a very important ability to be able to perceive another’s intent.

“In our case, it is the ‘picture’ in our head that he sees perhaps even before we do. He grabs it instantly. This is why in my book Dressage for the New Age I talk about the ‘two minds’: the mind in the front, which the horse can read, and the mind in the back that the horse cannot read. For instance, if we think that we would like to have the horse do a flying change in the corner after the short side, generally the horse does it immediately rather than waiting for the corner (of course, not all horses but most). This is why it is very important to ‘separate’ our two minds. In order to perform the flying change as we wish, we must have our front mind say, ‘I will keep my normal canter,’ while in the back of our mind we know that we will be asking for a flying change. When we do not learn to separate our two minds, horses (generally) will execute what we want them to do in the moment.

“This brings us back to why we must learn to be instead of do. For those people who have limited awareness of self and of energy, the horse definitely gets it first. When we are not present, we are not even part of the picture. In riders today, this is often the case…and that is why most horses look sleepy, or bored, or both.”

 

Enjoy this lovely inside glimpse of horses that are clearly neither sleepy nor bored at Barbier Farm:

 

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CLICK IMAGE TO ORDER

Ready to explore the power of your intent, and the many other physical, spiritual, and emotional connections that occur between horse and rider? THE ALCHEMY OF LIGHTNESS is available at the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is always FREE.

CLICK HERE TO ORDER

TSB Author Paul Belasik and His New Book NATURE, NURTURE AND HORSES Featured on Chris Stafford Radio

Be sure to check out the four-part series with renowned rider, trainer, author, and equestrian philosopher Paul Belasik on Chris Stafford Radio! Paul and Chris discuss the starting of the young sport horse based on the classical system he has used for almost 40 years, as well as touching on some of the topics and stories Paul shares in his new book NATURE, NURTURE AND HORSES.

Paul’s honest and enlightened journal entries in NATURE, NURTURE AND HORSES give the reader an inside look at training horses, from birth through four years. His style of writing allows the reader to “live” the experiences as he did—in the moment, and without the benefit of hindsight. The result is a true account, both thoughtful and thought provoking, and by turns tender and efficiently practical.

Paul has ridden and trained at every level in dressage, from young horses to beyond Grand Prix. He also has had extensive experience in eventing, which encompassed the early part of his career, before turning solely to his first and true love of classical dressage and the art of riding.

NATURE, NURTURE AND HORSES is available now from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is always FREE.

CLICK HERE TO ORDER NOW

MEDITATION FOR TWO Featured in Tribuna Equestre’s “Masters Series”

Tribuna Equestre is an online television channel dedicated to all things equestrian in South America. The “Masters Series” features prominent riding masters, including Dominique Barbier, who co-authored MEDITATION FOR TWO with photographer and writer Keron Psillas. The episode featuring Dominique Barbier was filmed in Cotia, near Sao Paulo, Brazil. You can see the introductory interview with Dominique, where he discusses his passion for keeping equestrian art alive and promoting nonviolent methods of training dressage horses throughout the world, as well as his book MEDITATION FOR TWO, in the video clip below (the interview begins about two minutes in and is subtitled).

Keron was so generous as to share some of the wonderful photos she captured during their day filming the episode. “We always have fun playing in the shadows at the end of the day!” she says. Watch for Keron’s article on revered dressage master Luis Valenca in the September 2012 issue of Dressage Today magazine, which hits newstands in early August.

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MEDITATION FOR TWO is available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is always FREE.

CLICK HERE TO ORDER YOUR COPY OF MEDITATION FOR TWO TODAY

TSB Talks to the Author of THE SEVEN DEADLY SINS OF DRESSAGE About Provocation, the State of Dressage Today, Friends with Tractors, and Playing the Cello

This week, TSB had an opportunity to catch up with Douglas Puterbaugh, author of THE SEVEN DEADLY SINS OF DRESSAGE (alongside writer and photographer Lance Wills) and ask him a few questions about the inspiration behind the book, how and when he started riding, and why Hawaii is a pretty darned sensible dream vacation for a horseman.

THE SEVEN DEADLY SINS OF DRESSAGE, the book readers say “touches raw nerves yet leaves you with great hope for redemption,” is available now from the Trafalgar Square Books online bookstore, where shipping in the US is always FREE.

TSB: Can you share a little of your history as a dressage rider and trainer and what precipitated the writing of THE SEVEN DEADLY SINS OF DRESSAGE?

DP: I rode horses when I was younger, but really only for fun, like so many riders, but when I had the opportunity to really dig into it, and do it all day long, I really took it seriously and put in an enormous effort. I had some excellent teachers and influences. My past is not glamorous; it really only involved sacrificing a lot of time and other interests. For me, and I’m not trying to say that others should do this, but I basically eliminated all things that had social value, and trained instead. I did this pretty fanatically, actually. Richard Wagner was asked one time what made him a composer and what made him take up music. He simply answered: “I once heard a performance of a Beethoven symphony, whereupon I was struck with a fever, and when I recovered, I was a musician.” I felt this way about dressage. I immediately became “in love” with it and interpreted pursuit of this love as working at a feverish pitch and putting in a real effort, and along the way you can’t help learning a thing or two.

TSB: Your book title and cover are quite provocative. Can you tell us about how you came up with the idea behind THE SEVEN DEADLY SINS OF DRESSAGE and what you hope the publication of your text will accomplish?

DP: I never planned on writing the book. It was the furthest thing from my mind, although I’ve read quite a few of the books out there and some I studied quite seriously. The idea came from my wife who had many times made the suggestion, “You should write a book,” and I’d say “I don’t know what I would say other than ‘train a lot and read and study many other good books.’” And Richard Waetjen already said that. It wasn’t until my friend of thirty years—my coauthor Lance Wills—was visiting that she changed the suggestion to, “You guys should write a book.” With Lance on board my confidence grew.

We thought it would be helpful to look at ourselves as riders and see what we might be doing to muddy the waters. Students always want to know what to do; I thought it would be helpful to know what not to do. I was thinking about writing down all the things that don’t work with horses and calling it “151 Ways to Guarantee Your Failure as a Rider” or “37 Ways to Make Things Even Worse,” or something like that, but it sounded too negative. Then I realized that all these mistakes I was thinking of could be condensed down into “human negative tendencies,” which we all commonly call “sins.” “The Seven Negative Tendencies” wasn’t nearly as catchy as “The Seven Deadly Sins,” so we went with the latter. I hope that riders will find it helpful. For example, if someone rides in fear, it could give him or her the hope that through a certain strategy one could overcome or minimize that fear, or if someone was frustrated that things were progressing too slowly, for example, it could remind him or her that dressage is also not that easy to learn, and all riders struggle. If the things I write about seem rather obvious, I hope that readers still enjoy the book and find enough little bits that resonate with them.

TSB: Have you ever been or are you now guilty of one of the Seven Deadly Sins of Dressage? If so, what did you do or what are you doing to combat its residence in your life and work with horses?

DP: Oh sure. I quote Mark Twain in the chapter on fear: “Unless a creature be part coward it’s not a compliment to say that it is brave.” You can apply this quote to any of the ”sins.” Our salvation (as riders) is found in our willingness to persevere, not in denying that we have these tendencies, but in our efforts to claim mastery over them. I’m not trying to set myself apart, and most sensible horse people recognize that they must continue to grow. The important thing is that whatever “sin” we might have a tendency toward, that we recognize it so we can continue to learn. By knowing, we have a way of preventing the onset of any of the Seven Deadly Sins of Dressage.

“Sins” might even be a little severe a term, but we want to avoid having to admit to ourselves when we are older that we might have ruined a good horse or something, somewhere along the way. We can help each other in this. Also, we can remind each other that we really have more power to transform negative tendencies into positive ones then we believe, when we recognize and resolve to squarely challenge these tendencies. Remember, WE ARE ALL TRYING TO LEARN. The deadly part of the title of my book only means that these sins or tendencies can serve to “kill,” or at least slow, your development as a rider.

Douglas Puterbaugh's new book THE SEVEN DEADLY SINS OF DRESSAGE is available now from the TSB online bookstore http://www.horseandriderbooks.com.

TSB: What do you see in the future for the modern pursuit of dressage?

DP: I believe the interest in dressage in this country is growing, and the breeding of sport horses is always improving, but we should take to heart Charles de Kunffy’s book The Ethics and Passions of Dressage, where he talks about the arrival of the “super horse” and the age of the “minimal rider.” The more we try to understand horses and this old discipline, the better we will become as riders, and if, as a result, we do develop as horse people, we will be on the right track. But if we are defeated by our impatience, egotism, and other negative traits, then we will fall short and dressage will eventually vanish, or in the words of Gustav Steinbrecht, “be reduced to philistinism or puppetry.” This is particularly the case as regards the tendency to always place blame first on something outside ourselves when faced with frustration or failure.

TSB: You are a trained classical musician, are you not? Are their similarities in your study of music and your study of equitation?

DP: Yes, I had the opportunity of studying with a really great musician. I came to music later in life, at age 26, but was lucky enough to have a great cellist in my neighborhood, the late Barton Frank. He was a world level player, and a prodigy of the legendary Gregor Piatigorsky. But this doesn’t speak anything of me or my ability, other than to say I really did have a great teacher…(I don’t know if I want to saddle him with the blame for my playing!) He was really great! So, I was quite a fan, as I am of all my riding influences. I hope that my ability will someday be half as high as my respect for those who really mastered the cello.

I must admit, I’ve spent more time with horses. I still practice the cello as much as I can and continue to make progress. There are, I think, some parallels with the learning of techniques, as there are with learning any exacting discipline, with regard to studying, seeking out knowledge, or playing with someone good at teaching you how to practice in order to get the most out of your time. The big difference is the instrument doesn’t resist you in the same way a horse might. It doesn’t have feelings, and it doesn’t behave differently if it’s been played well or poorly by someone for a long time. You can’t really spoil the cello unless you get frustrated and break it over your knee!

TSB: If you were trapped on a desert island with a horse and a book, what breed of horse would it be and which book would you choose?

DP: To me, that’s a scenario that I would care not to find myself in. I suppose if I were stuck, most certainly the horse would have to be a hardy one. And my book? Probably of the religious nature—if you were ever going to deepen your faith in the power of prayer wouldn’t this seem like a good time to get started on that?

TSB: What’s in your refrigerator at all times?

DP: An open box of Arm&Hammer baking soda and a bottle of Ivermectin.

TSB: What is your idea of perfect happiness?

DP: For me, perfect happiness is to have an abundance of energy, stamina, and physical fitness to continue studying dressage and music, but even this may be a form of relative happiness. Also, that people could love one another, learn how to transcend their differences, and try to find the good in others.

TSB: Tell us about the first time you remember sitting on a horse.

DP: don’t think I remember sitting on a horse until I was 12. I had a pretty little girlfriend, who had a not-so-pretty little pony. I think that’s the first time I ever did sit on a horse.

TSB: Tell us about the first time you remember falling off a horse.

DP: The same time I first sat on one. You asked earlier if I am guilty of a riding sin? That was the first one. It was then that I learned to tighten the girth!

TSB: What is the quality you most like in a friend?

DP: That he or she owns a tractor and a pickup truck, and that he or she always answers the phone. Nothing annoys one as much as a friend who won’t answer the phone!

Author Douglas Puterbaugh, working with a student in Michigan.

TSB: What is the quality you most like in a horse?

DP: An excellent temperament and talent. These are the two nicest things. Who could want more? Except for maybe outstanding gaits.

TSB: If you could do one thing on horseback or with a horse that you haven’t yet done, what would it be?

DP: I would like to have enough time with a horse of superior quality. Don’t get me wrong, I love all horses, and always feel they are talented in their own way, and that every horse can teach you something, but it would be a dream come true to have a super-talented horse for long enough to see what we could possibly achieve together, without any time constraints or other pressures.

TSB: What is your idea of the perfect meal?

DP: Well, now that depends on who is paying for it. If I’m a guest, I should like steamed foie gras and shiso for starters, followed by thinly sliced breast of duck, and meringue cake with tangerine from the Pyrenees Region for dessert…Oh! And may I have a look at the wine list?

If I’m buying …I don’t know, I think I might have a coupon for Denny’s in the glovebox

TSB: What is your idea of the perfect vacation?

DP: It’s difficult for farmers to really take vacations, but I have never taken a Hawaiian vacation and think I would like to do that, just to see what everyone is talking about. Perhaps lying on the beach, soaking up the sun, and doing nothing might do me some good. I’m afraid I would get to missing the horses, but I would still like to try it sometime.

TSB: If you could have a conversation with one famous person, alive or dead, who would it be?

DP: With horse people, when we read other equestrians’ books, in a way we are having a conversation with them, although it’s a one-way conversation (which is not so bad!) Remember Thoreau: “It takes two to speak truth—one to speak, and another to hear.”

I think if I had the chance it would be someone whom I don’t know much about. Someone like François de Lubersac who was said to possess the ability to train only at the walk and yet turn out perfectly trained horses! I would like to know how much of this is steeped in legend? But General L’Hotte said of de Lubersac that “his infinite tact enabled him to feel at the walk all resistances, and with his marvelous skill he extinguished it at its very roots.” I don’t know if tact like that can even be learned without divine intervention, but I would sure like to shake the hand of the man that can do it! And who knows, maybe he might slip me the answer.

TSB: What is your motto?

DP: Never believe any form of discouragement!

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