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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.

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MovementQuizFB

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?

 

shoulderin

 

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.

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

bend

 

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.

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uta9tips

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.

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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.

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AlchemyFB

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.

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“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

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