Quick Quiz: Riding Position Puzzle


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?




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.

How an “Ugly Duckling” Learned to Fly: A Story from the Spanish Riding School

The "Flying Horse": Neapolitano Santuzza in a capriole in hand.

The “Flying Horse”: Neapolitano Santuzza in a capriole in hand.

When I outgrew my first (“free”) pony, my parents, who were not horsey and who didn’t have a lot of money, found an Appy mare that was effectively “out to pasture.” She was unused and unloved, and they could get her cheap. I remember my first reaction, as a child who reveled in the long-maned, thick-tailed, glossy horses of girlhood fantasies—she’s not pretty…she’s not going to be any good. It is so easy to judge a horse’s worth by how he looks—and to get it tragically wrong.

That mare stayed with me until I went to college. She was the safest, most surefooted mount I may have ever ridden. She packed me many, many miles on lonely mountain trails, always bringing me home to my worried parents just before dusk. She was game for every jump (up to a certain height!) I threw at her, and she put up with the half-dozen neighbor kids to whom I gave lessons, patient, quiet, and honest until the end.

My experience is certainly not uncommon. A far more striking and illuminating example is one described by Colonel Alois Podhajsky, the Director of the famed Spanish Riding School in Vienna for 26 years, in the book MY HORSES, MY TEACHERS:

One of the most brilliant caprioleurs at the Spanish Riding School was Neapolitano Santuzza. By appearing in the performances and having pictures taken of his tremendous leaps, his fame certainly spread farther into the world than that of most of the other stallions of the School…

He was born in 1936 at the Lipizzaner stud farm in Piber in the green mountains of Styria and came to the School in Vienna together with nine young stallions of the same age in the autumn of 1940. Here he experienced the first disappointment of his life. While his brothers were admired by all riders for their beauty and their good paces and were flattered accordingly, nobody even paid any attention to Neapolitano Santuzza. On the contrary, suggestions were heard that he should not be kept at the School because he was obviously not worth any serious work. I am sure he felt like the ugly duckling. It was true that he was rather small and his head was just a trifle too big for his conformation. Nor did his eyes express the ardent temperament expected from a Lipizzaner. His paces were mediocre but his character was of an indescribable good-naturedness and docility…

I admit, I felt sorry for the little chap who looked at everybody with such gentle eyes and of whose presence nobody took any notice. What had been mere pity at first slowly developed into a deep affection, which made me protect him…I assigned him to a rider of very modest ambitions who demanded very little from his horses and consequently would not do any harm to him. In this respect he led a quiet life but also progressed so slowly in his training that as a twelve-year-old he was still not advanced enough to appear in a performance. Again it was suggested we get rid of him and sell him to some private stable. But he had become so dear to my heart that I was reluctant to make any decision and wanted to give him one more chance…

In 1949 I decided to work him personally in hand…I tried to teach him caprioles and was very pleased with his reaction to my aids. Although he was of a very calm disposition he possessed an extraordinary gift for this spectacular school jump. It was surprising to everybody who had followed his training to see how quickly he understood what I wanted, which was yet another proof of the importance of sympathy and mutual understanding for any successful cooperation…

A year later, in 1950, Neapolitano Santuzza appeared in public for the first time…[his] debut was a great success and the beginning of a brilliant career. From 1951 on there was no performance in which he did not take part. He received the name “the flying horse” and pictures of his capriole in hand circulated throughout the world. Our relationship became closer all the time; he never let me down and it seemed in all those years as if nature had endowed him with everlasting youth. He never declined in his abilities and his performance remained unaltered in beauty and exactness.




Read more about Neapolitano Santuzza, and many other horses that contributed to the life of Colonel Alois Podhajsky, in MY HORSES, MY TEACHERS, available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.



—Rebecca Didier, Senior Editor

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

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.


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.


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!


Horse Training In-Hand Featured in Dressage Club Newsletter–Download the Excerpt Here!

HORSE TRAINING IN-HAND, the gorgeously illustrated and best-selling book by Ellen Schuthof-Lesmeister and Kip Mistral, is featured in the May edition of the Tuscon Dressage Club Newsletter. (TSB sends their thoughts and prayers to everyone in the areas of Arizona that are currently threatened by the wildfires.)

HORSE TRAINING IN-HAND gives the classical practice of working your horse from the ground a whole new look for today’s modern horseperson.

The Horsemen’s Yankee Pedlar calls HORSE TRAINING IN-HAND, “A great book for learning the importance of groundwork,” and Northwest Rider says it “brings new life to these time-tested techniques, showing how schooling in-hand can improve the horse’s straightness, suppleness, balance, collection, and understanding of the aids.”

You can download the newsletter and read the FREE excerpt on introducing your horse to work in short reins HERE. And you can order your copy of HORSE TRAINING IN-HAND at the TSB bookstore, where shipping in the US is always FREE.

TSB Author Anja Beran’s Lusitano Stallion Performs in World Famous Circus Krone

The world-famous Circus Krone, based in Munich, Germany, is the largest circus in Europe and the only one to occupy a permanent building (with seats for over 5,000 spectators). Along with fantastic displays of acrobatics, exotic animals, music, and comedy, the circus has always promoted classical equestrianism, first under Director Christel Sembach-Krone, and now her successor Jana Mandana Lacey-Krone continues the tradition.

Lacey-Krone has collaborated closely with TSB author and horse trainer Anja Beran for a number of years, so it only made sense to have one of Beran’s horses star in the show during the month of March. Beran’s stunning dun Lusitano stallion Ramses wowed crowds with his performances. But Beran’s intent was not to only demonstrate classical dressage movements (the exterior of the horse) but also to prove how her method of training according to classical principles cultivates manners, willingness, composure, and “sparkle” (the interior of the horse).

Ramses, bred from a famous Portuguese bullfighting line, performed happily, unruffled by the large crowds, applause, lighting effects, and dramatic music. He was the perfect gentleman!

If only we could all say as much about our own horses’ appearances in public!

Check out Anja Beran’s book CLASSICAL SCHOOLING WITH THE HORSE IN MIND and her DVDs ELEGANT DRESSAGE TRAINING 1, 2, and 3 at the TSB bookstore.