Why learn about the Art of Classical Riding
   

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Why learn about the Art of Classical Riding

This is a discussion on Why learn about the Art of Classical Riding within the Dressage forums, part of the English Riding category
  • Aspirant technique dressage
  • English riding one high school

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    06-19-2010, 06:42 PM
  #1
Started
Why learn about the Art of Classical Riding

There are several riding academies in Europe namely the French, the Austrian and the Spanish and probably a few more if one looked closely. Each academy aims to preserve and practice the Art of Classical Riding

The modern home of the Spanish Riding School is in Vienna, although historically it has been based in other parts of the long lost Austro Hungarian empire. Lippica, the ancestral home of the Lippizaner horse is to be found near Trieste and the breed is a revered iconic symbol of modern Slovenia. It is accepted that, like so many of the well known horse breeds of Europe, the invariably white/grey Lippizaner has Andalucian genes - as indeed reputedly do The Cleveland Bay and Welsh Cob breeds of Britain.

The Austrian school of Classical Riding is seen as an art form of equestrian dressage arising directly out of the principles established by a seventeen century French horse master - de La Gueriniere. So, in effect the world renowned riding centre in Vienna, Austria is based on a Frenchman’s schooling methods and is neither in Spain, nor are the horses Spanish nor are the riders Spaniards.

However in Jerez, Andalucia in Southern Spain, there is a Spanish School of Equestrian Art where Spaniards perform on pure blooded Spanish Andalucian stallions, riding techniques developed in Spain. Both riding schools provide a elegant display of dressage to a very high standard perhaps arguably better described as Equestrian Art. The uniforms and especially the hats are different but the displays bear a remarkable similarity. A highlight of the display at both centres is for the horses to perform above ground movements such as the Levade, the Capriole and other High School/Haute Ecole specialities. It has been suggested that these movements were developed so as to be useful when the horse was being used as a warhorse in battle. More realistically nowadays, these moves are to be seen as an acrobatic display, which indeed it is, by highly trained pedigree stallions folr paying customers. But the movements are magical to watch.

A similar equine display but mostly in time to music is offered by Le Cadre Noir of the French Cavalry at Saumur, perhaps underlining the point that such a display is more ballet than horse riding. Each of these centres is nowadays regarded as being tourist attractions as well as a national depositary of the skilled traditions of equestrian excellence.

Interestingly the British Military school of Equitation at Weedon was closed in 1938 as being irrelevant to modern warfare. Perhaps in the XIXth century Capt Nolan of Charge of the Light Brigade fame was arguably one of Britain’s more famous horsemasters until he was killed at Balaclava but he was merely concerned in breaking remounts for use by cavalrymen within 6 weeks - nothing stylish. Nolan was also convinced that geldings could perform as well as stallions. Much earlier the Duke of Newcastle published a book in 1657 on training horses but failed to create a durable basis for the art of horsemanship partly because of his cruel methods. Hartley Edwards is perhaps the most famous British guru of modern times but his books are mostly concerned with basic training.

Sylvia Loch, whose dead husband Lord Loch, was an instructor at Weedon, in effect preaches the use of de la Gueriniere’s and certain other classical instructors methods. Little she preaches is new but she applies the techniques to everyday horses of all breeds.

“Dressage” incidentally is the French word for “training“ or more exactly “to develop through standardised training methods a horse’s natural ability and willingness to perform, thereby maximising its potential as a riding horse“. However to reach the ultimate standards of haute ecole display, the horse must be taken by highly skilled horsemen through a long process of education and training which traditionally has been divided into three phases - the young novice horse, the campaign horse and finally the haute ecole horse. In truth for everyday riding, even for success in modern dressage competitions, this high school riding is of little use to amateur riders, however the fundamental principles utilised throughout the training phases of haute ecole are applicable to all horse training.

The past director of the Spanish School in Vienna, Alois Podhajsky, has stated clearly that the prime purpose of Classical Training is to produce by natural methods and without restraints a well mannered, quiet, supple, obedient & responsive horse which by its smooth movements is a pleasure to ride. An objective which must be close to the heart of all horse owners. Equine experts such as the American, Pat Parelli, must be also be considered when trying to get the best out of one’s horse whilst at the same time retaining a harmonious relationship with the animal.

The British for some reason, perhaps associated with concepts of efficiency, always want to hurry a process when it naturally must take time. Nolan made his name by being able to train horses for war in six weeks. However it must be said in mitigation that cavalry horses did not last long on a battle field. During the era when the horse reigned supreme in transportation and war, Britain was, and indeed still geographically remains, an island. All those years ago, ideas of best practice did not readily cross The Channel. Nowadays Britain is connected to the rest of Europe by various methods of communication and ideas can now readily flow backwards and forwards. Perhaps for reasons of relative isolation, on several scores the British attitude towards horses is different. British riders and thousands of furry foxes enjoy a green and pleasant grassland, criss-crossed by bridle paths and split into fields divided by 3 ft high fences or 6 foot high hedges. We have developed from Arabs and Turkomens a breed of horse - the Thoroughbred - which has a broad range of aptitudes. Out in the green countryside live yet more ancient breeds of horses, cobs and ponies each fit for a special purpose. The military, the police, the farmers and the fox hunters all have played their part in the creation of Britain’s national equine herd. Similarly the British passion for crossbreeds has influenced the quality of the horse population. We Brits believe that too much interbreeding can be counter productive as we have found with our dogs. Even in modern times it is remarkable that the breeding of many horses can only be guessed at. Only recently after much resistance has the equine passport scheme been introduced much to the distain of the breeders, who point out that the British don’t eat horseflesh. This scheme which passes on a profile of a horse’s history should inevitably in the future influence breeding practices. Few breeders seem to consider temperament as an important inherited characteristic in a horse, yet when training a horse, temperament and intelligence are of utmost importance. But maybe that is the problem - it is rare for the breeder to attempt to sell a horse “ready to ride” - that’s perceived to be the dealer’s area of expertise or the job of the British Horse Society. Also in Britain, the female is the dominant influence, not only in that mares are invariably used for riding as well as breeding but mostly that the rider is a woman. Horses in Britain aren’t put down when they have reached the end of their useful lives, many live on for years as pets eating the abundant and cheap grass. And of course, stallions, which can be temperamental, are mostly kept entire for breeding purposes only and not to be ridden as in Iberia.

The influence of the Irish must also be allowed for - where else but Britain could they find an outlet for all of those cross bred horses, many of which have no pedigree whatsoever. Perhaps it is not without just cause that many continental horsemasters have said in the past that British horses are not for schooling to a high standard. As competitive dressage comes more into vogue, then perhaps the Brits must start to look at the quality of the national herd of horses. Neither is it good that most aspirant riders are taught to ride by rote - up on the horse’s back.

Unfortunately the theory of how horse and rider should come together is rarely discussed in depth even in the riding centre, often because the principles of riding are not better known by the instructor. A piece of paper does not necessarily signify a good instructor. It is time that we Brits got our act together and that we read what the continentals have been reading for 400 years. There is little to know about horse behaviour that our forbears did not learn long ago.

Not to be forgotten in this article is the example of myself, who nutures a pretty dapple grey Irish Draught mare with a divine temperament. She is not bred for haute ecole but there again neither is her master. Her role in my life is to be my companion and my reason for getting up early each day. She brings routine into an old man's life.

To summarize, Classical Riding Art is for the professionals, but the basic Classical Training methods used to train at the lower levels the haute ecole horse are for anyone who wants to learn how to get the best from not only their horse but also from themselves as a rider. It takes time to learn the techniques but in the end it can be worthwhile.

Barry G
     
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    06-30-2010, 12:06 AM
  #2
Green Broke
Great post! I agree.
Classical riding art is for professionals, but us young people have to fail a few times, and learn a lot before we get there. But I find there is no better sense of pride then when your riding a well trained (not specifically grand prix, even just a well trained first lvl) horse. I love any dressage because it's always an adventure, and always room for improvement, even if your at grand prix, there's things you can still learn. But I guess that all riding.
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    07-01-2010, 05:32 PM
  #3
Foal
Classical Riding Is Beautiful and shows a lovely connection between horse and rider :)
     
    07-02-2010, 10:31 AM
  #4
Started
I agree that Classical techniques are definitely the way to go when training a horse.

As a Welsh Cob owner and an Andalusian admirer I was absolutely thrilled to hear that Welsh Cobs may have Andalusian influence. (No wonder I've been thinking that my pony seems to have some of the same traits of the Andalusians!)
     
    07-02-2010, 12:32 PM
  #5
Started
The modern Welsh cob section D can be a very striking animal -full of fire and vigour. The sire and dam are registered as declared to the society by the breeder.

If you visit the horse breeders in Andalucia and Murcia, then you will be struck by the beauty of the Spanish stallions. No lover of a Welsh Cob cannot but admire an Andalucian (or even a Lusitano) horse.

To me, the difference betwen the two breeds lies more in the schooling regime rather than the breeding. The Spaniards have an age old tradition of classical training and riding; the Welsh breeder mostly leaves the schooling to the horse dealer or the first owner. In Spain they have to feed alfalfa; in Wales there is abundant green grass.

For sure the Welsh Cob is no longer merely a stocky ride and drive farm horse. Some of them are absolutely stunning as can be witnessed at the annual Welsh Show in Builth Wells. But the cobs are not as docile as once they were known to be.

I have often wondered if the trucks bring fruit and vegetables up from Spain and taking back fish, lamb and beef from Wales carry more than just food.
     
    07-02-2010, 02:34 PM
  #6
Weanling
I enjoyed reading this.
     
    07-03-2010, 10:25 PM
  #7
Weanling
Classical riding and schooling is for every rider in every venue.
Dressage is a dance and there are several modern day clinicians who try to get the riders to get off the bit and ride with their bodies.

Classical dressage is battle movements and should be ridden with extremely light hands and with one hand.
     
    07-04-2010, 06:15 PM
  #8
Started
Spirit Horse

Why don't you pick up on this thread and explain more about why it is important for the rider to explain to a horse what is being asked of it.

You most likely know far better than I.

Barry G
     
    07-05-2010, 12:03 AM
  #9
Weanling
Not trying to crash your thread. Just added an opinion. I do not know more than others. Your thread is more about the Cob, I just interjected what I said because I felt your statement "To summarize, Classical Riding Art is for the professionals" may be a detriment to good riders seeking to become great riders.
     
    07-05-2010, 06:38 AM
  #10
Started
Spirit Horse
I was inviting you to crash the thread.

I come from an era when "classical techniques" were deemed to be too sophisticated for the general rider. Back in those days one was taught to stay on with the view to one day being capable enough to follow the hunt. It was not until I started to ride in Andalucia amongst the Spaniards that I realised what for decades I had been missing. It was then too late for my ageing frame.

But as for being a great rider - let me assume that you mean " the better of the best" - I fear that the continental Europeans are taking the Art of Dressage to very high levels. The cost of the specially bred horse, the facilties, the schooling and the training plus the allocation of the time put top level dressage beyond the reach of the majority of us. Then of course there is the matter of ability.

My horse - an Irish Draught/Connemara 'cob' could do well in a younger persons hands - and I suspect she'd especially thrive with some Portuguese rider's attention even though she is a mare. Personally I'd look a big silly wearing a pretty dress but maybe my wife could be persuaded to dress up and parade in a feria. I am sure the horse would love it and maybe she'd find a handsome Lusitano stallion to make foals with.
     

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