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 Traditional Dressage / articles

some time ago..

Catherine's DIARY


APRIL 2010


Question: what about looking at these two photos to compare the horses' hind legs? And which horse is going to develop good engagement for the future? This is pure analysis, no rider is attacked personally here. (this is my moto: talking about training, what riders "do" or may try to avoid "doing" but no personal attacks). We discuss here "ways of going" not "people". :)


Imagine that you are swimming and

that your head is attached with a bit

in your mouth,

held by a child/or very little person,

who sits on your back.

What would be your fear if the child

is umbalanced and the movement of

his arms and body creating pull/loose

pull/hank/feel in your mouth and

does nto go with the movement of

your body while you swim?

You lose your coordination through

pain/tension and lose your ability

to swim harmoniously through the

water. You cannot use your neck,

so necessary for the right use of

your arms....

Suddenly the Natural flow, the ease

is lost and you may also lose your

ability to stay on the surface of the

water and drawn.

For the horses, I think the fear is to

fall. Horses that are unbalanced by

bad riding are frightened to fall.

Falling for a prey animal is not "good"

as it usually means "death".

The question is why are so many trainers

out there allowing riders without balance

and ability to "follow the head and neck"

movement of the horses...

.... to ride movements and to train

horses for competition?

Learning to be able to "follow" without

disturbing a horse is essential because

the aids are given and must be given

"within this flow, within the movement"

while the rider's body stay supple, poised

and most importantly, allowing.

(Allowing does not mean floppy contact

which is on/off/on/off, but one that is

coming from an independent seat).

I suggest that everybody who has "problems"

of tension/bitting/bridlelameness/teeth

griding, tongue out, crookedness, lack of

impulsion, resistance etc. to ask a friend

to film the bit in the mouth of their horse

while they ride in rising trot and practise

keeping the contact absolutely CONSISTENT


ITS NECK AND HEAD as nature intended.

A rider who cannot follow the head and neck

of the horse with his/her body and arms

without losing balance, must get some

practise in this. Fear of losing control

often here is the cause of much "hanging

on" and "pulling".

In emergency one does what is needed,

but first of all riders should avoid emergency

till their seat is established and their mind

calm when horses are not.

The other basic is to be able to do this

while keeping the lower leg in place,

swinging with the horse's barrel, boot to

hair.... without floppy lower legs.

This is a big ordeal already and this is what

dressage riders must check in their riding

before "doing tricks"...

Advanced riding (Dressage is advanced

riding) is needed and to improve balance,

Lunge lessons are invaluable as well as



"The Spur is not a forward driving aid, it is a collecting, round aid. It acts by pressure and should nor hit".


An excellent editorial fromHorse Hero to read...

I wrote a comment. So,The FEI meeting about rollkur has not changed how riding happens in warm-ups competition Dressage, What a tragic way to ride horses.


When I am asked to :

  • be "more open minded"
  • "accept other's point of view" even if these points of views are coming from "personal opinions" (like and dislikes) instead of being based on truth and experience.
  • praise dressage (horse's) trainers for doing "what they like" to make "dressage more fun"
  • ignore rollkur, deep and round as a method of training instead of an emergency tool
  • accept that now horses are ridden "in parts" instead of as a "harmonious whole" so that their front leg movement is increased while the hindlegs are bending high in the air instead of coming smoothly through to carry the rider
  • stiff horses winning international GP competitions
  • FEI Rules being ignored by judges

I have only one thought in my mind, the horses.

What do they have in mind,

those who think "each to their own"

and are entitled to think differently?

It is also interesting to realise that people do not know what Natural paces means.

They think it is a visual only thing.... well, it is mainly how the life force goes through the horse (without being restricted in any way) and which allow the horse to feel good, in one part, as a whole body and mind moving in harmony with Nature.

This is why riders must learn first to ride without restricting the horses, on a contact because horses lose their inner harmony when first ridden.

Time is needed to re-establish this harmony ; this is the priority of training, this is what aiming at Self-carriage means. (Not so easy with spoilt horses..)

Then, riders can learn to collect horses. Not before. To collect a horse that is not moving in harmony with the rider is to cause blocks and restrictions. 

Because if a rider restricts a horse before having learned to be part of the horse's movement, he or she is going to create an unbalance in the horse, which in turn will have to tense up some parts of his body to stay upright.....

This is why young horses should be taken very seriously and with time: riding them with too much energy while restricting their front and movement, create our stiff leg movers:

horses stiff in the middle and who are unable to use their back and nervous system to coordinate their paces. like the "over excited" youngster shown at the Sales (excitement created artificially by trainers very efficiently), they lose connection and become irregular in their paces.

This maybe way there are some people who think that what they see at the "sales of young horses" are "natural paces" when in fact, they see the effect that "excitment" has on horses. (circus training VS classical schooling).


The rules for Stewards during FEI dressage competions has been published:

interesting. some passage clearly accept way of riding that are considered against the rules of dressage.

Also interesting. I am told that a British judge wrote today on the official British Dressage forum that dressage at high levels is "entertainment".. we like it or not... because "people pay to watch and prefer to see 80% horses.

According to this judge, apparently, classical schooling would only get 46%..

Never been clearer: the public, people are becoming the judges now...

No need to have any expert judges. I suggest that tests should be rated by need for any judges as far as this strange logic would take us.

Dressage is after all not about the horses' training and their welfare. It is amazing that they still keep the word "Dressage". I did suggest in the past that instead of changing the rules and Dressage, they should just invent a new entertainment business called Showdressage.

This would make things clearer for trainers and riders.

Quote from Hans Handler (SRS):

"In what way does dressage riding in the Classical sense differ from Circus work? The purpose of Circus work is a flamboyant show, but Classical riding aims at perfect harmony of movement, the competition and show are of secondary importance."

Of course "perfect harmony of movement" cannot be achieved often, nor by all,or at all time. What counts nevertheless is that the rider and trainer aim in the right direction and AIM at perfect harmony of movement. The problem is that not many people understand "Harmony".

In fact it means nothing for some...

Harmony is when the energy is flowing through without block (through the rider and the horse), without tension. This flow can be collected (by the horse when needed to perform some exercise or movement) but as soon as the flow is reduced in parts of the horse's body and exaggerated in other parts, we have no more "harmony."

In Nature the horse is moving without "break of energy" through his whole body. This is what is to be respected in order to ride without damaging their sensitive and very refined system.

Same for us (lack of flow/bloodflow create chaos and problems in our bodies).

No one is criticising mistakes made, or problems during competitions. But judges must carry on their duty which is to mark according to the Rules. This is what many in Germany request.

When a horse loses balance or the natural paces (DAP) or goes BTV or short in the neck, the judges must mark the test down and not be taken away (emotionally) by the "entertainment" factor.

The public can enjoy the spectacle, but the judges are watching for another reason: to mark according to the written Rules, to protect the horses from overly ambitious riders and trainers.

Are the international high level judges doing this now or are they marking "what they like personally?" Questions questions...


Again a horse trotting on one leg.... full power on, rider leaning back.... no harmony. Power unlashed but not contained. Why not just ride race horses on the gallops or hunt instead? Will show a crop photo of it as soon as I find the time to load it.


Why do we speak about roundness in dressage?

Well, it is in the view of my teachers that "angular joints" and angles,

prevent the flow of energy from behind to pass smoothly..

I publish this photo regularly, just so that we do not lose touch with a good "feel" because one can get so used to see what "is wrong" and then the "wrong" become the norm, in our mind.

Enjoy this photo of Mme de Padirac.

And now something different.


Looking at the above clip.... some comments.

It is a very good example of a bad "inside hand/rein", pulling back everystride, disturbing the horse.

Interestingly, the trainer does not correct this rider's hands nor the feel of the rider.

One can observe that when the trainer asks the rider to touch the horse's croup with the inside hand, (therefore ride with only one hand) the horse relaxes and walks nicely.


Konrad says the right things....... Have a look. BASICS are everything...

Horsemart talks to Conrad Schumacher "Preparing to Win".mp4 Horsemart bagged a rare interview with one of the greatest dressage trainers ever

Conrad Schumacher here he talks about Preparing to Win. For more information on the grea...


The consistent elusive "contact"...

(A little text written quickly this morning)

We are not talking about floppy reins but about reins which move with the

horse, are taut and non-restrictive (for horse muscles system).

When the energy, circulating through the horse and rider, are reaching the horse's mouth in the right way, without block or angular disturbances, (as in leg movers) the feel is smooth and is strong/light, according to the level of training and there is no need to "round the neck".

A horse will stretch his topline, and his neck, out in front stretching

out and then drop his head and neck by his own accord. This happens

when the horse discovers a way to carry the rider without tension and

with a relaxed back (thanks to very good quality riding of course).

Big circles will help the horse as the circle itself will stretch the horse’s

middle a little if the rider is good with an independent seat and hands.

This is a feel that one can learn through time spend improving the

supple and free, poised riding seat ….. this is what trainers should

teach, day in day out: this is their duty so that horses are not ridden

front to back in dressage.

It takes time to develop a rider and teach a riderto allow without

pushing/resisting/allowing the wrong way/pulling/dropping the contact

at the wrong time/etc. 

All riders, including instructors should accept and know their defects,

work at their seat and check themselves so as not to pick up tension

and bad habits. There is no shame to have difficulties, problems.

The only shame is to try to “invent modern methods” which are

presented as the solution and avoid learning the true and good

riding necessary skills that horses need in order to love their work.

Dressage is all about learning to ride well, it is not about throwing

the Rules away or inventing various new and dangerous methods

that do not allow horses to be a partner in any way and transform

riders into puppets who are unable to follow the horse’s movement....

Without a good seat, good "contact" in the hands, receiving energy from

behind, is not yet possible. If your horse is not giving you a good

feel under the seat, lower leg and in the hands, check your whole body

and get some good sound lessons to check that you are not stiff

anywhere when riding and that your horse is "through".

So listen to what the horses are saying and check yourself for tension,

when you ride.

The lower leg too should move WITH the horse's middle,

skin to the skin... the lower leg is the base for the "conversation"

with the horse's hindlegs (and the whole horse of course).

Those pictures of riders who ask their horses to be round in the

neck and have no ability to get the lower legs gently but consistently

ON, show that the horses have hindlegs that are dragging.

But as the hocks bend sharply "to catch up with the horse" some

call this "being active behind". Sadly this "activity" is not allowed

through and horses are either pushing the energy up through the

croup, or out behind...

Riding boots should not be thin/weak at the ankles, they should

allow the intimacy of the good feel (calf/belly of horse).. but this

is another matter again altogether.


There is a new fashion in dressage: riders leaning back, energy shooting through, horses looking like they are going wild jumping a big fence out hunting... No containment of energy and this is why the riders have to lean back.

Something else now:

Here below, is an interesting photo. the horse is looking ok for most.

I do believe nevertheless, that this horse has been trained with a round neck to start with and one can see this by the withers being "not part of the movement", they are not developped. The back is flat, strong, but energies are not flowing uphill as they should. The horse's nose is not pointing where the front foot is going to land..

This is horizontal balance. Not nasty, not bad, just not good. The muscles of the "base of the neck" speaks volume. Politely the horse has a "frame", but is not through yet.

And finally, The British Dressage official Forum:

A friend of mine told me that the official British Dressage forum has now become a "selling point" for a trainer. A private forum in a way.

A "gang" seems to have now taken the forum over and is enjoying themselves agreeing with each others and selling "intempestively" one member's clinic. Could it be what is called "a mutual adoration society"? It is rather amusing to see this taking place apparently.

Anyone who disagree with statement made by a person who disagree with them is eliminated quickly through bullying and threats, aggressive attitude (defensive really... ), etc.

I was simply banned. Not for being rude or unfriendly, but just for having other views. One of the views most unwelcomed, on this official forum, was to defend the existing FEI rules and to promote pure Dressage vs showdressage (circus tendencies).

If anyone has another opinion of the "gang" in charge of the forum, unfounded rumours about their lack of knowledge and direct personal attacks are quickly spread through the ranks of BD. The gang comes with a lovely story that reach out for the emotions of novice riders and the person (who think differently and wish to follow correct guidelines for training horses) is eliminated, prevented from discussing TRAINING.

The mind boggles. Why are people so attracted to go against the Rules (which protect the quality of training and the health of the horse)?

Why does BD refuse to allow dialogue to people with knowledge and who are trained to follow the FEI rules to discuss training methods and defend the correct interpretation of the Scales of training?

And last, BD forum member have a show coming this summer for Charity.

They call it "Extravaganza"..... It says a lot...

Extravagant paces,... I thought were not part of Dressage but were more "showdressage"? (Not according to the existing, written FEI rules)?


I am often told that I should work for a charity who look after the starving ponies and horses instead of disturbing the beautiful and top class yards owners and their riders who are looking after their horses superbly.

Why spending time observing and analyse "how they ride", "which training methods are used"..... instead of going plodding through the fields and the muddy farms, looking for poor unlucky souls to be saved?

Dressage horses, as we know are loved, well looked after, are groomed superbly, live in great facilities, eat the best hay, fed with the best feed components. Therefore, they are fine. I am told that I am wasting my time trying to pin point the errors of modern dressage because there are much more horrors in the world for me to report. Yes this is true indeed. But, there is a but. First of all, my aim is not to attack anyone, certainly not to attack individuals who take great pride and care in their work.

Nevertheless, I learned as well, by observing the world, that money does not buy goodness and truth, but instead it buys comfort. And comfort has nothing to do with joy, happiness or moral values.

One can be extremely distressed in a palacial home, especially if the man or woman in charge is selfish, ignorant or simply unaware.

Around the dressage world, there are plenty of comfortable horses who are ridden "unnaturally", harshly and with one purpose in the mind of the owner: winning competitions.

One has to go beyond nature in dressage yes, but not against Nature, not against its essentials principles. If we do, we destroy or take away the "essence" of dressage.

When we do, we remove "grace" from the horses, their ability to balance themselves, even the ability to collect themselves with their whole body and we (often unconsciously) remove their ability to have a "conversation" with their riders.

One has a duty (all of us) to protect dressage (classical dressage according to the FEI existing rules) and by the same token the horses, by opening a transparent dialogue and question the new "methods" of training which leads to successful performances maybe, but which are nevetheless not within the boundaries set by the FEI.

This could be a good thing, but when one hear about the percentage of those top dressage horses being put down at an earlier age, the ugliness of seeing horses deeply overbent during training, one must ask questions and try to find the CAUSE of this.

Take the time to read Gerd Heuschmann' s letter AGAIN, slowly. I also think that reading again the German letter to the FEI, as well is time well spent.

Dressage is the training of the horse, (whole horse: body and mind) and the whole process is for the horse's benefit.

During the process the rider also learns and becomes a better human being, learning to be humble, emotionally balanced, patient and dedicated to the horse, not just dedicated to the competitive world.

Dressage astray Watch the entire interview and much more.


The major problem in dressage is that riders put too much impulsion in the horse too early. This create all sorts of problems... It may look "impressive" for a while, but if the horse is not in self-carriage and if the rider is not ready to handle more "energy" without having to manipulate the neck of the horse, this leads to "tension"....

This tension is then used to "create extravagant paces" and also used as an excuse to teach that DEEP AND ROUND is the only way to get "submission", which is misleading to say the least.....

The horse on the left, who has too much impulsion and one sees clearly his right foreleg being unable to leave the ground in time as the horse is over burdened (cannot handle energy while keeping his self-carraige. 

 The neck is short, the topline is tight. The horse is not ready for medium trot, he should now be brought back to self-carriage and learn to swing his back more, which would liberate the whole horse.

So again, to solve the problem seen on the photo,

more allowing with the arms/hands/whole rider (in short, improve the rider)

and a slow down of the speed would be required, while keeping the lower legs on and a more allowing rider's seat/pelvis/back.


I do believe that ShowDressage is becoming a circus, a place where one has great fun. 

The new fashion for grey/beige jackets at international Grand-prix is rather a sign that riders now want to "be noticed" instead of wearing the dark and discreet colours that show the horses as "the important ones".

Now that the "egos" have taken over, we have riders (to compensate for the fact their horses cannot halt within the aids or rollkur themselves to do like it is requested "at home") who throw their arms in the air, and often allow the horses to trot or jog, as it is all a good fun..... Even if rules request that riders walk their horses on the long reins.

image found on /blue tongue facebook group.

This emphasis on the RIDER is to maybe compensate from the fact the horses are showing tension, wrong muscles?

Dressage which was a presentation to enliven "the emotions" is now fully that. Well, maybe some will remember that Dressage is to instilled a feel of "grace", a feel of Silent beauty.... to all those present.

It is only a question of time.

On a personal note, I think that my disability (no feel in the right leg while riding) has improved tremendously, so that I should be able to ride much more now, a long page is now turning: illness is behind me. For those who suffered Cancer too, do keep your spirits up, do put your mind in a great frame of mind and your body will follow.

Like horses, we are "one", body and mind.

I am sure that to have the right frame of mind is absolutely essential.

If anyone is fighting Cancer and ride or wish to ride again please contact me and we should create a Poster for the hospitals to prove that one can heal too, thanks to the horses... with the horses.