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 Traditional Dressage / articles

Photos shown are being discussed and analysed yes, but I do not wish to attack riders or trainers personally. This is not the purpose of this diary. We aim at discussing the way of going ,training, principles, methods. But we must discuss dressage with the horse in mind. We wish to educate, to analyse, study and promote the correct natural movement of the horse enhanced through dressage training as the FEI dressage rules stipulate.



Why are so many riders not willing to learn to balance a horse naturally before they add energy to the stride?

What is wrong in the world so that we do not respect natural energy first, before adding to it?

Most problems in riding come from the lack of respect for the horse's natural way of moving. Yes, dressage is about going beyond Nature, but surely, it is not to impose our will wildly just to impress others? As civilised people, we should aim at improving upon Nature, not destroying the natural energy. Our aim is to add to natural flow of energy? Basics are there for a purpose.

Imagine building a house without foundations and without respect for the Nature the ground the house is built upon?


Pat Manning died in March 2009.

A rider who could balance a horse under her seat.


Here below is a paragraph written by a rider by someone who does not mind riding horses deep and round (read on the BRITISH DRESSAGE public forum, which I have been banned from as my views about what is happening to horses (and to dressage) are not allowed.

"I agree that the energy must come from behind but I would never ride a horse from behind if it was strong and resistent in my hand as I would just make it stronger, I would stay with the minimal amount of energy from the quarters (just enough to keep him in front of my leg) until I had achieved submission and relaxation in the neck and could ride him from behind without him blocking on my hand."

By not allowing the horse his whole body to balance himself,

WHICH INCLUDES THE NECK) riders create a block in the middle,

which in turn creates a "light in the hand" horse, but who is

never truly through and swinging.

The whole problem is that they separate the neck and head

BEFORE they want the horse through...

so instead of having a horse whose neck is GROWING OUT

of the horse's body, they have a stuck broomstick that

they put left,right, down and up when needed...

Energy-wise, the horse is not allowed the phase where he is

enjoying stretching, "PROSPECTING" his whole body towards

the bit as one piece, one body.

the correct way is to soften and channel the natural energy (life force)

of the horse and rider,

and then when in they both achieve self-carriage some extra energy

(from the rider and the movements,exercises) can be added safely,

without losing the natural paces.

A supple neck (broken before the poll/or too loose at its base) makes

impossible to let the aids through from behind. There is a "split"

there. The hands are not receiving real natural energy from behind,

they only control the neck and give "clues" /not aids.

The horse listen to "these clues" and the rider does not need to learn

to give the aids in a coordonatd manner.

Power is in this way not "blocked" but fully there... fully available,the horse is alive, enjoying handling his whole body without restriction.

In short, horse riding teaches us to handle Energy, the right way....

(little by little bit the horse can handle more and

more, instead of reducing it).


Saw a video of a "masterclass" made by an international British rider..... He explained that throughness, in dressage means : a round neck and a round body.

Who trained that person? And saying this in front of hundreds of people is tragic, it is the equivalent of telling parents in an assembly : "what is good food? Well, good food is whatever you like...!!!"

Tragic for the horses as usual. Seeing young horses overbent and with a floppy round neck, dragging their talent around the arena, (with lower joints over-taxed so that the horses has no option but to use his lovely natural energy somewhere) and hearing the "master doing the master class this is what the judges should look for in young classes.

If this is the result, (photo below) it is wrong. Look at the hindlegs...look at the fetlocks.. how long will they last? Veterinary science has made much progress yes, but is it right for the horse's nervous system to be used as a tool to seduce the masses?

We are no fools. This is very wrong training, and very wrong for the horses. If riders cannot ride movement anymore, they should maybe ride motorbikes or do some exciting sports like football or snowboarding.

Rounding a young horse neck prior to "breaking in" the horses (starting) with gadgets on the lunge is what upset the young horses, no wonder they are flightly and difficult to ride for a while.... (till they are put in their place.... with learned helplessness/rollkur) etc.  

What is that obsession with round necks for young horses? These horses are not on the bit, they are broken in the neck. The public is not as stupid or uneducated as some may think.

Again tragic for the horses, the lovely young horses.


Let's have a look at this very good photo again. I do believe that this photos shows a very goot topline, the horse being simply on the bit, but not yet collected (not yet carrying as such with the hind legs).

The beauty here is the topline, the way the horse is balancing himself under the rider harmoniously, there is not battle of will, just a conversation between the two: the is allowed full use of his body, collection will come later. This is a working trot frame.

There is the right amount of impulsion (natural energy) received in the allowing hands. The horse is allowed ROOM in the area of the shoulders to develop the withers, and the area around the withers. the Base of the neck is stabilised so as to become wider an stronger, the purpose being, the idea that the horse's neck is PART of the horse's body, not a separate entity to round or to manipulate unnecessarily.

The horse can see where he is going. The contact comes from the horse: it takes the rider's hands.

Young horses should not be made to ROUND their bodies and neck, before COLLECTION. It is wrong and damage their development, their neck become separate from their body (energy wise/muslces/nerves).

Throughness is very misunderstood term, throughness has nothing much to do with ROUNDNESS or collection.

The stage of collection must be introduced after the stage shown on this photo.

But how many horses does one see ridden with this frame now that trainers ande riders ride THEIR HORSES round before being through and before they are even in the "aids"?

Look again at this good photo: A horse who can see where he is going and is able to develop a body in front of the rider, what is wrong with people nowadays? Why do they want to round young, immature horses first, before this stage?

Adding extra energy to horses that are not yet in balance is the greatest problem of modern dressage.

First horses must learn to be ridden with the natural energy, no less, no more.

Riders cannot handle the "hot horses" the extra energy, introduced too early, creates.

But the question is why are horses HOT in the first place? Could it be because they are not allowed to swing and to be "young horses who need their neck for balance and ridden with too advanced outline created by the gadgets (during lungeing, previous being ridden) and by the rider's hands? Hot because they are restricted with gadgets and cannot find their balance thmselves.

Modern dressage is creating horses who move with unnatural tension all over their bodies and who would be dangerous to jump because the horses cannot trust their natural ability to move anymore. But dressage SHOULD be the best preparation for jumping.... what went wrong?


If Rollkur was so good for the horses' back,

why have the racing yards not decided yet

to rollkur their race horses, by now?


Here are two photos to demonstrate how much conformation of a horse can change through training:


The withers have grown

As a a 20 yr in 2008

A page will be prepared to show a horse through various stages. Other horses will also be shown, in time!


Now... there is something wrong here... this horse is on the forehand, head high and round..

No engagement either. Withers squashed down.


On the above link, someone wrote this which I find very interesting:


Years ago, systems thinker Russell Ackoff pointed out that we take four approaches to the future:

inactive, reactive, proactive or interactive.

Inactive people avoid the future by appointing committees, commissioning studies, issuing white papers, etc. Fear keeps them stuck in Dullsville, where they slowly turn to dust.

Reactive people resist a future they don't want by obstructionism, denial, even violence. For a while they can hold sway, but ultimately they're the bankrupt owners of buggy-whip factories.

Proactive people see the future as separate from us, inevitable, something to prepare for, cash in on, be on the cutting edge of. Here comes the future, and the Smart will thrive - the Stupid will be swept away in the tide. Get with The Program - Resistance is Futile.

Interactive people ask, "What kind of future do we want?" Then they work hard to create it. They're guided by vision, governed by hands, head and heart.

Wise Interactive people recognize that the future we want is constrained by physical laws - the sky is not the limit. The Earth is the limit.

This needn't be a letdown or disaster: cathedral builders didn't mourn that all they had was stone; they built Chartres and Westminster. Rumi didn't care that he didn't speak Chinese; he wrote great poems with the Persian words he had.

While we keep searching for a vision of a future that works, we also need to understand and create the conditions that allow a future we want to unfold, an emergent property of billions of creative acts. Perhaps the future is a garden.


Let's be INTERACTIVE with our horses and within the dressage world. Shall I send this paper to BRITISH DRESSAGE?


Transfer of weight behind, in order to spin. here is Pablo/ the grass sickness horse with his owner, getting ready for a little change of direction. Everyone knows that one could slip on a leaf and Pablo is very careful to say the least.


And again, below,, shown a good piaffe: energy contained for those interested in seeing what is correct dressage.

Lovely relaxed ride, relaxed and active horse. (Mme de Padirac).

And above, a superb levade with Nuno Oliveira, when younger, at his best maybe?


I put the photo (on the left and below) again on the website as someone who does ground work with horses, is putting it on all sort of forums he knows (and there are many). It has even been shown on little local magazines forums. Fame at last!!

It interests me that photo (mare ridden with neck up) below disturbs many modern trainers.

Pat Manning loved this photo (she was trained by the creme de la creme of the SRS, other Swiss SRS trained trainers did too). They did not love it because it is perfect, but because it is an interesting phase, that now modern trains ignore, nearly altogether... we now have the long deep and round instead... which block the horse's back up.

Why? Because it shows a phase before true roundness. And also why one has to be so careful when seeing a "work in progress". Most people look at the neck and do not see the stride or what is happening.  

Here again, below, are some SRS riders riding horses before rounding the whole horse, head up, some tension is seen, the horse is not yet ready to be rounded etc. : a phase in training that we do not see anymore...!!! Sadly.

(This is a repeat, but I think worth doing on this site. ) 

The whole reason behind this stage is : energy the horse must learn from himself how to round, how to carry.. without being forced. We ask, the horse responds and when a horse is young, not yet ready, he offers what it can... Read Hans Handler's notes if you are interested to know more on the subject.

I think this photo (scroll down) was taken in 1997, not sure. I will have to have a special page with photos and videos about this horse, because she shows that a leg mover very high knee/cob type action can soften the stride and change through training. (As the horse is still in work at 21, more photos will be shown in the spring, summer.) Nothing special about the horse and the rider is average /it is me, but what counts is the glimpses that the stride of the horse CAN change. 

Those who are only interested in the tricks side of riding will not be interested, but any serious dressage student will take time to understand what is happening in a horse, through training, when the back starts to allow more swing, even a little bit.

Now most people dislike this photo when someone shown it on a Forum.Indeed, it is an interesting photo showing the start of a stride as the horse is lusitano with a basic very high knee action. 

She is just on the verge to round her body on this "working photo" (work in progress) .

It would be easy to round her neck alone, but in this line of training, we seek the whole round chosing to come rounder, so the hands do not MANIPULATE THE FRONT, but will allow the horse to drop its head and neck out in front, onto the bit.

When her back started to be more supple, she learned to round her whole body, which includes the front legs of course so the mare began to lose her choppy stride. The back swinging also changed her from a dishing horse into a straighter, smoother horse.

So, far from being a finished product, this photo is a good example of a horse who learns to come and carry and at the same time is not yet ROUND.

Many now think that good training nowadays are horses who are ROUND in the neck, but straight in the body.

the example below, I could have rounded the neck... but then.. how could I round the whole horse later?

On the left the old way of going:

stiff flat back and high knee action, just had to hang on and it was like riding a train... a sewing machine type..

Now, same horse later...On this photo( the horse is not collected yet).

The leg action is rounder on the ground.

That is all.

The same horse can be seen on TOP the HOME PAGE, when she found the bit.

But if we remember that the elementary work is 85% plus of the finished dressage horse, we may appreciate that the Basics are so important. This horse, next stage would round from behind and DROP the head and neck out down onto the bit.

Looking at the coordinated legs, there is a good feel and the rider (me younger) is sat more in the middle of the horse as the shoulders learn to open a bit.

Ok, I look a bit silly and arms not real soft, but the mare is super hot mare and wonderful for it: she thinks foward forward forward, so off we go, and slowing her down is interesting to say the least. So, I do soften my arms but keep the contact, thinking soft wrists, elbows, shoulders etc. in fact all my back has to soften to slow her down, without losing balance, on a hot horse, one keeps the legs ON and sit softly but longer in the saddle. I look a bit rigid on this photo, but what counts is to look at the stride coming, starting to come..

This is an intermediate stage, a stage that is very necessary. Going from wrong to right is not possible with horses who have a past, we must ride day by day various levels and let the horse adapts his musculature to a different feel and let time help the horse to undo the wrong muscles and build better ones. We want a horse that develops a front.... the rider must be sitting in the middle of the horse, not on his withers, so we need to take time to allow the horse to open up.......


So interesting, look at the photo above, we must respect the fact that the part of the horse - in front of the rider - is well developped, opened up.. this nervous centre, just where the spine is going down, lower in the body is where all the nervous "junctions" are happening. Restricting horses has a tragic effect on their mind.



Here is Inglesa, the mare I am riding on the top of the Home page

- 4 years before the ridden photo was taken when she was a broodmare at Broomford Stud, the home of Noel Edmunds, while I was under treatment. (2002/2007)

She stayed these 5 years and then I bought her back and ride her now again in Veteran classes.

Just as a little interim from talking training!

photos taken

in 2003/2005



Is aggression always physical or can it be psychogical, mental, emotional? 

Has the FEI forgotten to mention that aggression towards a horse can be purely psychological?

Especially if a horse has been going through the physical forceful riding at home, a threat then would suffice at shows.

And why "accept rollkur ridden without aggression"....., when we all know that it produces horses that are not trained according to the rules? (No pure collection, no airborne suspension, just yoyo movement).

I will post soon texts about Pat Manning training/ and memoriesfrom me and other riders, in her page, here on this website. No time today! So sorry.


It is unfair that young riders are being shown these photos on a magazine, as being photos of winning combinations, considered good, etc.

The "new to dressage" gets used to see wrong results of training and it is always the horses who pay the price.

Looking at that photo, (photo of a competition winner) one hopes that there are judges who think that this horse is not moving correctly and that the photo has been badly chosen to illustrate the combination's success.

The hindlegs are miles away behind.

No lift, no carrying ability from behind. No transfer of weight so the horse is reduced to be tense and stressed. Where is "grace", where is the "dressage stride"?

Only the front legs are flashing and make the beginner onlooker, believe he is watching an extended trot. The horse is OUT of balance, on the forehand and cannot swing his body, his whole attention is to stay upright,

not to fall of......, that is.

 Horse and Hound should change "the person" in charge of chosing the Dressage photos!!!!

And secondly:

Richard Davidson apparently advises young riders to go and train with the Bartels, who promote rollkur/ hyperflexion. Why?

What is wrong with teaching those young riders to ride correctly, get a independent seat instead of sending them abroad to people who use short cuts and rollkur. A whole generation is being taught to ride the "neck" in order to be successful ??????? This is not acceptable. The photos and videos shows clearly (and the eyes in front of hores ridden deep) that the hindlegs are not able to come under and through.... The modern way to ride horses out of balance, without self-carriage so that they look impressive has a dramatic effect on the horses and also on the people.