Classical dressage is the technically correct way of
training the horse. Dressage comes from the French
word “dressur” which means to train and has been
around for hundreds of years. The object of dressage is
the harmonious development of the mental and physical
aspects of the horse. Classical dressage creates
athletic horses that are relaxed, balanced, supple and
confident in their work.
One of the key elements of classical dressage is that
the horse’s head is positioned on the vertical so that the
horse is reliably on the bit and accepting of the contact.
The only position or frame of the horse’s body that can
physically produce a well-muscled horse is when the
nose is on the vertical. The horse learns to use its core
muscles, lift its back and develop powerful haunches.
The horse’s energy is created in the hind legs and
channeled through its body into the rider’s soft hands
that maintain an elastic contact to the bit. One of the
great riding masters, Herbert Rehbein, was quoted as
saying he “rides with tranquilizers in his hands”. When
a horse is classically and harmoniously trained, the
horse’s muscles are able to lengthen, become supple
and ultimately strengthen. Muscle physiology requires
that muscles be relaxed, stretched and strengthened
without tension or overflexion. This also means that
there is no room for mental tension in the horse.
|Debra with the charismatic
(Trained to Third/Fourth Level)
Photo by Terry Ekdahl
|DEBRA QUIRT, B.Sc.
EC Certified Competition Coach
|Gina Smith riding Faust
1996 Atlanta Olympics
|Gina Smith competing
Classical dressage dates back to 400 B.C. when the Greek statesman, Xenophon, wrote a book on the art of
riding. His book contained precise explanations and insights into the feelings of the horse. His training was
based on intuition and kind treatment – a policy that sadly, was not always followed by riding masters in later
years. This attitude of kindness is best stated in his own words … “Anything forced and misunderstood can
never be beautiful.”