"The wild horse is an impressive picture of vibrant life, the essence of horse-ness"

What is a horse?

Running horse

I want to ride well because I love horses.

What appeals to me about them most is the beauty of their movement. Running in a meadow, they are the picture of freedom, grace and power. At first, when we put a rider on a horse’s back, its unbridled joy turns to anxiety as it struggles to balance its burden and is no longer free to choose its own actions.

Foal piaffe

Free, a horse wanders at will for twenty four hours a day choosing its food, socializing, rolling, gamboling, resting, sleeping. Its play is an expression of its own impulses. In the wild, its life is dynamic and stimulating, a mixture of pleasures and perils that have created its perfect design. Suffering is most often short-lived, thanks to the predators and environment that have in effect formed the horse as it is. The wild horse is an impressive picture of vibrant life, the essence of horse-ness.

The domestic horse, born into confinement, imprinted with human values, deprived of its natural food and active way of life, adapts. Some live lives of quiet desperation, becoming sick, depressed or neurotic. Selective breeding is creating horses more able to adapt to domestic life.

What is classical dressage?

Newcastles

The question of “classical” dressage arises so often without a meaning people can agree upon. If it refers to Greek or Renaissance times, look at the array of savage bits, sharp spurs, and gangs of men with whips, ropes and pillars used to bend horses to their will as quickly as possible. Even today, instead of training, people are quick with the stronger bit, the extra straps, the tighter noseband, the whip, the spur, the twitch and the tranquilizer.

The roots of dressage are from the Classical Age, but the prescriptions for gymnastic training are relatively modern and are based on ethics, observation and the science of the times. The writings pleading for humanity, born in the Greek Classical Age, resurrected in the Renaissance, are being enriched today by a new wave of science and sensibility. At the same time, they are being undermined by competitive lust and the desire for quick profit. A made dressage horse was once not for sale at any price. Despite today’s prices, horses are relatively attainable and with a hot market, an industry has been built around the expendability of the product. Used up horses retire sometimes ten years earlier than they should.

Pagan

Dressage is evolving, yet the laws of physics and horse psychology remain etched in stone. Dressage movements are based on what a horse would do in nature. Many seem already creations of the human imagination. The extreme inventions, such as backwards canter, three-legged canter, and even the airs above ground, were struck from the repertoire long ago. Despite today’s pressures to add more razzle-dazzle, freestyles will forever be defined by the limits of equine anatomy. Isn’t simple excellence and perfect harmony enough?

The modern super horse is empowered by scrupulous and scrupled breeding for ergonomic structure, genetic soundness and an enthusiastic character for the work. The future looks great, but only if lofty ethics are applied to the science of gymnastic training.

For me, classical or modern, dressage means riding with integrity according to FEI prescription.

Dorita Peer Kozak

Who am I?

As a dressage judge, trainer and breeder for over thirty years, I am motivated to expound for love of the horse. Harmony impresses me. What can go on “behind the barn”, even at the top level, is not a pretty sight. Love is understanding and integrating with this other entity as it is. However, not every horse trains by the book. Even fewer are cut out for big time dressage. Such horses demand even more expertise and wiser decisions, not torture. Nor should young talents be pushed along faster than their bodies can take it, even if they seem willing.

Perhaps all the best books have already been written. Click here for some great titles. On the other hand, few riders are studying the old masters. True, words can only approximate feelings. Understanding comes to life literally from the seat of one’s pants under the keen eye of a master, but not everyone has access to a master.

What do the old masters say?

Xenophon stated that nothing obtained by force could be beautiful. Waldemar Seunig made his goal the training of a horse from beginning to Grand Prix without any resistance. Alois Podhajsky advised that a horse should be put away each day before he was tired in order to preserve his enthusiasm. Dr. Reiner Klimke said nothing compared with the feeling of a self-motivated horse.

Dressage has to be fun for the horse.

Are there any modern masters?

The efforts of natural horsemanship practitioners bring old lore to the urbanite and achieve very good basics. At the elite level, there are more and more riders who demonstrate integrity through the easy brilliance of their mounts. It takes a team of at least five – breeder, horse, rider, master and judge – to create a picture of perfect dressage.

Go to Video analysis with Picture Perfect Dressage