The Spanish Riding School and Art in Equestrian Sport

The Spanish Riding School in Vienna is on the “I simply have to go there one day” section of my travel wishlist. The main attraction for me is of course the rich history of horsemanship, despite the fact that the beautiful buildings with amazing features such as chandeliers in the riding arena, are just about enough to warrant a visit on their own.

Maestoso Basowizza & Oberbereiter Hausberger

Previously, I had read many interesting things about the Spanish Riding School, but I have just had a fantastic refresher course on the classical principles that are the heart and soul of their work. It has been a great opportunity to reflect on how much this faraway place has influenced my mental approach to riding and training. In one of those serendipitous moments that I love the internet for, this refresher course came in the form of a randomly stumbled upon youtube video, which you can see here, and part 2 here.

The truly heartening thing to see from this video on the Spanish Riding School is that good horse sense and horsemanship run through everything they do. Although the riders may dress in uniforms from a bygone era, it is difficult to spot anything about their practices that is so old fashioned that it should be left to the history books. Much has been made of the gap between classical dressage and competition dressage of today, but from this video I see much that can be learnt from the past and applied to the competition arena.  Continue reading

The Irrational Horse and the Rational Human

“If the world was truly a rational place, men would ride sidesaddle.”

~ Rita Mae Brown

Oh dear… the rider seems to have lost her head…

People sometimes complain about how irrational horses are. I’ve noticed it’s often when they can’t get a horse to do something, and feel the need to justify the rough handling they have resorted to in frustration.

Apparently you can tell who the completely rational being is in this sort of human-horse pairing; they’re the little one who’s trying to force the big one to do something BECAUSE it doesn’t understand… Strange when it’s put like that isn’t it…. the little one tries to force the big one to do something, because who doesn’t understand…?

If you truly believe that the horse isn’t doing what you want because it can’t think rationally, then please realise that getting rougher with the horse isn’t going to magically make it understand what you want.

The ability or otherwise of horses to think rationally is too large a subject to fit in this post, so that’s a matter for another time. For now let’s focus on how we can tone down the irrational stuff in training sessions – from both horses and humans…

Let’s walk a mile…

If you step into the horse’s shoes (or bare feet) for a moment, I’m sure you will find more similarities than differences between the way a horse reacts to a confusing training session, and the way you would react to a confusing training session… We’ll put it in human terms that most people can relate to: Continue reading