Everything in classical dressage is derived from biomechanics and
psychology which gives a logical cause and effect relationship to it all.

There is much more for the rider to deal with in their Training Scales perhaps because ‘a horse knows how to be a horse but, you have to learn to become a rider’.

Some of it you might think you're OK with, but I bet some of it is totally unknown to you, which is a shame (especially if you are a dressage rider), but I don't condemn anyone for something they don't know. I'm not a classical 'nut' who thinks there is a them and us divide between classical and competition dressage. I'm just trying to make riding more pleasurable for you and your horse.

The element that has changed is time. We live in a now society, that expects instant results, whereas the time it takes to train a horse to the highest levels has remained unaltered. It is by nature a time—consuming process and something that just cannot be hurried. Of course there can be exceptions, but that's what they areexceptions. Unfortunately, the exception is starting to become the rule with horses being pushed too far too soon and I don't just mean in dressage. We bow to commercial pressure. Those who come to me realise this need for time. Time needed for themselves as much as their horses.

Training horses correctly is not about quick fixes i.e. the latest 'outline' gadget, bit, noseband etc; it's finding the underlying root of the problem and unfortunately it's often pilot error not a bad horse.

Someone once said: It takes ten years learning how to sit on a horse without getting in his way. It takes another ten years learning how to influence the horse and then a further ten years learning how to influence him without getting in his way!

Many riders have already ridden for years before coming to Classical Riding and some find it hard to have to go back to the beginning and start again. Indeed, some try a couple of lessons and don’t return. To want to ride well you have to take a good look at yourself and place the onus on yourself (not make the horse a scapegoat) to improve. It can be hard work; physically and mentally. I’ve cried with frustration at my inability/inadequacy at times—it wasn’t the horses fault that he couldn’t take right canter; my body wasn’t allowing him to do anything but take left lead! When you realise the truth of this, and other similar scenarios, riding becomes humbling and you see it in a new light. It certainly leads me to want to improve every day. You have to want it and work for it, but it pays off in spades.

When I say it takes hard work, that doesn’t mean that it should be all sackcloth and ashes; riding should be fun too! There may well be aches and twinges as hitherto unheard of muscles come out of hibernation, but actual physical pain is a sign that you are doing something wrong.

Where you start on the Scale depends on where you’re at now. Some riders are nearly there and only need to be shown the missing piece of the jigsaw for them to see the whole picture. Many, many others are confused at the Classical Scale because it seems like the exact opposite of what they’ve been taught to date. Getting riders to bring their upper arm closer to their body and lengthen the reins is always a discussion-generator!

Who dares to teach must never cease to learn.

John Cotton Dana

Training Scales for Riders


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