About Classical Riding

Dressage horse

"Classical Riding" - sounds very grand, doesn't it?! But it's principles are very simple and apply to all levels of riders, whatever their discipline. Classical Riding is simply the art of riding in balance and harmony with the horse. It works without fear, or force, and most definitely without gadgets. Classical riders develop wonderfully light, responsive horses because they ride from their "centre". The horse is ridden from the seat first, then the legs and into the hands, as can be seen in this picture of Anja Beran.

Classical Riding and training of the horse is not a new concept; it has stood the test of time. In fact, Xenophon, in around 400BC wrote "Anything forced or misunderstood can never be beautiful...." when referring to the training of horses. More recently, there has been public uproar in the equine world about the use of "Rollkur" (severe overbending of the horse's head into an unnatural position by the use of strong hands or gadgets such as draw-reins) and a call to return to progressive, classical training of the horse, in which the horse grows in confidence, trust and beauty of movement, rather than being forced into unnatural hyperflexion, which may lead to long term physical and psychological damage to the horse.

When trained classically the horse can look forward to a long and healthy life. This is because the classical movements are all designed to build strength and flexibility of the joints, tendons, ligaments, also the strengthening of the back. The main thing is that nothing is rushed. Joints are not damaged by over-work too soon, but strength is gradually built up, over years, rather than weeks or months. In this way limbs are strengthened rather than damaged.

All of the above, combined with the general caring, careful management of the horse's lifestyle, means that the horse can live a happy, active and long life. For example, the Lipizzaner stallions ridden in the Spanish Riding School (the acknowledged epitome of classical riding) are often still performing at public performances into their thirties.

I believe we owe it to our horses, no matter what their breed or discipline, to make their working lives as pleasant, comfortable and enjoyable as possible.

Happy Riding! - Claire Burrow, 2011.