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Books on classical riding

From: Rose

Dear Jessica, thank you so much for your site and your wisdom. You have made my life and my horses' lives so much better over the last four years since I have subscribed to HORSE-SENSE. There was a time four years ago when I thought my old horse was too old to become a different kind of riding horse, and a time two years ago when I was afraid of my young horse and was not sure that I would keep him. Today I am so very happy with both of them. Mocha is twenty-two years young and working at a higher level than I ever dreamed possible for either of us. Pressie is five now and I started him under saddle last year according to your advice. He is a dear sweet horse and I am enjoying every day of his education. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. My question today is about classical riding and classical readings. My husband's sister is a dear friend of mine (I know, I am very fortunate, am I not?) and she has recently become interested in classical riding. She loves to read, her birthday is in two months, and I have already talked with everyone else in the family about making a joint purchase of books about classical riding. I'm sure that you know what I am going to ask! What would you consider to be a good "starter set" of books? Eleanor has ridden for many years, but primarily on trails and without many lessons. She is very athletic and very intelligent, and now that she is taking dressage lessons I am sure she will be very good in a short time. I would like your suggestions of some, maybe ten or twelve in total, that discuss theory and philosophy, because Eleanor has read all of my "how-to" books. I am looking forward to your reply. Thank you for everything! Rose

Hi Rose! Thanks for the kind words. I'd love to suggest a booklist for Eleanor, especially if she is interested in "thinking" books instead of just mechanical "how-to" texts. There are literally hundreds of wonderful books out there, so this is just a sampling, but they are all well worth reading, re-reading, and re-re-reading over a lifetime. I'll do you the favour of confining myself to a dozen books that I know are currently in print and thus readily available. ;-)

The number-one "starter set" book is probably still Alois Podhajsky's "The Complete Training of Horse and Rider."

Another essential book - less organized, as it is a collection of his writings put together by his family and students after his death, but an important resource - is Franz Mairinger's "Horses Are Made to be Horses".

If she's fascinated by the technical side of training, I'd suggest Alfred Knopfhart's "Dressage" and Walter Zettl's "Dressage in Harmony".

If a more personal and anecdotal style, with less technique and more "feel", appeals to her, get these two books by Sylvia Loch: "The Classical Rider" and "Dressage in Lightness". In any case, definitely buy her a copy of "The Classical Seat", also by Sylvia Loch. It's a small paperback, inexpensive, and incredibly valuable.

Nuno Oliveira's books are also writtten in this style - and they are wonderful. "Reflections on Equestrian Art"

I personally enjoy all of Charles de Kunffy's books, but but you might begin by buying her one of them and then buy the others, at appropriate intervals, if she enjoys the first one! After all, there will be many birthdays and other gift-giving occasions in the future... I'd advise beginning with "The Athletic Development of the Dressage Horse", then moving on to "Training Strategies for Dressage Riders."

Anyone doing any kind of riding should read "Horse Gaits, Balance and Movement" by Susan Harris.

Two bedside-table books that you can dip into at any time, for a paragraph or a page, and take away something to think about are de Kunffy's "The Ethics and Passions of Dressage" and a wonderful work on the history of dressage, and von Ziegner's "The Basics".

And now I've gone beyond the dozen to which I promised to limit myself, but I do think that when she has read all of those, she would probably enjoy reading three books by Paul Belasik:

Riding Toward the Light Exploring Dressage Technique The Songs of Horses

There are literally hundreds of other books I could recommend (and will if you ask) - many of them are hard to find, though. There are other works by Nuno Oliveira, for instance: "From an Old Master to Young Trainers", "Horses and Their Riders", and "Horse and Rider: Annotated Sketches". "Horseman's Progress", by Vladimir Littauer, is a terrific account of the history of dressage.

There are also hundreds of easy-to-read, practical, basic "how to" volumes. I didn't include any of these, because of your description of Eleanor as an intelligent, athletic reader with a strong interest in classical dressage. Her instructor - and I hope she has a good one! - will be dealing with the "how to" in lessons, can and no doubt will suggest some basic "how to" books.

Enjoy - and feel free to ask for more suggestions, or to have Eleanor ask for more suggestions when she's read her "starter set". As she learns more about classical riding and becomes more familiar with these writers, she's sure to have some preferences regarding type of book and style of writing, and since so many riders and writers have dealt with the same topics, it should be possible to find something suitable for just about anyone's reading/learning style.

And speaking of that, I do need to put one last book onto your list. Sally Swift's "Centered Riding" is not about classical dressage as such, but it's a book that I recommend to every rider but most especially the would-be classical riders who don't happen to have fancy schoolmaster horses, who rarely (if ever) get a longe lesson, and who aren't riding in lessons four or five hours a day. Sally's book can help riders achieve an amazing degree of balance and flexibility - and understanding of horse/human balance and movement. These are qualities that the best riders have always had, but those abilities would "normally" come from many daily hours of riding in lessons over many years, many hours on the longeline (also for years), and the chance to ride schoolmasters. For most people, this isn't anywhere near reality - and they need another way to learn the physical balance and movement that they would get from that sort of riding program. Centered Riding is the best substitute I know for the schoolmasters, the longe line, and the hours of daily lessons.

Eleanor is lucky to have such a nice sister-in-law - congratulations to both of you. ;-)


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