Philosophical Guidelines for Classical Dressage
- by Dr. Thomas Ritter
©2007 All Rights Reserved
- Everything you do with the horse has to serve the horse’s physical and mental well-being. Everything else must be subordinated to this demand.
- Everything we do with a horse, every interaction, every aid we apply, every exercise or movement we ride is a learning experience for the horse and either makes him better or worse. There is no middle ground. Therefore, everything must be aimed at improving the horse in some way.
- The training must make the horse increasingly more reliable, obedient and responsive to the rider’s aids, regardless of the setting in which the horse is being ridden.
- Trust and obedience are two sides of the same coin. We cannot have one without the other.
- Dressage is a systematic gymnastic training process that helps the horse to carry the weight of the rider with the greatest possible ease so that he moves with the same range of motion and brilliance under saddle as at liberty.
- Each new step in training must be prepared and explained to the horse, so that he understands what is asked of him and is capable of executing the request.
- The horse determines the speed of the progress, since each learning step must be confirmed and the horse must be comfortable with it, before it is safe to move on to the next step.
- The training must preserve, or even improve, the horse’s soundness.
- The rider must be sensitive to the horse’s individual strengths, weaknesses, and limitations, since not every horse is physically capable of reaching the highest levels.
- Each exercise and movement influences the horse’s gait and posture in specific ways. The rider’s responsibility is to select the right exercises for each horse, so that his natural gaits improve.
- Since (classical) dressage is supposed to be a nature oriented type of training, the movements that are taught to the horses must be either naturally occurring ones that horses show at liberty, such as flying changes, piaffe, passage, and airs above the ground, or they must be useful gymnastic tools that help to supple, straighten, balance and collect the horse, such as the lateral movements. Those movements that do not fall under either category should not be included in the training.
- Movements that are being ridden without regard for their gymnastic effects on the horse’s gaits are tricks and have no place in a systematic gymnastic training program.