Eric Dierks, a four-star rider and respected trainer/clinician, was kind enough to send us this article he wrote for Eventing Nation’s reading pleasure. To learn more about Eric, check out his website, and I particularly recommend Eric’s blog which has some great posts. Thanks for writing this Eric and thank you for reading.
As I hear the debate between Modern vs. Classical Dressage, I think “Great, another misperception of what basic training is.” Here is my version of Classical vs. Modern Dressage. One is centered around the basic training of the horse to increase longevity, ridability and harmony in the horse’s life with the idea of balance on both the horse and riders part. The other is training to appease a judge with no eye for balance and a misconception of physiology, who is more entertained by artificial movement and head placement. Nothing is ever going to replace good classical training unless you’re entertained by movement that is unnatural for the horse. This misconception is leading to inhumane training techniques and should not even be up for debate.
Dressage is not all that complicating when one has an understanding of the horses physical and mental makeup. The more complex the movements, the more the basic foundation is tested. However, when one trains for a personal goal or following an agenda without listening to their horse, the basic training gets sacrificed and force is applied. Anytime force is applied, the horse naturally resists until they look for another source of balance, being the rider. The rider then is taking away the accountability of the horse to balance on its own.
When Basic Training is done correctly both the horse and rider are accountable for their own balance. The artistic picture that many long for is the end result of a balanced horse. When allowed to go forward along with subtle aids from a balanced rider to guide in direction and pace, the horse begins to carry the riders weight and levels, enabling the horse to stretch their neck and swing over their back. However, when riding the head and neck, the rider is enabling the horse to balance against their hands, tensing in the back and putting concussive effort on their body.
Lets not complicate Classical Dressage with expectations, artificial aids that apply force, or lack of knowledge. The horse is a noble creature that aims to please. When training, make sure the character is not ridden out of your equine partner due to a hidden agenda or expectation. Dressage involves two.
That is my interpretation and I’m sticking to it, if not for the sport, for the welfare of my horse.