Flyinge is a beautiful equestrian facility in the South of Sweden – one of the oldest national studs in the world and a centre of excellence for education and training. I was very happy to be invited there to give demonstration rides at the close of the Swedish National Dressage Championships.
It was a big honour and a little nerve-wracking to perform for my home crowd! But it was a lovely day. I rode two horses belonging to students of mine – the first a PRE (Pura Raca Espanhola) named Ares; the second, a warmblood named Tupack. We had only two days to prepare and to develop a good communication with the horses. Even though I have followed their progress during my visits to Sweden, we still needed to get in tune for performing in front of a big audience.
First it was a demonstration of classical riding in baroque costume, with a video backdrop of quotations and illustrations from Masters of horsemanship such as Gueriniere, Xenophon and Baucher. The objective was not to show any perfection of any kind but simply the beauty and artistry of classical horsemanship, which I hope came as a relief after the pressure of a high-level dressage competition.
Next, the warmblood Tupack and I demonstrated how the gymnastic exercises we use in classical dressage can be used in every day training to soften, supple and balance the horse and allow him to move in self carriage. It was nice to show how the classical approach – which is often associated with baroque horses – can be used just as effectively with warmbloods and other breeds.
Finally, Ares – dressed in dramatic lights to show his outline in motion – and I entered a darkened arena to perform to music. Our three performances took place within a one hour long show which included “Beridna Högvakten” and other very talented riders.
I want to thank everyone who helped me to prepare for the event and gave their support. And thanks especially to Ares and Tupack and their owners – I couldn’t have asked them for more. Here’s a little film from the evening event:
It’s lovely to see the stables full once more here at Quinta do Brejo. The yard feels like a different place with the coming and going of horses and people about their work. It’s just as it should be. The addition of the Spanish Mustang mare Moon Fox to our ranks is a bit of a novelty in a place so synonymous with Lusitanos and it has prompted me to write something about the ways in which our classical training applies to all horses and riders.
My journal here has mainly been filled with photos and videos of Lusitanos working in a traditional Portuguese riding hall and maybe it is then difficult for people to imagine how the work we do here can be applied to other sorts of horses in other contexts. So I want to explain that what you see here is very much applicable to your horse, whatever he or she is and wherever you are.
Of course all horses are individuals – within their respective breeds as well as between. So yes, we must take care to make exercises suitable for the individual horse – depending on its musculature; mind; history; athletic ability; frame and the relationship it holds with the the rider. It is also true to say that different breeds have different characteristics we value, such as their propensity for collection; agility or higher gymnastic work. But the classical principles we work with here allow us to progress toward the potential of each horse and rider, through a careful, sensitive and intelligent programme of schooling. Through building a strong foundation in walk; using exercises to supple the horse; working the on the balance of the horse such that he can carry himself, and then being able to both stretch more and collect more – these are universal principles which can be applied to all horses. We are not trying to fit the horse into a fixed scale of training, but rather we tailor our approach to the needs and abilities of the horse.
In fact, when I give clinics I see relatively few Iberian horses, but our way of working in the clinics follows just the same principles as I would follow with a horse at Quinta do Brejo.
Just last week I had a short stay in Sweden where I was asked to work with a Swedish Warmblood that I have had the privilege to follow for some time now. Ture had been out of work for a few months, but showed a lot of will to start up his work again. The owner and her husband have visited us at Quinta do Brejo a few times now and whenever I am in Sweden I try to visit them to see their progress.
Over the past year, using the principles she has explored on our clinics and through her visits to Quinta do Brejo, the owner of this beautiful warmblood has succeeded to school her horse at home – in higher collected work, progressing through piaffe, passage and tempi changes. He’s quite different in character and feel to a Lusitano and of course the point of classical training is not to make this Warmblood into a baroque horse. We’re simply using sound principles to help him work toward his potential with the special characteristics he has. Ture’s owner is doing a wonderful job and even though he was a little rusty from his time out of work, he was really a pleasure to ride. I’m looking forward to next time!