by Wendy Newing
The classical system of riding and training horses, which deplores the use of force, reached its height in Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries. The dressage we know today evolved from training horses for the battlefield. In classical riding, sometimes called classical dressage, the rider is in perfect balance with the movements of the horse and the rider’s aids are so light and subtle as to be imperceptible to the observer. In its highest form horses are trained to a standard beyond advanced dressage.
All types of horses are able to be trained by the classical method but the finest horses for the really advanced work, ‘The Airs Above The Ground’ are the Iberian breeds, the Lusitano of Portugal, the Spanish Horse and the famous Lipizzaner. This Austrian horse has Spanish origins which is why Austria’s renowned centre of equestrian excellence is called ‘The Spanish Riding School of Vienna’.
Iberian horses are characterised by compactness of frame, which makes their movements powerful, rounded and extremely lively. They are naturally collected, with shortened and elevated strides and gather themselves into a position of matchless balance. These horses also have wonderfully kind and gentle temperaments and being so athletic and intelligent are the perfect saddle horse.
Classical riding at its most flamboyant and beautiful is seen when the riders literally ‘dance’ to music with their horses. The sight appeals to our human emotions on a very deep level and is appreciated enormously, even by the non-horsey observer.