Quiet Riding

Equestrian Book Reviews

Book Review

A Study of the Finer Points of Riding

Rosey, the horse.

Henry Wynmalen defines dressage as “the art of improving one's horse beyond the stage of plain usefulness, of making him more amenable, easier to control, pleasanter to ride, more graceful in his bearing and better to look upon.” In this book, Wynmalen seeks to explain to his readers the proper approach to achieve this aim.

While most of his book is focused on various dressage techniques, Wynmalen emphasizes one's overall approach to training. He states: “…although dressage itself can only begin where ordinary breaking and riding leave off, it provides none the less invaluable principles whereby methods of handling and breaking horses can be improved immensely, to the untold benefit of all parties concerned.”

Wynmalen cautions against seeking fast results when he says, “…in riding, one principle must be mastered thoroughly before the next one is attempted; in riding it is thoroughness that is quick and speed that is slow.” The rider must seek his horse's confidence, and this can only be done with slow progression. Demanding too much of a horse at his current state of development and punishing him for not being able to meet the demands can only have a negative effect on the horse's training.

Confidence is absolutely essential because without it the horse just cannot make a sufficient surrender of himself, mentally and physically, to learn and to absorb our teaching.

The author addresses the use of various types of equipment as well as techniques. In all aspects, he emphasizes the importance of maintaining a calm horse. A horse may be forced to perform, but only a calm horse will surrender his will to his rider.

We seek, in the higher forms of riding, for an expression of form, attitude and paces by the horse under saddle that are fully as good as the horse in freedom is able to show in his best moments. Such results can never be approached, leave alone achieved, unless and until the horse has accepted our presence and our actions in the saddle so unreservedly as to be morally and physically completely unconcerned about them.

Wynmalen writes of the importance of a proper walk and a proper trot. He goes on to state that “It is a basic principle, in introducing the horse to any of the faster paces, always to avoid excitement and always to ensure that we can slow him up, or halt him, without effort.” Still, calmness is not to be confused with slackness. The horse must always move with energy. But, “Energy of gait is to be found in rhythm, not in speed.”

The rider's seat is of utmost importance to the proper movement of the horse. It is the rider's responsibility not to interfere with the horse's freedom of movement. Stiffness in the rider can not but lead to stiffness in the horse. “In the dressage of our horses we aim finally at their complete suppleness and relaxation; in that we can never be fully successful unless we are truly relaxed and supple ourselves!”

In this book, the reader will find a broad, though detailed, approach to training his horse. Wynmalen covers the attitude of the rider as well as the subtle application of various aids. He gives the following explanation of refined riding:

It is true that one must, in teaching riding, try to explain to students the nature and the manner of the aids one uses, and to a certain extent this can be done. But only to a very limited extent. The aids, such as can be described, are no more than the mere A.B.C. of riding; he that knows the alphabet has still to learn to use it, before he can speak or write creditable prose and, in advanced riding, he will have to speak, and write, poetry. The same word, in poetry as in prose, can have many intonations and as many meanings. Just so in riding, where the same aid can be given an almost infinity of meanings and intonations, whereby in the end a veritable language, and a reciprocal one, comes into being between rider and horse.

Henry Wynmalen seeks to help the rider develop his poetry. As this happens, “Reins and legs no longer convey defined aids to the horse; they have resolved themselves into means of thought transmission along which the rider's and the horse's thoughts flow to and fro.”

Buy Dressage: A Study of the Finer Points of Riding