Quiet Riding

Equestrian Book Reviews

Book Review

Feeling Dressage:
How to Achieve Harmony With Your Horse

Ida, the horse.
… the most important thing to learn cannot be taught or defined or measured. It is the ability to feel that will make you a better rider and horseperson.

The above statement supports the title of this book by Ruth Sabine Schaefer. Still, by writing the book, Schaefer acknowledges the importance of a mental understanding of how to ride. She explains it thus:

… first use your brain to learn the technical and mechanical part of riding, then you perform the seat more unconsciously and use the aids with feeling, leaving the brain free to be aware.

Schaefer stresses, “Learn to become aware of yourself and your horse instead of trying to capture everything with logic.” The following example illustrates the importance of feeling:

… attempting to coordinate the body by thinking too much often creates tension and stiffness. You will use too much muscle to reach your goal …. The challenge is to be able to use your feeling as well as your brain to coordinate your body.

Tension and stiffness are counterproductive to good riding. “A supple and balance seat allows you to use your aids correctly, independent of your body's movement.” The rider's ability to move with the horse allows his movement to better influence the horse.

“Feeling” encompasses a lot more than just an awareness of what the horse is doing. It, also, includes an awareness of what the horse is currently capable of doing and why he acts as he does. Schaefer states: “Recognizing and meeting the horse's instinctual needs will greatly influence how well and quickly he learns.” We should adjust our training to the horse's special needs.

While stressing the importance of feel, Schaefer spends much of the book explaining the uses of various dressage movements and exercises in helping to develop the horse. She states: “Many people who reject dressage riding would be more open to it if they first knew the whys.” She goes on to say, “While dressage at the highest levels is its own riding style, basic dressage training can apply to all riding disciplines.”

Good dressage training is done with sensitivity and precision. It recognizes the responsibility of the rider to care for his horse and treat him fairly in all situations. Schaefer explains:

Dressage is not the only way to obedience, lightness, invisible aids, and understanding, but it is definitely one that works.

Buy Feeling Dressage: How to Achieve Harmony With Your Horse