This article is somewhat longer, because it includes stories about my experiences in, and with, this madness called today the "classical dressage"
Revealing the "secrets" so more idiots can do this at home,
so more horses get abused and tortured till finally someone says "ENOUGH" to
"dressage" and trick training of horses.
They are not dogs!
It is one thing when done in the circus, and another at home by totally clueless people or by the same in competition.
The so-called classical dressage in the baroque era, as well as the
western European military training of horses, was among other things
about adjusting the horse to pain.
The more pain the horse could tolerate the more reliable in the battle it
became, as well as easier to control via the amplified aids, like
and spurs. This is where the dressage discipline inherited the use of
amplified aids, like spurs and curbs in the higher levels.
It would be best if I start first with clarifying the word classical, because this alone will be helpful in identifying the various misconceptions and misinformation, as well as the delusions of the contemporary participants.
Furthermore I would like to remind the reader that
it is important to remember that the term dressage was used exclusively when
referring to the advance riding and training of horses, as opposed the today's
concept held by many, especially the amateurs and greenhorns, who believe that
dressage is just plain riding/schooling of a horse in a riding ring that is marked by
The word classical or classic refers
to, among other things:
Also the word class should be brought to attention since it is much relevant to the horseman's lingo and will help you understand how these terms like classical and class were added to the horseman's language and what they actually represent.
The word class among other things
The term classical dressage used today is referring to something else than in the early part of the 20th century, when dressage was part of the military training of horses. The term classical at that time was more or less referring to the 2nd definition "Of recognized authority or excellence." The recognized authority on excellence in the treatment, riding or training of horses rested on the latest and the most modern military horsemen's concepts of riding and training of horses, and the civilians sort of played with it, and used it as sport in much lower version (class). Of course that "modern" military style dressage no longer exists since there is no practical use for it.
What do you see in
this picture? A guy on a horse, no reins, only spurs pressed against the
horse's belly. Been there done it, except we did not use the poles
they were not available, so instead we used two men on each side holding
the horse by a halter (via lead rope), which sort of complicated the situation, while the
rider (bereiter), like my self was also using the reins, besides the
spurs, when on top, and
the fourth guy, the trainer, was using the whip on the ground. I was only
Above, the finished product, but not quite, as the rider still carries the whip. Unlike the horse below, this horse is in a fair riding balance due to the training off the poles. The horse below presents literally the parody of the above (as all in the so-called competitive dressage do), and even worse than most circus performers. In addition to this, only the dressage people today can manage to get the horse hurt during this process, which requires greater level of stupidity and ignorance, hence the top riders in dressage today can be qualified as the worst. Any kid riding ponies is better than them; hence one should be more concern with not getting worse than with getting better in this world of idiots.
Today the dressage riders are clueless nincompoops trying to replicate what they think they see or understand, while they see nothing and understand even less, not only about dressage, but mainly about what it means to actually ride a horse. The head is down, the horse off balance on the forehand, and obviously pulling as hell, hence the need by the women to lean back, lest she pulls her self off the horse over its head. This could not get more grotesque if one would try, hence a comedian, like Charlie Chaplin riding a horse.
We can see what the misunderstandings of the bible has done to people, but we cannot see what the misunderstandings of the books on riding did to horses, because horses do not speak, they only silently adjust to any fool and environment they have to live with or in.
The term classical dressage today is referring more
or less to the first definition of the word as in " Of or relating to the most
highly developed stage of an earlier civilization and its culture." In this
case, since we are referring to some earlier civilization, we could truly and
simply replace the word "classical" in this case with the word "obsolete" or
I am not referring to today's dressage riders as comedians to insult them, but rather referring to them as such according to their own statements, as in the "classical dressage" that they are trying to perform and are referring to, sometimes going as far as calling it a ballet, imagine that. Of course who could possibly come up with this delusional comparison but some silly girl-woman that never grew out of her animal cartoon frame of mind or some childhood dreams, or some men that aimed to exploit these weak female minds?
The so-called baroque style dressage, which they
refer to as the "classical dressage", was formally called the "Royal Court
Riding School". It was, among other things (like warfare) about entertaining the king or the aristocrats, as
well as to provide the king or the aristocrats with animals that would move in
a sort of "Royal" fashion to present (parade) the king on some fancy going
horse ("fancy" enough so the public would notice).
The concept of classical dressage, or riding with class, was completely something else in my younger days or before, and it was held primarily by the military. These two factions of dressage, if you will, were foes and hated each other as I have witnessed, but not in the open, as hardly anyone would write about it, since it was fairly irrelevant to the public, because it would need the understanding and expertise of a genuine rider-horseman to be understood, and so there are hardly any records left, at least I am not aware of any, except what I've seen, lived and witnessed.
It would be also fair to add
that no self-respected horsemen of the military would partake in any
competition against the civilians (The Olympic Games and such and so
forth) as it would be obviously very degrading, but one has to
understand the military to understand that.
Before I will go further in describing my
experiences, I would like to briefly point out the core difference between the
circus dressage (or as they call it today the "classical dressage) and the
military form, also called then the sport dressage, which is no longer in
existence, as you will clearly see.
One really needs to understand what it means to
train a riding horse off the ground, and so I will simplify this by presenting a
simple example from my life experience. If you have noticed in some places the
riding instructors carry a bull whip or a longe whip when giving riding lessons,
especially in jumping horses. This so they can assist the incompetent rider to
get over the jump if the horse is refusing, lest the horse learns bad habits,
obviously. Or, as I have witnessed in Germany on the track, when the trainer
sometimes carried a bullwhip, to assist some incompetent riders to get the horse
to the track when the animal refused.
First of all the Vienna School had no use for it, because the public simply could not appreciate the modern and improved way of riding horses, because there was nothing extraordinary about it, as to the public it looked like some horse just going around in the ring doing nothing but what any other horse does. In short, no one would come in and look at it, let alone pay for it.
And so the need for all this exaggerated movement (the fools see it as some dancing) of horses was obvious in order for Vienna to survive.
One of the greatest contributors of preserving the Vienna Riding School was Alois Podhajsky, who pretty much transformed the school into a circus show, and by publishing often a downright bullshit in his writings gained many admirers among the fools, greenhorns and wannabes, as well as the unsuspecting public interest (what the public does not know is what makes it the public), which is another story for another day.
In short, Podhajsky in the true light was a promoter of the circus show practiced in Vienna. If he would not have transformed it into some circus-horse-freak show there would no longer be any Vienna Riding School, and the same goes for all the similar riding schools of today, in France or anywhere else. For this reason you will also find more and more female participants, because by nature women just love to shine in the spot lights, and what better place than a show or podium.
To describe my experiences with the circus training of "dressage", the Vienna style, I would like to start by saying that "where you are I was, where I am you will more likely never enter".
After I graduated the school for professional
riders and breeders of horses in June 1963 (see my bio) I went to work on
the farm that paid for my education, where I had a contract with, and where
they bred and raised, besides other horses, the steeplechase horses, not all
thoroughbreds but also some high-blooded warm-bloods as well (Mocna,
multiple winner of the Grand Steeplechase in Pardubice).
I was young, not yet 17, and I got myself into some trouble with a local farmer, the details not
relevant at this point.
I had no clue what I was getting into, all she said
that she has found me a job outside the city, so I could live at home (hopefully
staying out of trouble), working for the best "dresseur" of horses in the
country. (The word dresseur basically referred to any animal trainer in the
circus only, being it a trainer of camels, elephants, zebras, horses and such,
and never anywhere else. The word dresseur is not the same as tamer (tamer =
dompteur, e.g. le dompteur de lions), also commonly used internationally in the
circus lingos, which was primarily referring
to the trainers of wild cats and other predatory critters).
How do we train liberty horses?
In any case, as I have entered I've asked for that particular trainer ("dresseur") my mothers sent me to, and I was told that he was working with his horses in the " manège " (term for the round ring or stage if you will, where animals, not horses only, train or perform in circus or show). I've asked if I could go in, and they led me there and sat me there where the observers would sit, and so I saw this performance all by myself, and without any show off or any sound like music and such. All was quiet and very ordinary, and I could see everything clearly, though I was simply mesmerized in awe of what I saw. Immediately I got afraid, as it came to me that I know nothing of this and that I will surely be no asset to the trainer or be found incompetent to do my job. To tell you the truth I was so scared that I almost left without talking to him after he was finished, but he caught me on the way out (Talking about destiny, right?) as he was desperately looking for a rider that could help.
What did I see? I saw 8 stallions (not all
Lipizzaners) 6 years and older, 4 black and 4 white, enter the manège by
themselves, with no one around. They all started to fight as stallions would do,
screaming, rearing, striking at one another and kicking. This lasted less than
half a minute, but it felt longer, as I had no clue what was happening,
obviously, sitting there alone and totally clueless as I never saw anything like
that. Then the curtain at the back entrance opened, the guy walks in cracks a
long whip and they all lined up like ducklings according to their numbers, and
since I had no clue what I was looking at I could not understand that.
In any case, I kept watching the whole show of 8
loose ("free") stallions performing all sorts of movements and maneuvers, doing
pirouettes, going in pairs, in four and finally all 8 across the whole manège,
and then all rearing up at the same time, some individually performing some of
the "high school" jumps like the courbette, levade, and more all sorts of
tricks. However, nothing even remotely like you see today in the circus as
today's circus dresseurs really suck, but one would have to see the better ones
to become aware of that.
I worked with that trainer for several months
(Several times in different countries, like in the Royal Circus in Brussels, Belgium), training and riding new
horses (replacements), taking care of horses and things etc. and then again
sometimes latter for a few months. (In the winter there were five circuses
stationed in that winter center, and so I worked also for other trainers,
because I worked as the so-called "bereiter" (Pferde bereiter), roughly
translated as a "working rider", as in not a performer or not a comedian, often
doing most of the "dirty" and risky tasks like starting young horses.).
One day, after he felt happy with the work, not
always that way, he said to me, "Come with me I'll show you something you will
see no place else (right he was, I've never saw it again), and definitely not in
Vienna". (Please keep in mind that then less than fifty years before it was one
country Austria-Hungary e.g. Prague and Vienna same country. He was many times
in Vienna, knew many people there including Podhajsky, and had no respect for
most of them what so ever, which is kind of ironic because he himself was a
circus performer-trainer as all are and most were at that time in Vienna.)
And so, when the trainer said he will show me
something I will never see again, I did not care much, but I went not to offend
him. He told me to stay out of the arena, and so I stood back by the entrance
curtain. He lined up the horse, set him into levade (off the ground of course)
and had the horse execute a genuine and absolutely perfect capriole (one has to
actually know what it is and what is supposed to look like), while I was about
not more than 12 feet behind the horse.
Ironically I have also worked with a trainer, rider
and horseman, not using the word "dresseur", for obvious and above given
reasons, that was formerly employed and worked at the presidential stable, then
working for the president Masaryk (see pictures below). Needless to say that this former employment
of this horsemen was to his detriment as he had to endure all sorts of political
repercussions after the communists took over in 1948, only to find a job at the circus merely working for other
"dresseurs", which needless to say must have felt extremely humiliating, and so
no wonder he was an alcoholic, since all that he has learned in his life was
completely useless at that time and place, to him or to anyone else. (Most of
the genuine horsemen-riders at that time were older and alcoholics as they
outlived their use, obviously).
In any case, I have received much of insight into the dressage world and
the horse world of the past, not to mention that I held this man in high esteem
when watching him riding and training horses. It was nothing like the other guy,
all done from top of the horse strictly by riding the animal, that is if he had
the chance and was allowed to. He was one of the broken men, who was so rich
with knowledge and experience that was completely useless to him or to anyone
else at that time.
What has become also fairly apparent and clear that
the military man had no respect what so ever for the famous "dresseur", as much
as I did not, but only to an extent. In short, we saw that kind of training and
riding that the dresseur did (that shit people call "classical"), or as it was
presented in Vienna, as riding and training without class (crude). As matter of
fact the word class was commonly used among horsemen describing someone else
working or riding horses, often simply saying, "he has no class" (as in "he is
crude"), and that is all one needed to know, as nothing further was said or
presented about such person. In short no class also meant "not worthy to talk
about" or "too crude to talk about".
Also people around thoroughbred racing often use the word
class when talking about racehorses, and that is pretty much the same meaning as
referring to a person around horses, because it is all about the same thing, the
heart and as above defined "a league ranked by quality".
And so, suffices to say the riding of horses today, or people all over the world that ride horses, simply lack class, in short there is no class to be found in the horse world today, but some remnants of it can be found only here and there in the thoroughbred racing. That is why I went there to work when coming to USA, because there is hardly any need for showing off something, nor do people breed horses according to fashions or their opinions, but mostly according to performance. Of course the latter corrupted thanks to the technology and the advanced veterinary science, that more or less fucked up the horse world, as people can make up for their incompetence with drugs.
I will have a follow-up article on "women and horses", which will help more in understanding why we do what we do with horses in this day and age, and mainly why we have the need to justify it. The decadence of our society can be clearly seen in the way we use and train horses, where the words "modern" and "advanced", or the words "more humane treatment" merely refers to "lowering the standards of human behavior" (lowering the class), often by finding new words for old things, or new definitions for old words, as well as by changing the meanings of words, and then finding the way to justify our failures and incompetence. The so-called modern or progressive women lead the way in this madness, and stupid men follow, in justifying or excusing, and sometimes even rewarding the failures, lest someone's feelings get hurt. God help us all!
And so you have it, clear as day, the classical dressage of today is nothing but an obsolete and fairly brutal way of training and presenting of horses with the sole purpose to entertain the public, and the genuine dressage with class (decent treatment of the animals) exists no more, and you will never see it again. It died because no horseman with even a little class would ever participate with, or compete against, comedians, as it would be highly disgraceful for obvious reasons, not to mention crude.
Any person that feels the need to go to horse show
or to show the horse, has either some major psychological problems or just wants
to get some money out of the sucker that was born every minute. And so what we
have, in the horse world today, are fools and people exploiting these fools, and
where is the class in that? In short, if you spend money on horse shows
(dressage etc.) you are a fool, if you make money on the fools, well, you are
nothing more but a comedian, and where is class in that, let alone decency?
|| In contrast
with the western European military training of horses, the eastern cavalries
had hardly any use for spurs or curbs, as their training adjusted to the
type of lighter and faster, and also more responsive breeds of horses. Most
of the latter eastern military horses have much of the English thoroughbred
blood, hence not only fast, but also very responsive to the rider. And of
course one had to be much better rider, as well as trainer, to use these
horses on the battle field or to train them for it.
Unlike the western warmbloods, especially of these days, that are much less responsive to the rider, hence more dull, thus accepting all the crude riding that these "dressage" riders of today present. In the first half of the 20th century most horses used for dressage had a lot of the thoroughbred blood, which was inherited from the latter central European military breeding of horses, since they had to keep up with the eastern enemy speed.
Needless to say that those days the riders were much better than today, for obvious reasons. Today's riders in dressage, and other disciplines simply could not use and ride the English Thoroughbreds or the warmbloods high in the thoroughbred blood, because such horses would not tolerate such abuse, and most would simply unload such rider. And so the need for the duller and the less responsive warmbloods of the agricultural type, that in previous times were strictly bred for the use in agriculture. Since these horses are not suitable for riding, especially not in some dressage ring, many get hurt just from being unsuitable, and the incompetence of the riders only finishes the job.
"Speak softly and carry a big stick" is the way of the deceiver or a politician seeking power and dominance, hence the way of a weak man. "Speak loudly and true, stand firm and carry no stick", is the way of a strong man, and as it stands, "a blow from a whip raises a welt, but blow from the tongue smashes bones".
Written by Ludvik K Stanek a.k.a Lee Stanek