When you first ask your horse to stretch - as illustrated - show him the way by taking your upper body forward but also taking your hand forward, after that it's just a question of low set, giving-forward, gently inviting hands while the legs continue to ask him to march on and seek the rein.
You'd be surprised how many people find this hard and tend to retract the hand. You can never give enough in the stretch. The ultimate is where the horse has elongated his neck into a long, gradual curve and continues to follow the 'ask' of our hand. It's all simple but subtle and it should be do-able for all horses.
Following on from CRC's policy of educating whilst refraining from immediate condemnation of this or that... here is a pic over which you may wish to ponder.
I had just got on this horse whose owner had kindly agreed to be a 'guinea-pig' at one of my Demos a few years back, and being a hunting/jumping boy his dislike of dressage was fairly obvious! The tack used was his usual gear. Bless him - within a few minutes of mounting up, he was doing his best to flex into my asking hand, raising his poll and stepping more under himself.
What must be remembered is very few horses can move into a perfect outline without a considerable amount of time and correct schooling. Even to get this result was quite a miracle. Yes, the nose is slightly behind the vertical (BTV) - yes, the poll is not yet quite the highest point, but it was a great step forward for a horse used to being ridden on the forehand.
Ideally of course we are looking for a rounded outline, hocks nicely engaged, poll the highest point etc etc .. but when a horse has never been elevated in the shoulders (except when jumping!) it is often difficult for him to move as we would like him to move to start. It would be like expecting a novice in ballet suddenly to be on their points! For this reason, we have to be very careful about condemning people who have not yet reached this perfect stage. Everyone has to start somewhere.
Just a little note:
Some time ago a student asked me what I meant by retaining flexion through the horse's poll even on a long or loose rein. I had asked her to do this while riding my stallion Prazer. Basically, she had flung the reins at him at the end of an exercise and he had - not surprisingly - dropped his back.
As I explained to her, if you still feel gently on the fingers on a long and even loose rein (as in the pic) still sit up and ask the horse to go forward from the leg at the girth, he can move more correctly and carry the rider in a much better frame. This photo wasn't staged, but it still shows what I mean. Horse still bending through the poll, nose partially down - not poking up- horse still engaged. We should never expect the horse to carry us in a dropped hollow frame if at all possible.
These workshops have proved highly popular all over the world and Sylvia has devised a unique and special
method of teaching students how to balance their weight in the best possible way for the horse.
Practised on the ground, the Workshop provides a set pattern for all mounted work by clarifying;
- reinforcing neural pathways to assist 'feel'
- adjusting misconceptions concerning the horse's balance
- as well as looking at all the dressage movements and the aids from the horse's point of view.
Because no horse is involved, students have greater freedom to experiment with their own position and the importance of working with gravity (Nature's aids) in every gait/transition and movement. This leads to a greater understanding of what works, what doesn't and why - both physically and mentally. Manoeuvres like counter-canter, rein-back and lateral work are all addressed as well as simple forwards, stop commands with the body rather than the hand. How to balance your head correctly and how much the rider's gaze influences the horse is also discussed and put into practice.
I know they say pictures speak a thousand words, but in this instance Sylvia I have decided to let the words of your supporters do the talking! Abigail
Stephanie Plaster Sylvia was a guiding light for me at a time when I believed in my heart and soul that there was another way to ride and train...A way that felt true to me and right for my horses. One evening I went to a demonstration (over 20 years ago!) and watched this amazing lady who spoke the words that resonated with me and reflected that which my heart had felt. She rode with grace and harmony.... I knew then I was not alone and Sylvia was a lighthouse guiding me home. She has continued to inspire and encourage me and for that I will always be grateful. X
Sabine Vahlenkamp Schleese What a well-deserved honour! Congratulations
Liz Holmes You have dedicated a huge chapter of your life to Portuguese horses, people and riding and have helped bring the Lusitano breed to the attention of the rest of the world ... It is an honour and a privilege to know you Sylvia and to share your joy in this highly deserved recognition! xx
Joanne Jones Mirroring all comments above, much deserved, I don't think you are truly aware of how blessed those of us and our horses who have been lucky enough to have spent training hours with you appreciate the wisdom and help you pass on. Many thanks.
Sarah Houstoun I'm so pleased your passion and love for the horses has been recognised & suitably rewarded. It is well deserved Sylvia.
Bruno Caseirão Sylvia I'm so happy for you! A truly deserved recognition for your deeds concerning the Lusitano Horse and Portugal
Maria O'Hare How absolutely fantastic for you. After so many years of hard work and dedication to the Lusitano horse, it is good to see that it is acknowledged and recognised - truly deserved and how poignant that the portrait painted by our father was there - almost as if he was with you, truly special. Many congratulations
Lara Mitchell Congratulations and very much deserved. You are a tremendous blessing, to human and horse alike. Thank you for all you do. x
Theresa João Thank you Sylvia for " revealing" Portugal's last treasures to the World,through the years, including to Portuguese people, like me, that found in your books what many times had been hidden for centuries and known to but a few, in this very young democracy....It was with the "Classical Rider", that i first entered a Portugal unknown to the average Portuguese Horse rider, and with the "Royal Horse of Europe", to find the best comparison i have ever heard between Portugal and Spain, the "Mother and the "Father", as Portugal for a long time was in the shadows of Spain, just like "Mothers were always overshadowed by "Fathers", Thank You... " Behind every Great Man, there is always a Great Woman " Obrigado.
Mary Deem Pfeifer Theresa João recommended your book the 'Balanced Horse' to me, not only as a former student (before I moved out of state) but also as an owner of two horses bred and trained by Theresa João, Your book so clearly describes the aides used in classical Portgues riding....particularily the emphasis on the seat being a primary (and of overlooked aide). Your book was recommended to me as a resource, especially since I was no longer able to take lessons. How wonderful that you are recognized for all the work that you have put into preserving and spreading the clasical tradition. Thank you for all the work and time you have put in.
Helen Spence Reading Sylvia's articles in Horse and Rider when I was in my teens were to have a profound influence on my life. She inspired me to seek out lightness and love for the horse. The classical riding club is a wonderful resource. Sylvia has a wonderful warmth and enthusiasm that shines through her writing. Her indefatigable championing of the lusitano horse is also an inspiration.
Sharon Tomlinson Ive had 20 + years of happy horses because I understand my part in the partnership. Ive Loved the journey because it was written so concisely that it made it easy for just a normal rider to understand.
Rose Dewar Reading Sylvia's magazine articles and then her Classical Seat book started me on a journey towards better and more harmonious riding that has lasted over 20 years. When I stop learning, I'll give up!
Julie Meredith I found Sylvia's little book many many years ago and it set me on the path of discovery - and I'm still on it!
Amanda Healy On going inspiration for me. I have my own small yard and have downsized to my cobs after years away from horses and the horse community. It is a connection for me. I have no other input I am completely on my own.
Hannah Davidson Reading the Classical Seat years ago, and then getting back into dressage more recently - I know if I stick by Sylvia's teachings I am always training in line with my ethics regarding the horse. I was put off schooling for years because of "make them do it" attitudes from instructors, and now I have a fabulous classical instructor and enjoy learning how to do it all in a way that makes sense to me and my horse.
Angela Drewett I have never had the privilege of having a lesson with Sylvia. Her books about Classical riding have been invaluable to me. She paints magical pictures and explains everything so simply, it has changed the way I ride.
Myrna Melville Inspiration which lead me to find out more, and the confidence to say no to other methods.
Sussie Chandler Helped me to see that I was on the right path and that starting up a classical group was possible. I have some of her books and as I was new to onwing a PRE, her book,The Royal Horse of Europe, was most helpful, in understanding the breeds history etc.
Liz McLaughlin I recently bought The Classical Seat and The Balanced Horse. Lightbulb moments on every page!
I have various physical problems and these books are really making me realise how my body affects my horse and my riding.
Tessa Fox Since first reading 'The Classical Seat' many years ago I have been an avid follower and reader of Sylvia's books. Each one so beautifully written with such passion and enthusiasm that draws one into wanting to know more. I wonder just how many horses are better ridden and understood because their riders read one of Sylvia's books. This wonderful compassionate lady showed me such kindness and support last year, giving much time up to talk to me in the middle of moving and rebuilding her home. Thank you Sylvia for every wonderful book , your kindness and generosity.
Amanda Coupland 10 years ago I was struggling with my new mare, I was researching what to do with her. I came across the classical riding club and Sylvia gave me the inspiration to keep going. I have a collection of books and DVDs that keep me focussed, while it was discovered my mare was unsound I could still improve myself (and imagine what it would be like to ride one of Sylvia's school masters while hacking my grey wonky mare). Hopefully any future horse will benefit from this and it makes interesting points for discussion when I have lessons with an open minded instructor.
Emma Bee Bohucky It's made me a kinder and more tolerant rider which has also influenced how I deal with my horses on the ground on a day to day basis. It's reignited my Iberian passion and made me believe I can do it and I'm not that rubbish after all.
Sarah Philpott Found Sylvia around 2000 through her articles in Horse & Rider magazine which were inspirational. Through this I found CRC, my classical riding instructors and CRC dressage tests. CRC has introduced me to some lovely and knowledgeable people since then and I am still immersing myself in Sylvia's books to gain more knowledge.
Hazel Hartley Finding Sylvia's work and the CRC was like a door being opened - there WAS a path that fitted with how I felt about horses, and matched how I wanted to work with horses.
Tracey Stevens I have been reading and following Sylvia for years and for me it has been about being exposed to so many schools of thought on how you should ride your horse and how you connect with him. Sylvia has provided a clear route for me through all of that so even though I have lots of tools in my kit bag my path is the one I have carved out in line with Sylvia's overall intention x
Francesca Terry First head about Sylvia Loch in Portugal, decades ago. I actually saw her but she was so famous and surrounded that, as a young and lowly groom I didn't have the nerve to approach and speak to her.
What a pleasure to discover her website and FB page all these decades later and to find that her views are accepted and practiced worldwide. Thanks to her infatigable attention to the Lusitano horse, the breed is popular and stronger than ever!
Julie Weltzien So much inspiration, finding new approaches, increased curiosity and a positive attitude - I never get tired of reading and following!
Leslie Ann Fowler First saw Sylvia's book in a tack shop in Richardson Texas in early 90s, I believe. It spoke to my heart, and I was smitten! I wasn't so dumb after all, just uneducated by previous instructors!!!
Caroline Ramsay I feel very fortunate that on returning to riding after a 25 year break, the first book I read was Sylvia's The Classical Seat - which totally opened my eyes to the concept of how you should help the horse to work properly and it is something I have striven for ever since. Also I love the inspiration and advice that Sylvia provides on an ongoing basis through the CRC.
Joanne L Kennedy I wanted a better partnership with my Highland Pony rather than being forceful and using stronger bits, I wanted us to work together. I found Sylvia's books helped to point the way forward. Reading her words was almost like having her in the room with you.
Linda Kemper Harbison As a non horse owner whose can only afford to take lessons a couple of times a month, the information from CRC and Sylvia's books helps me make the most of my riding time.
Vivian Auden Found Sylvia, Podalsky and Reiner Klimke during the early 1980s when having gone for a dressage lesson with the late Bobby Banks in Chester, I found riding a well schooled advanced horse a whole new world. Since then trainers have come and gone in fashion, ways of training been proffered but one of the few constants has been Sylvia Loch. Her truly classical approach is still the easiest to understand, many books and videos complicate the simplest of training. Her CRC library is all anyone needs to indulge in to join the hopefully growing band of classical riding enthusiasts!
Liz Holmes I first had the privilege of meeting Sylvia at a dismounted lecture at a riding centre, seated on hay bales, somewhere in the heart of Perthshire or Angus (cannot for the life of me remember where) This was just before she had thought up a title for her yet to be published - unnamed book - 'The Classical Rider' - It was a revelation then to know that I was already on the right path, teaching principles which I truly and passionately believed in! ... Here was the proof positive that our shared passion would lead me on a my own individual journey - eventually allowing me to spend some much loved, quality time in the company of this truly amazing lady! Her energy is infectious and her wit and humour well worth knowing! wink emoticon This is our true ambassador for classical riding and I salute you Sylvia! x
Judith Nelson I was given Sylvia's book "Dressage" as a present around 1989, and was hooked, then bought "The Classical Rider", and have been collecting her books since then. I was fortunate that my first instructor applied a lot of Classical ideas in her teaching, but after my enlightenment, have only had elderly horses. My latest mare was given to me as a 2-year-old, and I have been training her according to Classical principles. I could not be more pleased and enlightened.
Gillian Elliott It has made me find and teach "nothing forced is ever beautiful!"
Michelle Stringham I first met Sylvia in 1995 in Fortworth, Texas. I got to watch her teach in Alabama, and Calif. Her message was very clear, (and classical) the horse goes in balance. Nonthing has changed, she is the ultimate definition of CLASSICAL, both as an individual, and as a teacher, author, and her many roles.The Classical Riding Club is tribute to her work and dedication.
Judith Stokoe Attending a demo at Eden Hall in 2010 opened up a whole new world of equitation for me. So logical and inspiring. Sylvia set me on a path of learning through her books demos and dvds. She is truly inspirational. Thanks to CRC I have found what i was looking for, met some lovely people, and made some great friends including Sylvia herself who is so giving and supportive to us all. I feel honoured to know her.
Kate Syssoloff I want to say that finding Sylvia's Classical Riding Club transported me back 45 years to England where I learned.. really learned how to ride. I had found this cool site [CRC], and would take my laptop to my comfy chair after everyone had gone to bed and I couldn't sleep.. and, for hours, read and think about dressage and horses. I'm not quite sure when this all started.. 2.. 3 years ago? Everything associated with the horse had changed and I was so interested in that fact... it had all gotten better.. people were really with it now! CRC captivated my attention every night and I was drawn to it by others who wrote in. It sounds so silly actually... but, one night out of the blue... the little butterfly I used to feel in my tummy when I thought about horses... 'fluttered'. I had thought I was burned out.. WAS burned out for 4 decades.. Oh my gosh.. there it was the excitement of the horse! I don't know how to express this profound thing that happened. I did some blubbering and bawling over it. Attended the FEI World Cup in Vegas and the tears flowed... I was back! And, it is with great great gratitude I give Sylvia and CRC and all who write in... that gave me my life with horses back. With that.. my husband quickly realized his wife of 36 years had been secretly an Equestrian. and bought me Roxanne. A 9 year old Andalusian X mare. So.. you ask.. what has Sylvia and CRC meant to me? I think you know. X
Susan Monaghan Sylvia was my saviour and put me on the classical path of learning. Even though she had lots going on at the time, she went out of her way to give me the support I needed and helped me overcome the problems I had. Her dedication to horse and rider is above anything else and I will always be grateful for her kindness. The CRC is very important to me.
Sue Rann Finding The Classical seat when it first came out and reading Sylvia's magazine articles helped build the framework on which my riding life was built. Australia was a bit of an equestrian backwater when it came to classical rider when I first read Sylvia's books. Her books and videos were a beam of light to show the way to better riding.
Tracey Sawyer Starting myself on a journey with Mirrie my mare, being a gung ho rider , hum , looking for some classical technique , has been a pleasure to have some classical guidance . I also think Sylvia goes that step further engaging with all riders of all levels , me included.
Anneliese Marques Living in North America, it is refreshing to find many who agree with my philosophy on working with horses. The respect given to people who have devoted their lives to not only riding correctly, but considering the psychology of the horse and what it means to him to be a partner in training. The latest fad, from tie downs to double chain bits will not likely be seen here. As one European trainer stated, "The horse should feel that he has a choice in his training." And another criticized all the gimmicks and gadgetry that have become so popular. A relationship based on trust and respect instead of the vanity at a cost should be the ultimate goal for any horse person, in any discipline. I am impressed with many of the riders who contribute to this page. They, for the most part, sound commited, yet patient. I also enjoy the vintage photos of people I have only heard about!
Pam Dalby Sylvia opened my eyes to the correct way of riding and I revere all that she has written and done.
Mary Baechler Inspiration...and remembering the right things I was taught. Thank you, from my heart.
Jackie Dornan I used to read her in horse and rider, then had a book and two video's, love her way, with her grey stallion Palomo, I think was his name absolutely beautiful.
Jeanette Hentunen Correct way of riding in my book. Inspirational. positive education for horse and rider
Elizabeth Hickman Came upon classical riding and Sylvia's books by chance while talking to my sister, who had had a lesson with a classical trainer while she still lived in England. She's in Scotland now.
Shortly before I left England for Africa, I had some lessons with a classical trainer too. When I moved to South Africa, I felt completely isolated. Classical was a foreign word that no one understood or had heard of. I couldn't find a Trainer anywhere! Sylvia's books and videos kept me on the straight and narrow and I gave up my job in the airlines to teach classical riding. My only aim is to make a few more horses happy and a few more riders aware. I think I'm succeeding. It's also been an amazing life journey of discovery and I don't think I'll ever stop learning. I don't feel so isolated anymore.
Verity Arbuthnot Harmony (strive for it anyway)
Allison Cox Very inspirational. As I ride on my own a lot, I imagine I look like the Classical Greats and my horse always gets better. A lot of the advice given also helps with the improvement of the feel.
Francesca Knights Hope and inspiration. X
Kate Hall Unstinting support and unlimited advice from knowledgeable and like minded people. Allowing access to this knowledge to people who spend all their money on the keep of their beloved friends and can't for one reason or another access clinics/instructors/lessons etc. Oh, and THANK YOU!xxx
Nerys Leer Sylvia is Inspirational. Her work and great writings has given me not only clarity but the conviction, confidence and total belief in training horses and riders by the Classical principles and methods she promotes when one has often been challenged by the tide of modern ideas and training methods I so dislike and that are far removed from the art of Dressage.
Jackie Colbert Compassion and kindness to the horse.
Amy Craske The awareness that there are other ways and other people out there with the horse's interest at heart.
The other day I commented on the lack of understanding about opening and closing the rein. I have found many riders laying the outside rein against the horse's neck and being surprised when the horse moves in. Here in this pic, the rein is used intentionally against the horse's neck to prepare for a small circle prior to riding the canter pirouette It's as important an aid as the effect of the outside leg basically underlining the same principle - moving the horse ever inward.
What worries me is when people are trying to stay 'out to the track' either on a 20 m. circle or just to ride down the long side and then - perversely - they take this action with the outside rein. The horse is then blamed for moving off the track or 'falling in'... when actually, that is what the rider has asked. The best way of teaching students who have difficulty with these ideas is to ask them to imagine riding down a corridor.
If the corridor closes in, they will be forced away from the normal track... if the corridor provides guidelines but stays open and straight ... the horse can then pass sweetly forward and down that route. It is all very simple really. The most important thing is never to change the bend if you want to stay 'out' to the track. The outside rein stays open, but it must not change the inside flexion. SL
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One of the things I am forever saying at lectures, demos or the beginning of a riding lesson is - how beautiful is the horse's neck! In a well muscled, fit body, it's that part of their anatomy which immediately strikes you as being something quite special, unique, and magnificent, crowned as it is by the horse's mane.
As the daughter of an artist, I love looking at the old Master paintings of the horses of kings... Charles I on his charger in the National Gallery (London) comes to mind, and then the statues too... outside the Houses of Parliament, in the great squares of Brussels, Paris, Vienna, Lisbon and Madrid... and so on. Here, we will see horses of the Baroque age - and always it's the head and neck which make such an impact. For that reason, I cannot understand how and why some riders seem so keen to shorten the horse's neck in many riding schools, schooling rings or competition arenas. This is not always caused by over-bending because often we see the poll is still the highest point... but there is a constriction and it is quite clear that instead of flowing forward in a glorious, long, proud arch - everything appears fore-shortened.
I truly believe fashion generally comes full circle, and if enough people were to write to magazines and editors of horse publication suggesting that we really do rather like to see a beautiful neck... in our dressage and showjumping horses... it might help turn people's thinking around. Why should any horse be denied his beauty? Fortunately, we still see some pretty decent necks in the hunting pictures of Horse & Hound... but let's hear it for the other disciplines too. SL
So you have bought the dream horse! Now it's time to focus on your riding and how to get the best out of your horse. World renowned equestrian Sylvia Loch, Founder of The Classical Riding Club and Author of many equestrian titles including The Balanced Horse, provides some insight as to the importance of the riders seat and tips to improve and establish your own seat.
BALANCE – AND THE RIDER’S SEAT
Anyone interested in dressage and who watch our top Olympic echelon will acknowledge there is very little difference in the riding position of say Carl Hester, Richard Davison etc and those proud riders of the great European Schools, most especially Vienna, Portugal and Spain. This is how it should be, yet it was not always thus.
Roll back a few decades and most riders adopted a very different position for dressage. This was often referred to as the German seat, the worst examples often demonstrated by small ladies on very big horses. The favoured posture was a defensive one, leaning backwards with shoulders and pelvis angled well behind the vertical. The resulting inbalance led to more reliance on the rein for stability. Things deteriorated further when rollkur came into fashion and judges were favouring horses that moved with a short neck, head behind the vertical and unnaturally high stepping front leg movement.
Everything about these changes was against the classical principles of riding which had been handed down from time immemorial. Whilst there may have been small differences in approach the underlying theme was to allow the horse to work in balance. He could only do this with a light hand on the rein, as any attempt to pull him in would automatically place him on the forehand. The FEI rules themselves demanded that the horse was light in the forehand and the poll must be the highest point.
Xenophon wrote that a man should sit astride a horse in the same balance that he would adopt when standing on the ground and all the revered books from times past taught the same. A rider’s position must subscribe to the laws of gravity otherwise it would not be stable or safe and the rider would have to rely on the reins for support which was discouraged and despised.
Having lived and worked with horses in Portugal for almost ten years, I was well aware of these differences of seat and philosophy but it was only on returning to England that I felt it necessary to address the subject and reinforce the philosophy of the Masters with a series of articles in a popular horse magazine. Few in those days had access to classical teaching and many were not being taught these important precepts in a typical riding school situation.
To read the rest of the exclusive article please click here to visit the Horsezone website.
I wonder how many riders think of 'looking down on themselves' as they school or train...? I think of a corridor of aids and I've used this image in a lot of my books. I am also constantly checking my balance as I ride - ie equal weight in both seat bones on straight lines, more weight into the inside seat bone on a circle or turn, etc.
Good Riding requires brain work and focus. This may become subliminal in time but I truly believe to ride well (and naturally) we have to be aware of how we impact on then horse. This means we are respectful of his balance and sensitive body at all times, in every movement.
I used this picture of British Olympic medallist Jennie Loriston-Clarke in The Classical Rider which to me shows the concentration required to ride a horse quietly and sensitively. Perhaps she too was visualising herself riding through a 'corridor' of the aids ... Provided by hands, thighs, knees, feet all pointing forward and in the same direction to enfold the horse and send him quietly through from behind.
Do these sort of images help you ? SL