Dear Friends and Members of CRC,

There is growing concern over the plight of The Spanish Riding School of Vienna from those who are closely linked.  I am told things will only change if we appeal to the highest level. By writing to the Austrian Ambassador in your own country, your message should filter through to the President himself, since he is represented by his Ambassador - wherever you live. If enough people write in their own words, we earnestly hope for change and a restoration of The School's ethos and role in the world today.

I urge you now to write diplomatically. I hope my open Draft Letter below may give you some ideas of what the School means to you.

(For further reference it may help for you to read in our Public Library: 
Our Proud Horses - Our Heritage - Time to Act
Also : The Abuse of Beauty)


For connoisseurs and riders from all over the globe, the Spanish Riding School of Vienna and its dazzling white stallions is a beacon of light in an increasingly cynical world. Wondrously preserved by the Austrian State, this incredible institution has withstood battles, revolutions, invasions and two World Wars. Even Hitler, who hated horses, failed to touch it.

One of the cultural cradles of the Western world it is now at risk from the grasping hand of commercialism.
The School was never about making money like Disneyland or the Monaco Grand Prix. It was about something much deeper... It drew us back to our roots, our very survival. Without the Horse, where would we all be today? 'My kingdom for a horse!'

These words might have been uttered by an English King but it was the great Austro-Hungarian Empire that had the power, the imagination and the culture to build the beautiful Winter Riding School in 1735.

Centuries later, it threw its doors open to an adoring public and the people came - in their tens of thousands.
But this is not any riding school; this is a place of cultural excellence where horse and rider work not for ribbons or Olympic gold but to demonstrate Art and Purity of movement. It is an inspiration to all riders and all who appreciate beautiful things.

The tenets of how to train a horse are laid in stone - handed down from centuries by Master horsemen to their young apprentices who in turn became Masters themselves. Nothing is rushed, nothing is forced. The horses are treated with the utmost love and respect.

That is what is was; that is how it has always been - for the guidance of all who own horses and the excellence of the work itself. Until now.

Despite the best endeavours of all the Riders, things have changed. Money and profit is the new goal; more rush, quicker results; more performances ; less time; away with the old, in with the new... And so on.

The tourists still come but not the cognoscenti. The bigger picture is lost. What drew the discerning spectator to the Spanish School also drew them to the opera house, the art galleries, the museums, the hotels and the shops. It was a magnet.

If you lose the essence of the Spanish Riding School through the present system of modernisation, Vienna will lose its place as a cultural Mecca. Already many are turning away. The horses are tired, the magic has gone, the internet awash with disapproval.

We who support and cherish the School make a Plea to the President of Austria to restore the dancing white stallions into the hands of those who have studied and worked with them under the Masters ... before it is too late. There is not much time.

The World awaits ...

Sylvia Loch
Founder of The Classical Riding Club

mtavoraThe Classical Riding Club is proud to announce A Dressage Clinic with Major Miguel Tavora from Tues 3rd to Thur 5th November at Water Farm, Raydon, Suffolk.

Miguel is one of the last Masters directly linked to Mestre Nuno Oliveira having been a long term student over several years. This is a rare opportunity from a great dressage trainer based in Australia and coaching at all levels.

To apply for places for one, two or three days, please email with details of you, your horse and roughly what level of schooling. Livery is also available - please contact Water Farm

Prices - £95.00 per lesson.  £12.50 for spectators for whole day.


The Suffolk Committee invite you to a presentation
Sylvia Loch & The Classical Seat
Saturday 29th August 2015 3.00 – 6.00 pm
Tickets to be booked in advance @ £30.00 per person including refreshments
An enthralling lecture/demo to help ALL riders of whatever discipline
Programme will include;
 Why the Classical Seat?
 An exploration of the Balance and Functionality of the
 The Classical Seat & The Aids
 Questions and Answer
 Ridden Demonstrations

Everyone is welcome to join us!

To book your place, please send cheque (and your e mail
address to acknowledge receipt) £30.00 per person
payable to BHS Suffolk, (includes refreshments )
Tickets will be reserved and held at the door
to; Mel Lawson, BHS Suffolk, 60 Nursery Road, Gt
Cornard, Sudbury, Suffolk, CO10 0NJ Tel; 07790659015


One of the highlights for me at the Luso Show at Moreton Morrell this summer was the Working Equitation. For those unfamiliar with the discipline, it's all about teaching the horse to cope with any situation be it turning fast on the tightest of corners, moving forwards, sideways or backwards... dealing with scary objects ... getting over them or round them ... And all done efficiently, easily and at speed! Developed by the Portuguese into a highly skilled sport, this was exciting, dynamic and wonderful to watch.

I have seen this discipline several times in the past of course... But this year's was different. First, because it was performed at night and second because for the first time, it was part of the Gala performance and with it came the crowds, the music and the Atmosphere!

What a difference this made. It was hugely entertaining to watch ... since, just as in show jumping on TV, we had the immediacy of the stop watch leading up to a great buzz as everyone strained to surpass the time of the person or persons before ... we also had the anticipation. And that, together with thrilling music, made it electric!

The great thing about WE is - anyone can do it. It's not altogether so different from the Handy Pony, we Pony Club kids used to love, but it's a lot harder and demanding of the horse. You do not have to have an Iberian, but it does help!

It was great also to see amongst the predominantly grey Lusos, a couple of Spanish, a Connemara pony and an Arab.

Also, I thought our British squad looked very smart and British - as so they should! - in traditional British gear, hard hat, tweed jacket, shirt and tie and beige breeches. In former days it was a real mish-mash, with some in Portuguese tack and varied attire, whilst others conforming to nothing. Somehow the 'fancy dress' as some called it, detracted from the whole thing.

British WE owes a great deal to Sherene Rahmatallah who believed, trained and raised money for it from day one. She and her talented daughter Leila were a familiar sight at many a competition for the squad both at home and abroad and coming back with honours.

Now it's the turn of the younger generation, many of whom are yet to accomplish one-handed, but with the careful coaching of those who have gone before and trainers Paul and Georgia Santos who come over regularly from Portugal - I foresee this ancient discipline growing and growing.

The next time you'll see our British WE squad in action will be at the Spanish Show in two weeks time. At the end of the Luso Show a moving tribute was made to Holly Barber's almost legendary horse, the 16 year old Safa, beautiful Lusitano gelding who has done so much not only for Holly and Sue Barber and of course Pinelodge, but also for the future of Working Equitation in this country and all over Europe.

Everyone involved should be proud of themselves.

The more I teach, the more I believe a lot of harm is being done by trainers concentrating on the horse rather than the rider. Give me a problem horse and I'll nearly always see a problem rider.

One of my reasons for starting CRC was to highlight the existence of instructors who were not necessarily in the public eye but who had at least studied the work - if not taken lessons - from someone of impeccable background, well versed in the classical principles and who could make it sound simple. (The theory is simple, it's the practice that can be hard!)

To give you an example... The kind of instructor who knew the importance of, say, leg on AND leg off. Similarly, the ask and release of the fingers on the rein. Such a person would also see when the student is sitting too heavily or moving about too much. They would also know how to correct the rider who was restricting their horse on a circle by not allowing their own outside shoulder to come round ... And so on.

So - long before we trainers start to correct the horse, we should be addressing those matters which make it so hard for horses to give their all to the task in hand.

It would be nice to see more lower level trainers on our Directory too. You don't have to train to Grand Prix. What the average rider needs is a shrewd pair of eyes on the ground to look at them as well as their horse, and to differentiate between the different aids eg. Leg on to go forward is a different feel from legs on to go to halt. This needs to be explained.

Once the rider is in balance, and clear about the aids, the horse then has a chance to operate happily and easily without restriction.

So if you know of an excellent teacher who fills that criteria and who your horse likes too- do encourage them to join CRC and join our growing list. Experience and a good eye counts for a lot more than exam results.

Charlotte Dujardin and Scott Brash have both retained their World Number one spots whilst Fox-Pitt Eventing is back to Eventing World Number One spot on theFédération Equestre Internationale World rankings list, with Oliver Townend (Official) and Nicola Wilson Eventing both in the top ten! (

It's been a mixed week. Lessons and lots of enquiries for lessons - preferably on Prazer. Several from far away, even the US. It does seem there's a dearth of schoolmasters in this country . The ideal is a horse sensitive enough to point out people's weaknesses without over-reacting -.but keen enough to give people some amazing 'feels' when they get it right.

Planning ahead for a year which is rushing past a bit too fast for comfort can test you. How much can one take on, how to make space for family and friends, how to prioritise? I have been self employed for the past 40 years but I must admit, it gets harder and harder to slow down or to say no !

When Henry and I opened the first Lusitano School in England in 1979, we never seemed to have enough students and it was tough. With no internet, no PR person behind us, and no knowledge of Portuguese horses in England to inspire people, we had to rely on regular Horse & Hound advertising. This cost a bomb and it was a constant juggling act hosting our classical dressage courses and paying the bills.

Looking back, we made some big mistakes. As well as luxury hospitality (clients even got breakfast in bed!)..and 3 course candle-lit dinners no less ...people got 2 lessons every morning, plus another full session in the afternoon - all on fully schooled horses. There was even an optional hack!

We never stopped... Neither did the working students who (all 7 or 8 of them) enjoyed a lesson every afternoon too! No wonder we needed so many horses and felt exhausted at the end of each 6 day Course! Then one day off and the next guests would arrive. We even employed a boot -cleaning boy!

It's probably human nature to give away too much when you're struggling to make a new business viable. In those days there was no real demand for 'classical' riding and to entice people we just offered too much. I now know that 2 lessons a day is ample for most people ... And many are quite happy with one. Its Quality not Quantity that matters but desperate to make a go of things, we provided more.

Roll on 35 years. Although the Lusitano horse has really taken off in this country, I am still surprised there are not more riding schools using them for lessons. These horses and their cousin the Andalusian (PRE) are wonderfully giving horses, they are natural schoolmasters and love to please. Riding an Iberian, will set the student up to get the feel of collection, lateral work, changes etc but it's up to the trainer to keep the horse balanced and 'sweet'. Maybe that's why we don't see more.

The old saying 'less is more' would certainly have made our own lives a little easier in those early days. No real regrets though ...Henry was proud of what we had achieved and we both realised we were just a little ahead of our time.

Stranger perhaps, I am still doing it. The horses themselves demand it.
Uh, uh ... Is that another email?

It's quite an honour to be invited to judge ones favourite breed at a big County Show like the Suffolk, or even grander - Royal Windsor. I was actually asked to do both this year, but the Suffolk was better organised and got there first! I'm glad of that... having just moved south to East Anglia, it saved a lot of time and made a lot of sense.

First it was the Lusitanos in hand, and later the Ridden Classes. The in-hand was for the young stock, 3 years and under or 4 years and over. Not a great turn out, but I liked the fact all the horses looked quite different from each other both in type, stature and colour... when too often we see a plethora of greys who look as though they've all popped out of the same model! Also, there were quite a few mares and that was a pleasant change. One always has to take account of the fact that they will be longer in the back than the short-coupled colts and stallions.

What really impressed me was how well some of the handlers ran! This is a pleasure to see as there is nothing more irritating to a judge than to see a nice youngster trotted up when obviously there is a lot more to show... but one just doesn't see it!

When it came to the Ridden classes most of the riders wore Portuguese costume ... which is very smart... and fully in keeping with a county show. Sober colours in stark contrast to some of the flowery hats that the stewards were wearing. In the crowded dining-room for judges and officials, it seemed the Suffolk Show had turned into Royal Ascot overnight!

When it comes to judging Ridden, I always think it a pity that judges don't ride the horses at a Breed Show, as in a Working Hunter class. I'd enjoy that!

Going down the line, I am always meticulous in looking at legs and feet as well as general conformation. Matters like the silhouette of the horse - how the neck rises up and out of the withers - broad loins, dropped crupper, well muscled shoulders and thighs as well as hocks well under - are all features of a Lusitano that conforms to the breed standard.

As for movement, one is looking of course for 3 good gaits as well as a quiet acceptance of the bit and the ability to go easily and willingly forward when asked to do so. Incidentally, the horse I put first in the purebreds was the only one whose rider thought to ask for an extended canter. It was balanced and fluent... Well done her!

That is a movement very important to the Lusitano or Andalucian working outside with the cattle in the fields. They must be able to advance or retreat swiftly at a moment's notice.

The hardest thing at the end of the day is when no particular horse shouts out at you. By that I mean that you are longing for just one animal to be so special, so striking, so stunning that you know without a single doubt in your heart that he or she should be placed first.

This didn't quite happen at the Suffolk although the first 3 horses were very lovely and worthy of their prizes. I shouldn't complain however; it's even worse when 3 horses shout out and you can't decide which one deserves the trophy! That can be very tricky indeed.

Having judged all over the world - the PRE (several times) in the USA, Australia and New Zealand, and Lusitanos in Britain, Portugal and Brazil as well again, as the USA - I would never say it is easy judging. I am very very hard on myself and very dedicated to making the right decision... so it can be quite a stressful experience even at a local county show.

People spend a fortune on their horses and especially getting them to a venue and back home again. Entry fees are not cheap, neither is fuel and often it means giving up important work and earnings just to show your horse in public. Every horse deserves to be judged in the most meticulous way and with the same attention to detail, even if you don't feel it is worthy of a place at the end.

I have the utmost respect for the organisers of any show and it will be a very sad day if this great tradition of taking your horse out in public was not rewarding in some way. I try my best to be encouraging whenever possible.... and hope that is reflected in my work.

Carl Hester joined an elite band of equestrian names when he was presented with the prestigious British Horse Society Queen’s Award for Equestrianism from Her Majesty The Queen at Royal Windsor Horse Show on Saturday (16 May).

The Award, which is made on the recommendation of the Trustees of The British Horse Society, is ‘For Outstanding Services to Equestrianism’.

As the most successful British dressage rider in history, Carl’s achievements speak for themselves. However, his contribution to the sport, and to equestrianism as a whole, goes far deeper than his many titles and medals.

Carl is a wonderful ambassador for horse sport, bringing an enthusiasm and accessibility to dressage that has undoubtedly helped to widen its appeal. He continues to promote the very best standards of welfare, horse care and training and, above all else, helps an ever-increasing audience to appreciate the joy that horses bring.

Quite simply, British dressage would not have enjoyed the same level of success on the international stage without Carl’s expertise, knowledge and guidance. But most of all, it is his generous nature that the panel felt marked him out as an exceptional sportsman and a most deserving recipient of the Queen’s Award.

On receiving his award, Carl said: “Working with horses is my life. It is an amazing privilege to receive this recognition for doing something I love… and to receive this award from The Queen is incredibly special.”

The Chairman of The British Horse Society, Claire Aldridge, accompanied Carl to the presentation. Commenting on the award she said: “We are delighted to be able to bestow this honour to Carl on behalf of Her Majesty The Queen. There could be no greater recipient for this award than Carl, who has dedicated so much of his life to his sport. Not only has he made his country so proud with his own achievements, but he has so generously put such passion into developing the success of others – all the time keeping the welfare of the horse at heart.”

Carl was nominated for the award by The British Horse Society and British Dressage and was unanimously voted by the selection panel and BHS Trustees as the worthy winner.  Other dressage recipents include Jane Goldsmith, Stephen Clarke and Jennie Loriston Clarke.

‘A Classical Schooling Guide’ is exactly what the title suggests, a guide. Michael J. Stevens has written a book for both the novice and more advanced riders to refer to time and time again. It is also a good book to introduce riders to the principles of classical riding. When it comes to classical, I always feel people think it is complicated and unachievable for the stereotypical everyday rider. It’s not, it’s quite the opposite. The beauty of classical riding is that it can be achieved by anyone with the right teaching, knowledge and skill. Here, Stevens generously shares with us his own experiences and collection of information he has gained throughout his years of riding.

Stevens gives confidence that any horse has the potential to be versatile, easy to ride and well skilled with the correct training. He states “The principles of good riding can be applied to any horse, and there is pleasure to be had trying to bring out the best in any individual.” He goes on to say that it is not always necessary to buy an expensive horse to realise your dreams and “it is not necessary to spend a fortune if you want to improve your riding skills, further your knowledge and have a good horse to ride.”

‘A Classical Schooling Guide’ is a book that simply and clearly covers tried and trusted means of educating horses to become versatile and easy to ride. The book begins first with the rider, as “being able to ride is only the first requirement”, briefly discussing the language and history of riding before progressing on to the rider’s position. I like how he describes the classical, 3 point seat in a straight forward manner so even the most novices of riders would gain from his words. The author refers to the Masters, such as Baucher to confirm his writings, “… Baucher tells us that a rider is well seated when every part of his body balances on the part directly below it… the vertical seat is the one to aspire to.”

The book then moves on to the schooling of the horse, discussing contact with detailed work about curbs and diagrams to refer to before leading onto laying the foundation of the horse’s training. Stevens is straight to the point enabling us to improve our understanding of training objectives and how to achieve them. He also helps us to know which exercises will gymnastically benefit the horse and for which purpose and how to overcome inevitable difficulties. This is where the book is able to come into its own as a guide and one that I, or anyone, should feel are able to pick up and refer to whenever they need to.

Drawings accompany the author’s writing about the curb bit, which is a beneficial aid and also for all the exercises detailed. My only quibble, being one who prefers to read and visualise, I would like to see more illustrations concerning the rider’s position and when detailing flexion and bend. Saying this, the author writes in such a way that it is not necessarily needed; it is just my personal preference.

All in all, ‘A Classical Schooling Guide’ is a well written book detailing an author’s experience and knowledge of classical riding. It is a book that anyone with a love for horses will gain something from, enjoy, a great addition that will be added to my book collection to refer to time and again.

Claire Whitfield