A Classical Schooling Guide by Michael J. Stevens

‘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


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