Take a moment and read through this page to learn more about the authors. In some cases their books have been deemed public domain due to their antiquity. If that is the case I have often included links to online free copies. Here is an example of a public domain book to wet your palate H.L. De Bussigny Equitation
Below are links to excellent online rare book stores where you can acquire some of these beautiful gems.
The rider, soon disgusted with the impotence of his efforts, will cast back upon the horse the responsibility of his own ignorance; he will brand as a jade an animal possessing the most brilliant resources, and of whom, with more discernment and tact, he could have a hackney as docile in character, as graceful and agreeable in his paces. I have often remarked that horses considered indomitable are those which develop the most energy and vigor, when we know how to remedy those physical defects which prevent their making use of them.
The genius of Baucher
Baucher was a very controversial horse trainer in France in the 1800's, who seems to have tried to depart entirely from training dogma as it was known and practiced in his time, instead re-inventing the wheel, if you will. He had two stages of training in his life, one which was centred around his public riding exhibitions at the Franconi circus, and then, after being injured in a serious accident in which a gas chandelier fell on him, he withdrew from riding in public and developed some of his most revolutionary training methods. The first 'manner' had as its central focus the "effet d'ensemble" or, as Craig Stevens has translated the phrase, the "combined effect." The second 'manner' was based on the axiom of "legs without hands, and hands without legs." Throughout, Baucher employed "flexions" which taught the horse from the first touch on the bit to respond to such contact with relaxation of the jaw. This in turn caused a general response of relaxation in the whole of the horse's body.
Relaxation as a precedent
Teaching the horse to respond with relaxation as the desired response to pressure on the bit trains the horse to be in self-carriage from the beginning of training.
There are two ways of appealing to the moral nature of a horse: one, by terrifying him; the other, by speaking logically through the medium of the aids to his intelligence.
François Robichon de la Guérinière
In order to have a good hand, it must be light, gentle and firm. This state does not proceed solely from the action of the hand, but principally from the seat of the rider; for when the body is unbalanced or askew, the hand cannot be in its proper position, and the rider concerns himself primarily with keeping his seat. Furthermore, the legs must act in consonance with the hand, otherwise the effect thereof will never be correct; such consonance is called, in the terminology of the art, accord of hand and heel, which is the perfection of all aids.
François Robichon de la Guérinière book "A Treatise Upon Horsemanship" can be read here
Not only are theories on the "stiffness of the neck" and the "problem poll" totally mistaken but they also incriminate the horse instead of placing the responsibility on the rider: a rather underhand way of thinking about the horse, which also legitimises the rider's authoritarian approach.
The smaller the circle, the softer the hands must be.
W. Zettl, personal communication, Clinic in 2009
Walter defines dressage training as systematic, structured, and nature-oriented education. Dressage is intended to be a harmony between horse and rider and not the total submission of the horse, nor overtaxing him forcefully, nor getting into useless arguments. Harmony means to solve together a task in an enjoyable manner, continually seeking natural ease and suble relaxtion. The horse is obedient of his own free will. He happily and enthusiatically participates in the dance.
When riding in harmony the horse is given confidence, balance, suppleness and lightness. Once you have experienced this you can never again accept less. Seeing a horse and rider in perfect harmony is a thing of beauty. Horse and rider are moving in perfect balance and grace, in an effortless performance, which is yet energetic and fluid. Aids are imperceptible and the rider guides the horse through trust and respect, not force.
How is riding in harmony achieved
1) The rider must be committed to the process of riding in harmony, lightness, and mental and physical relaxation.
2) The rider must understand and share the emotions of the horse, and respect the horse's nature. Harmonious training of the dressage horse requires study of the horse's temperament, the gaits, how he reacts to the aids. Many of us acquire our first experience in animal training through our relationship with our dogs; these training methods are geared towards a predatory animal and are fundamentally different from techniques used with a grazing animal like the horse.
3) Finally the rider must obtain the technical details on how and when to give the aids, how to structure the training, how to evaluate the progress of horse and rider.
Mr. Zettl believes this knowledge is found in classical training methods and not necessarily found in "new" and "modern" methods. He states that, "Although not everything that is old is good, everything that is good has come from ages of experience, passed through the grand masters of the art." The physical relaxation referenced in point #1 is obtained through horse strengthening and suppling exercises which must be used in a proper and logical sequence through the seven fundamental elements (see below). The rider must learn the proper use of the aids: how to maintain and assist the horse's balance and when to give the aids. There is a precise moment to give each aid, without proper timing the most subtle and elegant aid becomes clumsy and the strongest aid becomes useless and ineffective.
Always remember in working a horse never to demand something that he does not understand, at the same time you must challenge the horse and come close to his limits, physically and mentally. Never pust beyond this limit.
Above all, the masters over the centuries have seen your problems before and one should strive to be classically correct in all circumstances.
Strong bits, special reins, spurs, harsh whips are never necessary for the rider who knows the classical method of riding. As Herr von Neindorff has said, "One's goal should be to achieve great things playfully." There is no situation I can imagine where the horse's natural kindness and noble nature should be insulted or abused by dissonance, rough treatment or unbalanced riding.
"Our actions and attitudes around the horse must continually be guided by a desire to earn the trust of the horse. Such trust is a delicate and precious treasure. The rider who knows the pleasure and results of such trust opportunity. It is far too easy to crush and destroy this trust, and once lost, far, far more difficult to rebuild."
Some may say that without strong discipline and hard work we can not prepare a horse for the top levels of competition, that "classical" and competitive riding are mutually exclusive. This is nonesense. The chose is yours: to show your horse in a rough and forced manner; or to ride in an elegant, fluid, athletic manner.
Foundation of all riding
This is the Training Scale, which is the foundation of the German school. It is listed here to contrast the French system, which is the method Gretchen is pursuing. The French school produces the most harmonious and easiest, as well as fastest and safest means to train horses to Grand Prix and beyond, and best displays and increases the horse's beauty and ability to carry a rider in an athletic and graceful way. The French method is also the best at preserving the soundness of the horse.
1) Rhythm - The rhythm of the gaits must be regular and even and is closely related to relaxation. When the rhythm is rushed the horse loses balance and relaxation.
2) Relaxation - A relaxed horse can contract one of the extensor or flexor muscles. A tense horse contracts both. A relaxed horse will have every muscle relaxed from the poll to the tail, the rider can take up the reins or give the reins and the horse will maintain his rhythm.
3) Contact - The connection between the rider's hand and the horse's mouth must be precise and responsive. Reins remain straight so a decrease or increase in tension can be instantaneously transmitted. Hands do not pull, the horse will pull back and communication will be lost. The contact is needed to balance the horse, keep him supple, regulate his impulsion, straighten the horse, guide the turns, and to collect the horse.
4) Schwung - A German word to describe the proper forward movement of the horse. It requires a soft, giving hand that keeps connection with the mouth. The hind legs are engaged and active and should be a "carrying" power, not a "pushing" power and is a fundamental source of all power for the movement of a horse. Only when the horse has Schwung can one ride in relaxed rhythm, with contact, suppleness, straightness, and collection.
5) Straightness - The eveness of the horse from side to side. Naturally horse are more athletic on one side than the other. Through training we aim to gradually bring the horse into more and more evenness on both sides.
6) Suppleness - Elastic, obedient fluidity of movement is the essence of suppleness. The horse should be always ready to go in any direction without resistance and respond easily to all the rider's aids.
7) Collection - Is the distillation of the previous elements. It involves the lowering and increased engagement of the hindquareters that allow them to come more forward and under the weight of the rider. This permits the seemingless effortless execution of advanced movements.