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trainer’s POINT OF VIEW

Considerations in Training an Iberian for Competitive Dressage


ver the centuries and across the world, horses have been selectively bred for specific purposes, thereby producing certain types and characteristics with

each breed that created various methods of training and riding. Appreciating the difference between the classically bred and the competitively bred dressage horse enables us to tailor a training program that respects the heritage and the nature of the horse without creating injury.

HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVES The Iberian horse, the Spanish Andalusian or PRE, and the Portuguese Lusitano or PSL, has remained relatively unchanged throughout the centuries, and they still possess the qualities that made them the fountainhead of classical dressage and the most desired riding horse of the baroque era. In order to understand how to

condition and train the Iberian horse for competitive dressage we must first look to their past and the role they played in the development of classical equitation. It is important to understand the requirements of the classical horse of bygone years, namely his conformation, his gaits, and the work he was expected to do, because he was, to a great extent, responsible for the development of that training system. So let us return to that magnificent Age of Enlighten-

ment, when horsemanship was practiced as an art. It was during the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries that collection reached its pinnacle along with the horses of the Iberian Peninsula. Extremely collected movements, culminating in the jumps and airs above the ground, became the highest of training exercises. Described in pen and captured in drawings by the fathers of equitation, such as La Guérinière, the Duke of Newcastle, and the Marquess of Marialva, the Iberian horses showed an uphill balance with a compact frame. Their natural suppleness and ability to round and step deeply under themselves were greatly prized attributes. These qualities gave them the advantage to perform the extreme movements expected in the manège (French for riding academy). A ground

60 May/June 2011

By Tina Cristiani Veder and Bruno Gonzalez

covering extended trot was not a priority in the original development of these horses. The training of the classical horse in post Renaissance

Europe included finding balance and relaxation in the walk, trot and canter, increasing the suppleness of the horse’s top line, and bringing the hind legs of the horse well under the rider’s weight and closer to his center of gravity. Through this gradual process the forehand was raised and eventually the horse became strong enough in his hind quarters to support his weight with the rider and execute the movements asked of him without looking for support in the rider’s hands. A truly finished horse was one who had achieved total self-balance and only required the slightest of weight aids from the rider to bring forth the desired movements with accuracy and ease. Just as we look to the origins of classical dressage in order to understand the training of a particular type of horse and way of riding, we must also look to the origins of competitive dressage to understand

the differences between each. There was a dissimilar type of horse, compared to the horses from Iberia, that helped to create the sport of dressage. By the late 1700’s the outdoor horse, mainly the

English Thoroughbreds, with their sleek, horizontal bodies and ground covering strides, introduced the sport of racing and cross country jumping. The hunt and chase on horseback had become very popular and was the beginning of a revolution in the equestrian world. By the early 1800s military schools across Europe were preparing their cavalry outdoors in the field, and had, for the most part, rejected the “outdated” high school work of the manège. In this new theatre of operation, the highly collected, classically trained, round horse was considered a relic of the past. Many controversies ensued over the classical and the

campaign methods of preparing horses for cavalry use. There were brilliant horsemen such as François Baucher,

Above: Bruno and the Andalusian stallion Aureolo perform a pirouette.

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