If you haven't had the pleasure to watch this breathtaking horse and rider, Edward Gal and Totilas, here's a link with 3 videos of their Gran Prix Special, Musical Kur, and warm-up at Aachen where the pair set world record scores. Talk about harmony, accord, and a horse that loves his job! The site is Equine Ink at Networked Blogs. Enjoy!!

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The late medieval nobility turned dressage into a sport by giving public demonstrations of "horse ballets" to wow the commoners during public celebrations. They would do airs above the ground as well as movements on the ground. The late medieval knights and lords also replaced the tourneys (where weapons were used) to carousels where the riders would show their weapon skills against dummies, and where precision riding was prized.
It is my suspicion that post-Xenephon dressage developed from war horses being encouraged to fight during battle. I know that one Arab mare imported to the USA (*Nedjme 1, the Chicago World Fair in the 1890's) was trained as a guard/attack/fighting mare, and that the only person who could handle her safely was her groom that came over with her from Turkey. I suspect that some of the medieval war horses may have kicked, struck out at and bitten foot soldiers or other horses during battle, and that some riders were good enough to figure out how to get the horses to do this stuff when not in battle. During battle, with the rider in full armor, wielding weapons, the riders were in no position to give delicate aids, but the horses were capable of acting on their own. So airs above the ground in response to the rider's aids probably were not possible during battle.
And believe me, Caprilli was reacting to horribly abusive riding, where even hard handed peasant men were expected to ride in full collection with double bridles even before they had ridden more than a few months, not to mention the abuse that the horses suffered trying to jump. Dressage was important mostly for the close formation drills (both before battle or just for display), or, when the riders used swords, for wheeling around to meet an adversary. Since by Caprilli's time cavalry men rarely experienced sword duels on horseback, using mostly guns as offensive weapons, he saw that there was no more need for this type of riding. Yes, cavalry men still used swords on occasion, mostly cutting down the retreating enemy foot soldiers. Why waste bullets on already defeated enemies? When Caprilli also factored in the fact that machine guns can completely mow down a charging cavalry line he adapted cavalry riding to the demands of modern warfare, mostly for scouting or getting fighters deep behind enemy lines.
I have had some images on my hard drive from the time I analyzed the Winsdor video of Totilas from last year. I have placed them on this http://www.klubequus.org/totilas/ webpage with some sarcastic comments, to highlight the point.

These pictures are not taken out of context. They are just taken out of fast moving video, which fools human eyesight considerably. Not only we are grossly averaging motion frames together, what we also process in the brain is very much influenced by "training". In other words, we train ourselves to see what we want to see, influenced by long standing propaganda what we should regard as normal, preferable and nice. For instance, we have been bombarded by images of "wrongly" moving horse "on the front" so long, that we no longer consider balanced movement normal and nice, and we start prefer to see horse tilted backwards. There is no end to how much our brain can fool us. Yet, there is no excuse to see the truth. And in the age of motion pictures, there is no excuse not to analyse and re-educate.
Alan, you should know, that our Klub, that runs the webpage has been contacted by someone from the Briotish Dressage Forum (did not say where), considering the pictures to be - i cite - "comes across as quite defamatory and inflammatory" and is asking the administrator of the Klub to turn them down.

Well, it must have touch some very sensitive spot I guess.
Take the page and its pictures as you please. Here is also an instruction, how to make shots from any YT video. Google some free programs, that allow you to download YouTube videos to your hard drive - there are many, some are pluggins for a Firefox. Then, I use a movie converter, which converts the movie to a format (like MP4) that easily plays in my movie player. I use AVS media player, it is free and very good. It allows slow motion, also advancing frame by frame, and if you want a shot, just press F7.

I have used this educational tool many times and love it. It deepens understanding of the biomechanics, and it actually provides an easy proof, without the need of veterinary science.
In a way, it very much resembles to what happened with TWH and the big lick. Some time ago, the big lick was not as "big", and it was actually a useful traveling movement. But as people started compete for bigger and better, they deviated from what's normal. If one never leaves these circles and obtains its horse education in just one area of the sport training hard, his/her view becomes distorted. And it astonishes me, how far the human brain can go in filtering everything else, like a horse suffering. I really think, that majority of TWH people in those circles are not evil, they are just brainwashed. They like unnatural to a point, they are willing to sacrifice reason and kill any empathy they might harbor within themselves.

So, Totilas, who is perhaps the best tilted horse in the world is representing this kind of shift from normal. Apart from the fact, that he is a very springy horse, he lifts his legs abnormally because of the severe physical forces thrown upon him, just like they do on TWH. He is actually moving in a series of huge "throws" back and forth. He learned to balance on one leg only. He is moving at times so fast, the only thing a human eye registers is the big lift, and that's enough to make impression. But at the same, people are also uneasy about it, they just can't quite pinpoint what it is.
Perhaps the only truly slow movement are those canter pirouettes, where he actually stands on two legs, supporting his torso, like in a levade.

All and all, Totilas is a body builder. He is extremely hard working animal, his muscles are enormous. Sometimes I wonder, if his heart can take it forever. Gribaldi's heart didn't ... :-(
I like your comment about people seeing what they want to.
My BIG worry about all you classical dressage people is that you will never again in the existence of the universe be able to find judges that can recognize correct movement. When all the judges see is incorrect movement, when all the judges see incorrect movement rewarded with Olympic gold medals, and when the judges hear the audience's gasps and acclaim for incorrect movement, then incorrect movements become the norm. The pity is that nowadays if a person competed in dressage with correct movement they would lose, because they do not look like the judge's ideal horse, which is the incorrectly moving gold medal winners.
A few years ago I was riding this wonderful Arab gelding. He gave me indications that he could be gaited but I refrained, the horse was good enough to do dressage and I did not want to do anything that might affect the purity of his gaits if someone wanted to try dressage on him later. Guess I should have gone ahead and gaited him, it would not have made any difference in modern dressage. In fact to modern dressage riders it might have been seen as an improvement to regular, pure strides. What a pity. I bet he would have come up with a super smooth and rapid gait.
Which brings up something else. We all know how HARD it can be to sit a regular trot. Gaited riders know how much EASIER it is to sit a gait, and without any loss of speed. Is the reason that we see so many potential gaited horses in dressage now because it is so much easier to sit a gait than a trot? I guess that they (the riders) did not get lunged enough without stirrups.
Alan, you do know, we - women - have a different pelvis, that is much harder to keep upright in the saddle. It hurts. And also, the hip joint is not the same as men's, and keeping it in the fork-like position causes stress to the joint and surrounding structures. While the fork-like position was a men's invention, it is perhaps women's contribution, why the horse's are forced so early into the comfy trots.

Look at Elena Petuskova from times, when not many women were in the sport: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iukrYhnw8n0
I agree. That is a correct seat for a woman. For men too, but they can withstand without a damage so much more. The width of the pelvis also plays a role.

Myself, I have switched to sheepskin treeless saddles. I feel pampered in it. Nothing hurts at all, I don't have to fight anything. And since I am running slowly toward 50, I need as much comfort as I can get.

In European dressage schools is being taught, the rider must hurt otherwise they don't ride - they are just being carried. And that people must adapt their body. No wonder, dressage riders are friends of chiropractors. There are studies on sport injuries, placing dressage as a high risk for back injuries. Go figure...
THAT is what I thought dressage should be like.
>Is the reason that we see so many potential gaited horses in dressage now because it is so much easier to sit a gait than a trot?

I have had the same thoughts. Looking back at some lessons I witnessed in Europe, where dressage students are forced to sit ANY trot on a lunge line. It was painful for them, and it was painful for me just to watch. Particularly watching large breasted women. That must have hurt. Sure, a specially designed underwear including dressage padded panties can help, but there is a limit to it. So, there is a solution. Modify the horse's trot! And - make a strong contact, so you have a holding point and keep your torso quiet.

I know for sure, that having even slight contact with something in the front helps tremendously to stabilize the upper body. If you can keep the pelvis slightly tilted (the bottom toward wither) by using your hands (or pinkies are often enough), suddenly you can sit like a statue.

Another feature of a comfortable sitting is a bend neck. When a horse rolls its neck, he cannot use brachiocephalic muscle, which causes the trot to feel jerky. He has to start lifting his scapula, and THAT FEELS GOOOOOD! What a difference in a saddle. Also, the magnitude of the motion become rounder, kind of swinging. That feels goooood! So good in fact, people instantly express it as: " a horse using himself (his back) correctly".

And therefore, no one wants to sit on a horse, who uses streched neck to propel itself. So, the horse is barely 3-year old, and is already learning how to roll neck on a lunge line, so the rider does not have to bounce.

PS: Plus the fact, there is huge diversity in motion, some horses are more comfortable than others, naturally.
You just explained something that has been puzzling me for decades. On day the lady running the boarding stable had gotten some side-reins, and she said that us boarders could play with them. My horse had a wonderful, smooth sitting trot, complete with swinging back, on contact or off contact. I rode in the side-reins one day in the ring, just to see how they changed my horse's motion. I apologized to my horse for the side reins messing with his walk, and asked for a sitting trot. All of a sudden I was on a horse that felt like he was gliding smoothly over the ground, the trot was even smoother than before. I was up there thinking that it was cool, so cool, and so much easier to ride.
After halting I thought for a moment, got down and took the side reins off. I decided that if this trot was in my horse it was up to me to get it without any special tack (the side reins), and that unless I could get this super-smooth trot just through my regular riding I did not DESERVE this trot. No more side reins. My horse never replicated that trot. Now you've explained why. Thank you.
I must add that I never rode him behind the bit. Except for those few minutes on the side reins my horse went boldly forward with his nose leading. In fact the other reason I never used the side reins again is that my horse WAS behind the bit when they were on. I can't stand that, I feel like I have no control over the horse when he is behind the bit.
When they get behind the bit, it feels instantly like sitting on a rolling ball. Unless the horse is also leaning against your hands, sometimes because of the pain, but that's why they have strong bits and various methods how to get rid of that pull (sea-sawing, over bending to a side etc.).

When you mention the word DESERVE, I pesonally feel, that the word is a synonym for a "dressage art". Constantly balancing between a demand and free, being guarded from overdoing it by a healthy dose of a guilt. It takes years to get beautifully comfortable, mentally reliable and a healthy horse at the same time. The adaptation/habituation takes time, and it involves a dialog. The horse must be allowed to speak with its body language. And persuaded slowly.

The reward is amazing. You want the horse to live as long as you do. Lifetime partner, really. And that is what it should be about. Mutual benefits. I don't see, how those business people like Edward Gal really can serve as a training model for this goal. After all, they change horses like socks?


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