I just read Jean-Claude Racinet's "Falling for Fallacies".  My mind is blown, this is the dressage I thought ALL dressage was back in my innocent youth, light handed with the willing cooperation of the horse.  As a Forward Seat rider I never got into learning competition dressage because I could never see a way to go from the free forward movement to full collection that did not BREAK the flow of the horse, until I started reading Nuno Oliveira, and now Racinet.   I can now see a way to go from full Forward Seat to full collection without compromising my horsie moral code.

If you've read Racinet what are your thoughts on his methods?

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In a dressage, there is a point, you need to demand bent neck. But if you are sympathetic rider, if you horse knows a lot of exrercises without formatting its neck and is well developed athletically, asking for a steady round and somewhat shorter neck with a head slightly in front vertical is a breeze. Provided, you respect the muscle work, and do not demand it more than a few minutes at a time. Riding the horse in a format ALL the time is WRONG and I don't care who those people are and how famous they become.

In forward riding, Caprilli emphasized "skills before format". He also mentions very important point, that too much collected dressage takes a forward will out of the horse, the horse becomes too submissive, and that is detrimental to jumping and cross-country work. Submission - yes, but there is a limit to it, if we are calling ourselves to be respectful to the animal mental state. The rewards are many. Once you have a well trained, mentally well-rounded horse, you can practically put a child into its saddle, and nothing will happen. No need for small arena, roundpen, sidereins, bits, or other restrictive devices, just because you want to give somebody less skilled a lesson.

Actually, should not it be the goal of dressage? Dressage horse is a ruin, if it cannot be used as a school horse, right? Or do we see dressage horses more like a mental cases, too hot to be ridden by a beginner, and who knows what hell would break, if they are ever let go freely on a stretched neck ... :-(
Gee, I can actually agree with you. This is great!
I really like your thing about just a few minutes in a more collected format. If a horse offers me collection (happens rarely) I leave the horse the freedom to decide when to end it, therefore I don't get more than a step or two.
I just never got to the point that I think a collected horse is pretty. I LOVE long flat efficient strides with a softly swinging back. I don't particularly like riding on a pogo stick, though I can see how people can find it thrilling.
I have multiple sclerosis. I ride with considerable physical difficulties--tremors, lack of balance, weakness and lack of coordination are the worse. If I did not ride FS I would be abusing the horses. Riding FS I can get to a degree of lightness that, when the horse is not going fast, I usually get responses from tweaking my little fingers in time with where the horses hind legs are. I ride in lightness, not collection. If I were to DEMAND jaw flexions or collection my hands would unavoidably be abusing the horse's mouth. I know my limitations. I also ride without nosebands of any sort, my horses are completely free to open their mouths if my hands get too harsh. It would not be fair to the horses to expect them to be happy with my hands if their mouths were tied shut and they were unable to avoid harsh aids.
I don't have a physical handicap, but I have a horse that does not "fly" like a bunch of springs, since it is a Paint x TB cross, and more like a Paint, really. I know very well, that screwing his neck and jaws would lead inevitably to pinning his massively muscled torso and relatively short stocky legs to the ground. The western flat gates would be "perfecto", if you know what I mean :-)

But, being an english rider, and learning to ride mediocre horses all my life, I knew, there is only one method, that can improve the freedom of expression of these - not so flying - horses, and that is the Caprilli mehod, and all of those followers from 30-40-50s. SKILLS before FORMAT is that method. I was lucky, that my early trainers have been trained that way. To them, even running martingale was a NO-NO, unless you really must. Horses have been hacked first, developed athletically, and if someone rode a horse behind a vertical, they were dismounted and sent back to the bench to think about their piggy hands :-) And you know what? The horses were incredible! They could run steeplechase and perform dressage while being so ugly, a modern breeder would spit at them today :-)

It all started to change in the 70s. The Germans started winning, and their methods of using format as a mean to get the skill had taken off - all borrowed from the "classical pre-Caprilli times". The lunge-lining was become a prerequisite in the advance horse education. Paalman become the innovator with his chambon, and the hell with auxilliary reins broke off. Factory-manufactured theories about bending horse's back, the circle of muscles started from the jaws - well served the purpose of justification. Since Germany, with its highly organized state-sponsored efforts become no.1, others quickly followed the trail of money. And now we have what we have. Some poeple are calling for a return to "classical"? Why go so far, where we have a poor evidence, that what was preached was also practiced? Why not going back to the recent history, which is much better documented and gives an alternative? Could it be, that people really do not want to change that much?
Yes, EvaZ, I agree with you completely.
In the 70's, especially with the BHIa & BHAIs there was this mania with Mussler's "Riding Logic" and they all started digging their seat bones into the saddle. The BHI where I got my first horse had actually studied with Jane Dillon and gotten her FS certification, but she went to the BHI program in Morven Park because "she wanted to learn how to do more."
After switching completely to FS after 1 week's worth of lessons I often thought about this comment. I knew that the cavalry FS riders had gotten pretty advanced with responsiveness to the aids and I refused to believe that FS horses couldn't be ridden at a high level.
Finally, about 20 years ago I found out the core theory of giving the horse aids that did not interfere with the horse's movement (Udo Burger.) My riding started to become light. After the long 5 years in which I could not ride I thought some on this, and when I started riding again I got to try this system of aids on horses I hadn't trained, and I got immediate results with the first horse I rode independently.
It occured to me that all the FS riders had been concentrating on FUN, riding fast, riding cross-country, hunting, and jumping, all riding where the horse takes a harder hold on the bit for support. This is all the students wanted to learn, so the FS teachers did not formulate a system of riding FS in true lightness.
Since I cannot do the fun stuff, I decided the best thing I could do with my time was to develop lightness riding FS on the flat, and to see HOW responsive I could get the horses in spite of my tremors, etc.. So, would this be a new variation of the FS? NO. Caprilli insisted on the lightest contact possible, people had just forgotten.
I ride FS. I ride FS in my dressage saddle, in my A-fork Western saddle as well as my old FS saddles. My hands belong to the horse's mouth. I am lucky, because by riding FS I do not have to lust after the expensive horses, with FS I can turn just about any horse, however inferior, into a better riding horse. I've done it. The ladies I ride for like seeing me ride their horses, they like the way I improve their horses physically, they like the way I train to the aids, and they like the fact that when beginners ride these horses that the horses obey their riders cheerfully (most of the time) and do not scare their inexperienced riders.
What more could I ask for?
The French and Portuguese dressage systems were the only ones where, when I read their books, I could see riding dressage without inhibiting forward impulse. I am reading them because when my horses offer me a collected movement I do not want to punish them for it, so I need to learn how to accept it , let it flow, and let it go. I tell you, I was very suprised when the horses started offering me advanced movements. I do not consider my hands steady enough to demand them, but it is sort of nice when the horse offers it.
I am SO HAPPY to have someone else on Barnmice that knows a lot about FS. From what you say you were trained in a slightly different system than me. I ride in Vladimir Littauer's system, the American System of Forward Riding run by the ANRC and taught in some colleges. I've read them all--Caprilli, Santini, Littauer, Kournakoff, Wrangel, Kirchner, Dillon, Chamberlin, Bechter, Speckmaier. I am VERY interested in learning about any other variations of the FS system.

I don't understand it, Caprilli taught people how to fly without wings on regular, ordinary horses, and the people decided to go back to trudging around in circles on the superior horses. Caprilli taught people how to make their horses happier with being ridden, and then people went back to tormenting their poor mounts. Caprilli taught people how to be bold, and now timidity reigns.

So sad. I'm glad you are on Barnmice. Now I don't feel all alone about my system of riding.
Probably too late for you to see my answer here but I took several clinics from Jean-Claude before he passed away. Your analysis of your equitation is correct. It hinges on riding in lightness but always in the presence of impulsion.

His methods per se, fine. What are often seen as his, not so fine.  Imho PK is clearer.  

He often wrote for Dressage & CT years ago.  His discussions are those of a horseman, whether we all agree or disagree have to be reasoned and thought out.  But they MAKE the reader THINK...and that is the good part.

Why did you think that light seat does not evolve into (possible) collection?  All youngsters should start with a rider in light seat!

I did not think that the light seat would evolve into collection under me because I am so uncoordinated and my balance is bad.  However, on Arabs, and part-Arabs I have gotten some of the stimulated movement, an Arab gelding gave me dressage trot (pogo stick, my riding teacher yelling at me to keep doing it) one day in a double bridle.  The bay Arab mare in my avatar photo gave me a terre-a-terre one day on a canter depart when I did not advance my hands quickly enough, and one day she did a small croupade, again when my hands were a little stronger than she thought ideal with the snaffle bits I was using (Wellep and Mullen mouth snaffles).  She has a REALLY sensitive mouth.  I take this as showing me that my basic training is done properly, especially since when I started riding her she was crippled by an occult spavin and other arthritis and felt like she falling into pieces under me.  Now she is strong enough at 30 years old to give me "advanced" movements when she is displeased with my hands.

I also got a type of collection on two Paso Fino mares, this was a true case of me letting the horse decide how they were going to go, with sensitive rein contact.  One I did with a double bridle, the other was in a snaffle I think.  I was not aiming for collection, but since that was what the mares wanted to do I did not argue with them, at least their walks were as nice and extended as any Forward Seat horse.

When I was introduced to dressage the book "Riding Logic" was in vogue, and all the people aiming for collection were digging their seat bones down in the saddle, to "drive" the horse into the bit.  It took me about 25 years to get good enough to get some proper results with very few lessons.  I ride Forward Seat properly if slowly, and it is nice to get some springy results though I don't want to ride like that every moment in the saddle.  To much work! 


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