Richard Hinrichs' book "Schooling Horses in Hand: A Means of Suppling and Collection" has inspired me to
try classical work-in-hand myself as a way to add variety and interest
to our weekly schooling schedule, and to see for myself whether I am able to effect
specific desirable changes in my horse more easily in
hand than under saddle. I have had no specific instruction
in work-in-hand, but using the text and photos of this book,
I am prepared to undertake some "baby-steps" in the art form.
Classical work-in-hand was an integral part of the education of the highly
schooled riding horse throughout history, however today it is little used and
seldom seen. Richard Hinrichs' fine book is a lovely testament to his abilities and
the results which have been manifested in his horses. These animals are
beautifully muscled and gleaming, showing expressive work with calm facial
expressions. This book is rich with gorgeous colour photos (almost every page
has a photo or drawing) which illustrate and expand on each point made in the
text. These photos show a trainer who exemplifies through his turnout, his
manner, and his bearing, a confident master with deep respect for his animals
and the classical dressage principles. Hinrichs' abilities emanate from the
pages as "one worth emulating".
This sense is backed up by his formal credentials. Hinrichs was schooled by a
member of the Spanish Riding School in Vienna, and names his father Kurt
Hinrichs, as one of his biggest influences in learning the work in hand. The
forward to the book was written by Brigadier Professor Kurt Albrecht, director
of the Spanish Riding School from 1974 to 1985. This highly esteemed equestrian
expert praises the book for both its valuable theoretical knowledge and the
practical applications therein. To quote him, "This book is not only
worthwhile for purposes of study and expanding knowledge, but it is also a
source that we can use with great pleasure to achieve happiness as riders."
In other words, a lot of pleasure can be derived by simply reading the text,
expanding your knowledge of the classical movements (now I know for sure the
difference between a pesade and a levade :-), and admiring the photos - whether
or not you will ever undertake the exercises yourself.
I am inspired to try my hand though! The book starts out with the requisite
discussion of longeing including the classical equipment, methods, aids, and
goals; and moves on to the work-in-hand on short reins, with exercises starting
with champing the bit, lateral steps in hand (similar to leg yield under
saddle), shoulder-in, travers, and renvers, half-pass, walk pirouette,
development of piaffe, the polka and the Spanish Walk, all the way through
passage, canter work in long reins including flying changes and pirouettes, and
on to the airs above the ground. I intend to start at the beginning, and see if
I can work my way to achieving an improvement in lateral suppleness in my
horse's ridden shoulder-ins and half-passes. My goal is to increase our scores
in these movements in our Third Level dressage tests by at least one point.
He is a typical
shorter-bodied Fjord, and like the proverbial hard-to-bend short stick, we can
use all helpful ideas available in the "development of lateral suppleness"
Speaking of Fjords, I was pleased (and motivated!) to see the photo on page 103
of Barbara Heilmeyer with her Fjord mare, Thirza, at the Reken Festival. The
mare is showing a superb Spanish walk under saddle, and as the caption
indicates "...showing that an expressive Spanish walk is possible with a
horse that is not a stallion of Iberian descent". Another fun thing
from a personal point of view was the book's mention of the method of rein holding
used at the Royal School of
Equestrian Art in Lissabon-Queluz, a performance of which we were lucky
enough to attend last fall at the Queluz Palace in Lisbon, Portugal. This
is one of the last remaining institutions displaying the classical art
of equitation and airs above the ground and their regular
Wednesday morning performance is definitely worth attending.
I've gotten a lot of pleasure from reading this book - and I intend to report back
on my practical results with it. Stay tuned!