The title of this book just jumped out at me, and made me want to find out more.
"The Simplicity of Dressage" -- huh?! Some days I think I have faced
no greater challenge, no bigger growth opportunity than the learning
of dressage riding.
But author Coby Van Baalen explains the title this way:
"It's not because dressage
is so simple to do, but because dressage is simple to explain.
Regardless of which level one rides, the basics are always the same."
Aaah, so true. Training -- or "schooling" as the authors prefer to call it --
always comes down to working on and perfecting the six central basic concepts.
These concepts are none other than the German Training Scale:
rhythm, losgelassenheit (relaxation), contact, impulsion,
straightness, and collection.
The Simplicity of Dressage is a simply beautiful book. The photographs show
stunning examples of quality horses and ponies being ridden correctly and
beautifully. Everything about this book radiates "nice riding". The horses
shown all look soft, round, and content, even in the midst of the most
difficult exercises. The majority of the photos are of author
Coby van Baalen and her daughter Marlies van Baalen, with some of trainer
as well as other well-known riders including European Champion pony rider Delphine
The book contains numerous profiles of the horses who
were involved in the author's career development. Breeding details,
descriptions of the horses' strengths and weaknesses, and an
overview of the horses' training and showing careers make for
engrossing and motivating reading. I enjoyed having the little
window into the world of someone who is at the pinnacle of our sport.
As van Baalen says in the book
"Some shows go better than others, despite preparations being exactly
the same. This is true for everyone. No one gets in top shape and becomes
successful without a lot of hard work, although it may appear that
way to onlookers."
STARTING POINTS AND THE END GOAL
- The End Goal: Durchlassigkeit (total responsiveness)
Featured Horses: Ideaal, Fidermark, Laurentianer
- Principles for Training
Featured Horses: Natrial, Festiva, Anjonette
THE HABITUATION AND FAMILIARIZATION PHASE
Featured Horses: Habibi, Dancer, Biraldo, Power and Paint
- Losgelassenheit (relaxation)
Featured Horses: Commodore, Arthur, Grenoble
CONFIRMING HORIZONTAL BALANCE
Featured Horses: Inspekteur, Baboon, Ehrentanz, Roman Nature
Featured Horses: Darwin, Finesse, Jup, Bas, Weltino
DEVELOPING BALANCE ON THE HINDQUARTERS
Featured Horses: Noble Casper, Idocus
Featured Horses: Olympic Ferro, More Magic, Heruto
SIX PRACTICAL STEPS
Although for the most part the authors
do not discuss any single exercise in depth in this book,
they make an exception for the flying change. They reason
that flying changes are a known obstacle for many horse-rider
teams, and as well the flying change ably demonstrates
the importance of systematic and cohesive training according to
the six key concepts as described in the book. The authors outline
the practical application of the six steps through flying changes.
Van Baalen muses further on the title of the book. "The Simplicity
of Dressage. The longer I think about it, the more I like it.
I have always found riding far from simple, but little
by little, the pieces of the puzzle seem to fit together. I still
think good riding is difficult, but I understand it better all the time
because of the foundation of successful training for a jumper or a dressage
horse always comes down to the same basic concepts."
Whether you ride or simply admire dressage, reading this beautiful book is sure to be
a motivating and educational experience.