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The Simplicity of Dressage

The Simplicity of Dressage     
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Johann Hinnemann, Coby Van Baalen, Claartje Van Andel
Trafalgar Square Publishing, 2003
ISBN 1570762619

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 Johann Hinneman as well as other well-known riders including European Champion pony rider Delphine Meiresonne.

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."

Chapters include:

    • The End Goal: Durchlassigkeit (total responsiveness)
      Featured Horses: Ideaal, Fidermark, Laurentianer
    • Principles for Training
      Featured Horses: Natrial, Festiva, Anjonette
    • Rhythm
      Featured Horses: Habibi, Dancer, Biraldo, Power and Paint
    • Losgelassenheit (relaxation)
      Featured Horses: Commodore, Arthur, Grenoble
    • Contact
      Featured Horses: Inspekteur, Baboon, Ehrentanz, Roman Nature
    • Impulsion
      Featured Horses: Darwin, Finesse, Jup, Bas, Weltino
    • Straightness
      Featured Horses: Noble Casper, Idocus
    • Collection
      Featured Horses: Olympic Ferro, More Magic, Heruto
    • Flying Changes
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.

  Buy it now at amazon.com     Buy it now at amazon.ca