Do you wonder how to start your adventure with the Academic Art of Riding?

At the beginning, we focus on the basics. Good basics established early, make it easier to work with a horse in the future in a way that is both efficient and healthy for the animal. The first foundation is a good relationship with the horse; secondly it is the education that he/she will get during its life.

We can divide the art of riding into four pillars:

1. HORSEMANSHIP

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Horsemanship in that meaning in not associated with Patt Parelli, nor rushing a horse on the circles to get his unconditional obedience immediately. Those are only methods. Horsemanship tells you how to become truly united with your horse. Good relationship is, among others, based on mutual respect, trust, and understanding. It often relates to letting go our expectations, pressure, negative emotions that we often unconsciously transfer to the animal. A simple exercise like leading a horse is an essential part of its education before we start longeing or riding the horse.

WHAT WILL YOU LEARN?

  • leading your horse
  • stopping and sending horse forward
  • establishing safe boundaries between your horse and you
  • reading body language of the horse
  • using positive reinforcement in horse training
  • preventing dangerous situations
  • other things depending on your needs

2. GROUNDWORK

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Groundwork is a preparation for the horse to carrying a rider without causing harm to the animal. The main goal is to strengthen and straighten horse’s body. Due to the natural asymmetry, horses may seem to be “difficult” under the saddle for many riders.  Very often their body limits their movement performance, making them incapable of doing more advanced exercises which require certain body suppleness. Through working from the ground, a horse learns how to properly move and bend by supporting its movements with our aids, rewarding proper movement by lightening the aids, getting a goodie or having a break. Most importantly, each lesson is finished with a positive accent, after successfully completing a difficult task – both horse and rider feel more confident and receive tips for further training.

In other words, it is riding from the ground. The rider applies the riding aids using a whip from the ground and after the horse is ridden a few times, it already knows many of the signals that it was thought.

WHAT WILL YOU LEARN?

  • developing physical abilities of the horse: proper shape, balance, suppleness, equally on both sides
  • using tools such as: cavesson, whip, longe line
  • communicating with a horse by using body language
  • lateral movements: shoulder-in, travers, renvers, half pass, pirouette
  • exercising in collection and extension
  • different types of half halts

3. LONGEING

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While we educate the horse in ground work, we want to be able to command it not only by walking next to him but also to do exercises from the distance. It’s not easy for a human to move next to the horse in counter therefore we use a big circle. The bigger the circle is, the faster the horse can move, and conversely, the smaller the circle is, the slower the horse can move, performing more collected exercises.

Both groundwork and longeing are done using a cavesson, a whip and a longeing line.

WHAT WILL YOU LEARN?

  • bending on the circle
  • straightening horse’s body
  • exercising lateral movements on the circle in extension and collection
  • recognising horse’s body asymmetry
  • biomechanics of the horse movement

4. WORK IN HAND

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Here the rider replaces the cavesson and longeing line with a bit or bitless bridle and the reins. The horse gets used to the new position of the handler guiding a horse from the inside or outside its body. The hands hold the reins as the person would ride a horse. In that way the horse gets the instructions, responding to gentle, precise aids from hands and it gets used to the bit (if we use it).

In work in hand we do all the lateral movements as in groundwork.

WHAT WILL YOU LEARN?

  • staying soft with your hands
  • guiding a horse from the inside and outside its body
  • preparing a horse for riding with bit or bitlessly
  • different methods of holding reins
  • using different bridles and bits

5. RIDING

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After we built firm foundations from the ground, the horse is physically and mentally ready to start bearing a rider.

The close contact with the horse starts from the saddle when the rider is mainly using its primary aid, the seat. In the Academic Art of riding there is a lot of focus on our body awareness. Each part of our body mirrors horse’s movements. The process of learning horse riding is very detailed and what we strive for is a feeling of melting together. The horse and the rider are becoming dancers using almost invisible communication.

WHAT WILL YOU LEARN?

  • building a tension free, stable body position in movement
  • using minimalistic aids
  • guiding your horse mainly with the primary aid – a seat
  • using secondary aids – rein, whip, voice
  • Mindfulness exercises
  • lateral movements: shoulder-in, travers, renvers, half pass, pirouette
  • collecting a horse
  • using half halts

For me the Academic Art of Riding is the most complex and holistic approach that I have ever found in equestrian world. It is free from elitist thinking, wining ribbons and it doesn’t use force. Instead, it focuses on listening to your horse and appreciating him for every desirable step that he makes. The training process takes its time and is aligned with horse’s needs. Finally, it teaches you to start thinking instead of copying sometimes hurtful habits of other people. For first and foremost, as someone wisely said:

“It’s dressage for the horse not a horse for the dressage”

HISTORICAL SUMMARY OF THE ACADEMIC ART RIDING

The name Academic Art of Riding was given by Bent Branderup, a Danish grandmaster who devoted his life to restore old traditions of horse training. The system itself is nothing new, it comes from the riding academies, which existed in XVI to XVIII century in Europe.

However, the art of riding goes back to the ancient times. The first written document about schooling horses was authored by a Greek philosopher and solider named Xenophon, dated about 350 BC. Later, in Renaissance and Baroque, we can find great French masters as Antoine de Pluvinel, inventor of the work on pillars and François Robinchon de la Guérinière, the father of shoulder-in on the straight line. In the 19th century, one of the most famous masters was Gustav Steinbrecht. In his opinion, training should be focused on riding a horse “forward and straight”.

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“The knowledge of the nature of a horse is one of the first foundations of the art of riding it, and every horseman must make it his principal study.“ - Francoisde de La Gueriniere

It’s important to realise that historically horses were an essential part of human life. They were used in agriculture and as a way of transporting goods and people during battles. The main purpose of training horses was to have an agile, strong, brave and balanced horse that can deal with heavy armed cavalryman in a difficult situation on the battle field. Therefore, in the academies the old masters were focused specifically on the most effective and logical training methods which gave great foundations for contemporary equitation.

“In training horses, one trains himself.“ - Antoine de Pluvinel

The XX century brought us masters who aimed to continue the riding traditions from the past such as Don Álvaro Domecq Díaz, Don Javier García Romero, Nuno Oliveira  and Egon von Neindorff. From their work my master, Bent Branderup, gained knowledge and experience which nowadays is spreading all over the world.

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"Two spirits who want to do what two bodies can." - Bent Branderup