I’m often asked which books I would recommend for people getting into classical dressage riding. But what’s classical dressage anyway? There are so many opinions about the subject ‘dressage’ and so many great books. I think I read (and purchased) almost all of them. There are nearly 200 dressage books in my bookcase, in different languages. Yes, even in languages I don’t even understand like Portuguese or Russian. Call me a freak, but I like to collect them. Below you will find a list of books that I have found to be excellent. All of these books are “recommended reading” to my students and so I thought perhaps I could make this list available to my online friends and visitors as well. After reading all the those books, you can create your own opinion about ‘classical dressage’.
“Acceptance of the bit happens in the haunches, not in the mouth.”
If I could have only one book on riding it would have to be Gustave Steinbrecht’s “Das Gymnasium des Pferdes”, as it covers absolutely everything. It can be a little deep for a newcomer to the art. First published in the late 19th century, this book is truly a work of remarkable coherence, comprehensiveness, and depth of understanding. Steinbrecht’s reputation as a master in the art of dressage makes The Gymnasium of the Horse a cornerstone of equestrian literature. Originally published in German but translated in English and Dutch.
As I have trained at the Egon Von Neindorff Reitinstitut in Karlsruhe (Germany), I’ve studied his book over and over again. Egon von Neindorff dedicated his life to the knowledge and promotion of the classical art of riding. He never wanted to be a reformist but purely an interpreter. He truly understood the philosophy of classical riding and was therefore able to teach his numerous national and international students to develop their own style. The essence of classical dressage requires a deep affection for the horse, understanding, sensitivity, humility and devotion. In this book, von Neindorff illustrates in more than thirty chapters his profound understanding of the natural training of horses. It encompasses a body of knowledge, which was previously only taught at his riding establishment in Karlsruhe.
“The challenge of Dressage is not necessarily in having the best moving horse, but rather to get every horse we ride to move as well as it possibly can.”
The 2 books by Ulrich Schnitzer are an eye-opener for every rider, instructor and judge. “Kernpunkte Klassischer Dressurausbildung” gives you an inside about the LDR-methodes and the difference between the classical riding system.
“Pferde versammeln vom Boden aus” is about work in hand. In-hand work is an integral part of my training, one that I use with every horse, on any lever. It prepares and eases them into the demands of ridden work. I use in-hand first to build a correct foundation and then to help each horse progress along in his daily training, confirming the basics, working on balance and rhythm and introducing or refining movements. I find that it is a challenging but greatly rewarding way to gain insights into horses minds and bodies and create a better working relationship with them.
Traditionally, in-hand work is used to teach Haute Ecole, piaffe and passage. I use it from the first moment a horse begins its training with me. I work in-hand with the young horse to teach him how to use his body properly. He can develop into a confident, strong, supple, and balanced horse.
The Riding Regulation H. Dv. 12 in its last edition of 1937 is the foundation of German classical horsemanship. Authored by the German cavalry experts and issued by the German army commander-in-chief. These guidelines governed all training of remounts and recruits with the goal of creating a sound, able, willing, and obedient military mount and equally capable rider. As the original source of the renowned Training Scale, the H. Dv. 12 also served as the basis for today’s FN Principles of Riding, the German National Equestrian Federation’s official instruction manual. These pure and simple “how tos” represent the culmination of hundreds of years of proven cavalry experience. They show a remarkable insight into the nature of the horse and the biomechanical realities of horse and rider.
For me a classical rider is able to train his horse for what he wants to do, without damaging the horse’s body or mind. A good cowboy can be a classical rider, if he is a good cowboy…”
Ten years ago, Dr. Gerd Heuschmann rocked the equestrian world with his international bestseller Tug of War. A searing indictment of modern training and riding techniques that are sometimes used to the detriment of the horse. In 2017 Dr. Heuschmann released this follow-up book: “Collection or Contortion“. Exposing the Misconceptions and Exploring the Truths of Horse Positioning and Bend.” His book “Balancing Act” Dr. Heuschmann describes Horizontal Balance and Vertical Balance. Without Horizontal Balance, a horse cannot be vertically balanced.
The book by Dr. Robert Stodulka “Vom Reiten zur Reitkunst” is a great addition on the Gerd Heuschmann literature. An in dept analyse about straightness is described in the German book “Die Schiefen Therapie“.
The book by Dr. Thomas Ritter discribes the ancient secrets of classical riding in a modern way. Classical riding, in essence, is just correct riding. It is how one should ride every time they get on a horse. Not just knowing how to ride, but all around knowledge of the horse as a species. Here, a thorough examination of classical riding is presented through accessible modern day examples. It also includes almost forgotten, yet essential, riding methods. For example: the Bügeltritt (the position of the rider’s foot in the stirrup) or ridden work with a cavesson. Other concepts include the aims of dressage; the system’s essential gymnastic building blocks; breaking down blockades; essential riding skills such as sitting, feeling, and thinking; and the network of aids.
I hope you can find some inspiration out of the dressage books. Of course there are a lot more worth reading.