In my article Alois Podhajsky; Theory for Successful Dressage, I laid out the principles Podhajsky believes are important to guide one’s dressage practice on horseback. These principles constitute the “why” we do what we do in pursuit of the classical dressage goals .

Using words alone to describe these principles can become a bit overwhelming. So  I’ve put together a diagram which provides a visual for what Podhajsky is saying. This is very rough, but it’s a start and can be compared to diagrams offered by other masters. I’ll be doing this in future articles with the idea of developing some kind of unified approach we can use when practicing dressage.

The Diagram




Contact and balance are developed by forward. An excellent description of how to develop forward may be seen here.

Throughness, the action of the rein going through the body, is enabled by forward and contact.

Contact enables head position which is of utmost importance for balance.

Impulsion is necessary to raise the head and neck necessary for balance in collection.

Suppleness improves longitudinal balance ultimately necessary for collection. Suppleness may be defined as the horse’s ability to smoothly change his balance forward and back as well as side to side. The rhythm, frame, and speed must always stay  the same. Longitudinal balance refers to the bending of the joints of the hind legs and the lowering of the croup. This may also be called “engagement.”

The Goals

Purity of gaits. A trot is a trot, a canter a canter, and so on

Obedience. The horse yields to the rider’s wishes

Gaits which exhibit energy.

Call to Acton

Every rider who reads article should run through the above principles in his/her mind every now and then before a ride. Take stock of what’s going on with your horse and how things can be improved.

Please leave a comment below with your thoughts.

Carole Francis-Swayze

Horsewoman, dog trainer, theologian, writer, teacher

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