Translation by Cindy Sydnor of an article in the German magazine, St Georg, 1/2015

Translation by Cindy Sydnor of an article in the German magazine, St Georg,
from January 2015

Today is May 4, 2015


“Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro are an example for the positive development of Dressage.”


Austrian Johann Riegler was a Senior Rider at the Spanish Riding School in Vienna for a long time. Since then he has been running exclusively his own school. Additionally, he is constantly traveling, spreading his rich knowledge of the classical training of horse and rider. We asked him to give us his thoughts on the development in horsemanship.

Mr. Riegler, how would you judge the present state of things in the sport of dressage?

The competition scenario will always evolve in a certain direction. A few years ago tense steps were very fashionable, and it was sometimes difficult for judges to detect whether the impulsion was actually coming from tension or looseness. That has now changed. At the moment, the loose, supple horses are in favor. And to that extent, I would say that for the time being, we are on a good track.

That sounds as if it could go in the other direction again…

That’s right. There have always been tendencies to depart from the classical way, but ultimately one always returns.

Why is that?

Let’s take as an example “False” impulsion. I cannot continuously increase the tension in a horse. That would result in physically destroying the horses at age seven, and they would be finished. It is similar to the situation in breeding: one cannot breed horses to be bigger and bigger without at some point harming their health. Nature has simply set limits. The same applies to the training. Everything that contradicts the natural movement is damaging.

In your opinion who is capable of maintaining the positive trend?

In my opinion it is always the judges. Every rider wants to win. Therefore, he produces what is rewarded. If it is half-passes without bend, then he would try riding like that. On the other hand I also believe that the judges are influenced by beautiful riding–unfortunately, also by bad riding. When weekend after weekend, they see tension-filled gaits, they begin not to see anything wrong with it, consciously or unconsciously. But actually it is they who decide how to evaluate what they see. And the riders orient themselves according to the judges’ decisions.

How could one improve the judging?

I think more frequent seminars need to be given, in which riders, trainers, and judges come together and discuss how movements should look.

How about some of the photos that are not exactly beautiful that one sees from local shows? What can be done about this?

That is very difficult. Actually, every beginner should be taught by the best. However, the trainers at Medium level are often lacking in teaching skill and knowledge. They cannot train horses to the Grand Prix level, but they attempt it anyway. When that doesn’t work, they try it with force. The problem is of course: one cannot learn how to train horses from reading books. The people always expect an instruction manual. But riding is a matter of feeling, and that is how it must be passed on. So: how is a mere craftsman going to be able to teach great art?

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