So, the blizzard is beginning. Over the next 24 hours, we are supposed to get 12-18 inches of snow, with some high winds creating white-out conditions. This fun snow storm will be followed by sub-zero temperatures overnight and then single digit highs for the day on Thur. Needless to say, the horses are snug in their stalls, and there they will stay for the remainder of the storm. I am home in my pajamas with a cup of hot coffee, trying to figure out what to do with myself. Usually my days are filled with activity, and although I should probably be enjoying getting the unexpected day off, instead I find myself a little restless, wanting to check on my horses and practice the exercises I was given to work on in my lesson last weekend. A quick glance out the window convinces me that there’s no use attempting to go to the barn, and I settle on my second favorite activity: reading about dressage.
Since I’m sure I’m not the only one staying indoors until the storm passes, I figured I’d share the book I’m currently enjoying. Kottas on Dressage, written by Arthur Kottas-Heldenberg, is a beautifully illustrated book outlining the progression a horse through its dressage training, beginning at the very beginning with work on a lunge line and taking the reader all the way through the Grand Prix movements.
The author, former chief rider of the Spanish Riding School, writes very clearly and in an easy-to-understand language. His points are often written in bullet points rather than in paragraphs, allowing the reader to digest one nugget of wisdom after another, without getting lost in a cloud of words. He explains the theory behind the training, what to look for in correct work, and common problems and how to overcome them. Very clearly underlying his training philosophy is a deep love and respect for horses.
I love the simple language and bullet points, which make the book an easy read even though it covers a detailed and sometimes difficult subject matter. The way his points are broken down makes them flow very logically and helps each point to take the time and attention it needs before the reader moves on to the next one. I also really love the way the book is illustrated. There are many color photographs and drawings illustrating every subject he talks about. When he discusses what is correct vs what is incorrect, there are accompanying pictures showing side by side what correct looks like vs what incorrect looks like. This is not something I have seen in very many books, and I think a very important element to help the reader to go from understanding the written theory to being able to apply it in the barn.
I think it is very important for riders to study dressage outside of their riding lessons so that they can understand what it is they are trying to do and why. While there is no replacement for having lessons, there is SO much to know about dressage that riding lessons alone cannot possibly cover. Also, through reading the same ideas expressed in different words by different authors with different experiences to draw from, the reader can come to a much more complete understanding of difficult concepts. When a rider understands what it is they are trying to do and why, it becomes much easier for them to become capable of helping the horse to understand what to do. I find it’s easier to be patient with each step of the training process when it is understood as part of a logical, step-by-step process, with each step leading toward an end goal. Until the whole process is understood this way, training may seem more abstract or disconnected, and the importance of the basics may be misunderstood or missed entirely in a rush to get the the “fun stuff”, but once a rider understands the process, the basics are quite exciting as each step can be seen leading to the next. This book lays out the entire process in a clearly outlined and illustrated way, with a tone that conveys the passion behind every step of the journey.