George Stubbs, Pumpkin with a Stable Lad


...if I have always worked honestly, my horse will carry me to the end of the world.

E.F. Seidler


News - Gerd Heuschmann meets Bent Branderup, Odenwald (Germany) October 2009

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Introduction by Gerd Heuschmann
Muscle Physiology
Biomechanics of Lateral Movements
Bent Branderup
Joint Question and Answer Session



On a wet and wintery October day, Dr. Gerd Heuschmann and Bent Branderup met in the lovely Ostertal in the Odenwald (south of Frankfurt) to discuss horse training, with a focus on biomechnics and movement.

Around 250 packed into the tiny hall of the local singing club to listen.

I was able to take some detailed notes, but the effects of 'note taking fatigue' are certainly obvious as the time went on. Any errors, inconsistancies and glaring holes in knowledge will be as a result of my poor listening, translating or note taking skills.

The actual translating can be a little tricky, as we quite often don't have direct translations in english for specific riding terms - and it is made a little more complicated as different people mean slightly different things, even though they use the same word. I have tried to translate to the 'sense' of what was said.

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Introduction by Dr. Gerd Heuschmann

"The anatomy of the horse describes the path that his training will take".

Look at your horse from a biomechanical and movement perspective. The book HDV12 (the German Heeres Dienstvorschrift 12 - or Riding Directives for Officers) is the basis for the the FN's training scale. It describes what should be done, but not necessarily what actually is done.

GH believes that Bent Branderup and Philippe Karl are both very good at training horses in a manner that is sympathetic to the biomechanics of the horse. They are both on parallel paths (i.e. their training methods differ).

There are, in general, two riding paths that can be followed. The first is for a 'gebrauchspferd' - a usable, working horse. This type of training is based on the Iberian principles, a follow on from bull fighting. For this type of work (stock work on uneven terrain), a lively, calm, strong, reactive horse was necessary. But not one that had a huge amount of suspension. An FN trained Weltmeyer horse would probably not be ideal for stock work, as he might not be as manouvreable as the Iberian type horse.

People that ride and train in the new FN way should talk with people that train using other methods (such as the 'classical' trainers, or the 'western' trainers) - instead of just talking about them. There are many things to be learnt from different schools of thought. Other people have a lot of experience - use it!

Good riding always has the physical and mental health of a horse as a priority. GH likes to use the HDV12 (1912 edition, which is slightly different from the easily available 1937 edition).

Over the past few years, GH has spent some time with a rancher in Montana. The rancher is retired (62 years old), and is the type of horseman that is not interested in selling anything (books, merchandise etc). He now works with young horses for pleasure, and very much likes to work with 'recalcitrant' young horses 'for fun'. His style of teaching is apparently similar to Tom Dorrance's style.

GH says that western riders don't tend to write books for people to read, explaining (more or less) how to do everything. They often learn from intuition - one of the benefits of living and working with horses constantly. However, if you watch them work with horses, you will see that they are horse people. They very often do the same things that 'dressage' trainers do, although they might not know why they do them - they do things because they work. They also often intuitively understand the psychological aspects of the horse - that is, how to communicate with the horse and understand him.

People that grew up with horses often have an intuitive understanding of how the horse thinks, and understand them. This can be very difficult for people that did not grow up with animals to learn when they want to later in life.

The rider, or handler, influences a horse dramatically. GH likes to tell the story of a person that decides to buy a nice young warmblood. The horse goes very well, and the person takes it home. On the first ride in the arena, the horse shies at a shadow in the corner - and on the next pass, and the next. This goes on for some time (days, months, years). The rider is now tense when the horse approaches the spot, thinking "this time I will get you to go past this point straight". The horse reacts to the tension in the rider, and thinks "There really is a tiger in the corner!", and so he shies again.

So it is important to remember that the horse doesn't act, he reacts. Many people today do not really understand this.

The western rider (the rancher) that GH knows likes to have his horses 'minds to the ground'. The rider thinks something, and the four feet under him do something. If you want the horse to stand still, he should stand with a dropped rein until the rider says "let's go!", and then the horse should react immediately.

The western rider also feels that the horse needs to be your friend, which GH agrees with.

GH likes to show a picture of Felix Bürkner (see below). GH said that he is always a little nervous showing the picture (as he is showing someone in a Nazi officer's uniform), but an old man in Munich told him that Felix Bürkner was a good friend and comrade of Stauffenberg (who plotted to assasinate Hitler), so the picture is ok to use.

Felix B├╝rkner

In riding, your body - and its influence on the horse - are very, very important. At the end, all that matters in riding is your seat, and the horse's rear legs.

So, what do you need to be able to sit on a horse like Bürkner above? You need to be the boss. You are a kind and friendly boss, but you must be the boss - and you must be able to discipline fairly if it is necessary. The horse must respect you, but he must not fear you.

You need to be self confident on the horse. The head (your head) makes your seat. You need to be calm - as external influences (such as stress) will change how you present yourself (i.e. your body language).

Many older authors wrote that "reiten ist selbstzucht", but he thinks that it is better that "reiten ist selbsterziehung" (riding is self discipline, compared to riding is about educating yourself, or raising yourself (as a parent to a child)).

Working on the seat is a project for your life.

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Muscle Physiology

You train the muscles of every horse. You need to form the muscles, especially the muscles of a young horse.

The body is constructed to run - when you sit on it, you need to remember that you have a long phyiscal trainings path ahead of you.

If you have a good training ride today, where you really worked the muscles of the horse, the muscles begin to re-form and strengthen. They need time for this process, and whilst they are re-forming, the horse will be stiff and feel sore. Therefore, training the next day will not usually be successful. You set yourself up for failure.

In the past, the HDV 12 said that:

  • Ride a 3 year old 3 times a week
  • Ride a 4 year old 4 times a week
  • Ride a 5 year old 5 times a week

This is a rough guide that was very good for officers that needed to remember, and teach others. It also refers to real work, not just going on a 10 minute walk in the forest. It is not something that we need to stick to religiously, we might be able to go for a quiet walk in the forest the day after a good training session, but we might find that we really don't ride our young horses every day.

If the horse is strong - already an athlete, you can ride him 3 times a day with no problems, as long as you can feed him enough oats. But with a young horse, you need to pay attention to how his muscles might be feeling, as you can very quickly lose the smoothness and suppleness (geschmeidigkeit). If you pay attention, you will also find you have less resistance in the training.

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The spine is constructed like a bridge, hung on four pillars (the legs). The saddle sits on the muscles, not on the spine, but it is the skeletal system that carries us. The long back muscles shouldn't be forced to carry us (this is bad riding).

Gottfried Bammes, an engineer, wrote and illustrated many books on Anatomy. One, Die grosse Tieranatomie (1991), shows the anatomy of large animals (including horses), and compares them to engineering structures such as bridges and cranes (note: this is a common exercise for first year engineering students). GH is excited to have discovered this book, as the illustrations are often clearer than his own, and the biomechanics shown by Bammes are as he has also described it.

The type of training that we do might influence the amount of movement we get in the back. A Iberian horse trained in accordance with La Guérinière won't necessarily have the same suspension in the trot as an FN trained warmblood. Therefore, the amplitude of the back movement (how much the back rises and falls) might not be as great. It is still correct work, however.

Horses can have a nice diagonal trot without suspension, and still be smooth and correct.

There is a bit of a problem, often, as the terminology can be different between different schools of riding. So the word 'schwung' might have a different meaning to someone riding in the FN system, or someone following Bent Branderup (for example). GH refers to 'schwung' as being 'suspension', not strictly 'suspension and impulsion'.

If you want to have schwung in the FN, you need to have positive tension from the bit to the tail. The BB method doesn't have 'FN schwung' (as you often have a slack rein), but it does still have impulsion.

So, the long back muscles on the horse run along each side of his spine (like the long back muscles that run up and down our spines). These work alternately when the horse is trotting, and nearly simultaneously in canter (in reality, the outer muscle works a little earlier in canter).

These muscles (as with all muscles) work in the direction of the fibres, and are 'body lifters' - that is, they can lift the forehand (e.g. on a horse approaching a jump), or they can lift the hind end (a horse kicking out with both feet).

These muscles will always have tension when a horse is trotting - therefore they can get tired!

A good rider (biomechanically speaking) can get the 'performance' he wants from the horse, but without getting the back tense and stiff. This rider's seat will be soft and open - not stiff and clamped like a clothes peg.

GH says that the aim should be to use the finest of aids - think about using the brush of your pants fabric agains the horse's side.

A horse that is going on a pleasure ride in the forest doesn't need to have positive tension in its body - it needs just enough to keep its head in an acceptable position (i.e. a place that won't make it's back hard). As an analogy, we can think of dancers; the way that a teenager will dance in a nightclub (all loose and floppy) is different to how a ballet dancer will dance in a performance. Both are good ways of dancing for their purpose. So, we also have many possibilities for a smooth ride, and they can all be ok.

If someone decides to train an Iberian horse in the 'classical' school trot (which does not call for suspension, see La Guérinière), we will see that the back does not come up quite as much as a Warmblood trained in accordance with the FN's rules. Both are quite correct.

We know that when a horse is worked with a hard and tense back, the walk is the first of the gaits to die.

An old German author said that it is the honorable position of a judge to differentiate between 'leg movers' and 'back movers'. Leg movers should never be placed in competition. The judges should differentiate between correct and incorrect training, and then look at the technical quality of the work.

GH has a video of a ride that earned the horse & rider a third last position at a world class competition, but the horse had fantastic training and technical competence. It wasn't rewarded.

Often, horses are brought to GH's clinic that are lame, but no one can find a reason for them being lame. They are not really lame, therefore, they have 'bewegungsstörungen' - disruptions in the movement - which are often caused by the rider.

When we sit on the horse, we sit on the ribs. The ribs move (as the horse moves and breathes), and carry the rider.

If the saddle is too long for the back, it rests on the transverse processes in the lumbar region of the back. This is very painful for the horse, and can cause it to stiffen the back. Often, the front legs will move high and straight (quite stiff).

Some trainers put the saddle back deliberately onto these transverse processes to bet more leg movement in the trot.

To find where these transverse processes are, assuming that your horses is not a 'dumpling', put your hand on his flank. Follow the last rib upwards and forwards. When the rib disappears (i.e. you can't feel it anymore), trace an imaginary line vertically - straight up. This will be approximately where they start.

If you have a big behind, or your horse has a short back (or you have a combination of the two), you might find most success with a french cushioned saddle. On these saddles, the cushion doesn't sit back (out from underneath the saddle) as much as on many other saddles.

You should sit the saddle as far foward as possible, and as far back as necessary.

The 'kopf eisen' (start of the tree at the front of the saddle? -the position indicated seems to be in the position of the button on the pommel) should never come in contact with the shoulder blade (i.e. a line dropped from the front of the tree should never pass over the shoulder).

Parts of the saddle flap that are forward of this point (i.e. a forward cut general purpose saddle) can float over the shoulder. That is ok. But the 'kopf eisen' should never come into contact with the shoulder at any point.

GH would like to talk about saddle fit more, but this is an entire seminar in itself.

So now we will talk about the neck.

As the neck is raised, the neck ligament (which runs along the top of the neck) is relaxed (and has some slack in it). So, what is it that is holding the neck up? The upper neck muscles take over the work in holding the neck up.

We want the head to be held 'relatively high' - but what does this mean? What is this 'relative'? Relative to what? The answer is, relative to the muscular development of the horse.

In a young horse, the neck muscles just work to lift the head up and down when eating.

So, we need to develop the muscles in the neck. Until this is done, we can't expect the neck to be up too much.

In the times of cavalry training, the first two years of the horses training were like his kindergarten. They were used to change the body of the horse. At the end of his second semester (the HDV 12 mentioned above has time lines and plans for training), the horse was expected to try his first lateral movements. But often, in these first two years, the horses were just ridden in the forest having fun.

The first importance - the horses were in the forest - but they were forwards. They were worked in a 'travelling trot and canter'. The riders were expected to let the horses move forward and balanced, and then offer contact to the horse in its 'natural' position.

So again, the head position is relative to his muscular development. If the head is too high, the back muscles need to carry and the back sinks.

The more that the neck comes up (as the muscles are developed), the better the movement possibilities we have between the back and the hind quarter.

If you show most people a Spanish stallion with a fine, naturally arched neck in an upright position, and ask them to show you where the spine is, most often they will run their fingers along near the top of the neck. This is not correct, the spine is an S-shape, and runs more in the middle of the neck. It is good that it is an S-form, as an S-form can be elongated (stretched) and contracted. If we stretch the horse's nose forward, the back will rise (this comes from the mechanics of the skeletal system).

Over the top of all the muscles in the back, we have a back facia, which connects the back with the hind quarters. Therefore, if you have tense back muscles, you will have tense hind quarter muscles - when when the horse is standing still (these are the long muscles that you see when you look at a horse from behind). So, you can tell immediately how a horse is trained, and how he moves, by feeling these muscles.

Over the ribs, you also have some layers of muscles that are very interesting. They can be asked to reflexively contract by the application of a leg aid. If you do this at the right time - just as a hind leg is lifting, this reflex contraction will help to draw the leg forward actively. The timing of this is important, though.

If we look at a pregnant mare (or an apparently pregnant gelding) walking away from us, we see that the belly swings from side to side like a pendulum. As the left hind leg moves forward, the belly move to the right etc. This is due to the alternating contraction of the upper back muscles (so, the belly muscles are connected to the back muscles).

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We can talk about the quality of the movement in terms of relaxation or tension.

Iberian horses have a different movement and type of suspension than a warmblood.

The movements should always be circular, and parallel (with respect to the legs). Even a Quarter Horse with fairly flat movement has a circular movement of the legs.

GH made reference to FEI Article 401 Object and General Principles of Dressage.

The object of dressage is the development of the horse into a happy athlete through harmonious education. As a result, it makes the horse calm, supple, loose and flexible, but also confident, attentive and keen, thus achieving perfect understanding with the rider.

These qualities are revealed by:
- The freedom and regularity of the paces.
- The harmony, lightness and ease of the movements.
- The lightness of the forehand and the engagement of the hindquarters, originating from a lively impulsion.
- The acceptance of the bit, with submissiveness/throughness (durchlässigkeit) without any tension or resistance.

2. The horse thus gives the impression of doing, of its own accord, what is required. Confident and attentive, submitting generously to the control of the athlete, remaining absolutely straight in any movement on a straight line and bending accordingly when moving on curved lines.

3. The walk is regular, free and unconstrained. The trot is free, supple, regular and active. The canter is united, light and balanced. The hindquarters are never inactive or sluggish. The horse responds to the slightest indication of the athlete and thereby gives life and spirit to all the rest of its body.

4. By virtue of a lively impulsion and the suppleness of the joints, free from the paralysing effects of resistance, the horse obeys willingly and without hesitation and responds to the various aids calmly and with precision, displaying a natural and harmonious balance both physically and mentally.

5. In all the work, even at the halt, the horse must be "on the bit". A horse is said to be "on the bit" when the neck is more or less raised and arched according to the stage of training and the extension or collection of the pace, accepting the bridle with a light and consistent soft submissive contact. The head should remain in a steady position, as a rule slightly in front of the vertical, with a supple poll as the highest point of the neck, and no resistance should be offered to the athlete.

6. Cadence is shown in trot and canter and is the result of the proper harmony that a horse shows when it moves with well-marked regularity, impulsion and balance. Cadence must be maintained in all the different trot or canter exercises and in all the variations of these paces.

7. The regularity of the paces is fundamental to dressage.

--- End Article 401 ---

This is a very nice passage! But unfortunately, what we see at tournaments - the tournament, or show trot - is not what is described in this text. The trot should be a two beat movement with four phases, and a moment of suspension. The legs should be parallel, at all times.

Oskar Stensbeck (1935) said (more or less): "Dear rider, only ride the tournament trot at a tournament, or in front of an unknowledgable buyer, or you will ruin your horse".

There have been many other authors that have disagreed with the tournament trot over the last century, such as Gustav Steinbrecht, Oskar Stensbeck, Richard Wätjen, Udo Bürger & Otto Zietschmann, Waldemar Seunig, Gustav von Dreyhausen, Ehrich Geyn.....

The cadence of the Passage is what makes it a beautiful movement. Some horses, and it is especially apparent in passage and piaffe, pick up the hind foot, hold it for a short time, and then place it down. The foot does not describe a circular shape in its movement. This can still look impressive, but it is very incorrect.

GH is seeing a lot of horses with fetlock joint damage in his clinic, and it is apparently quite common all over Europe. Curiously, it is predominantly being seen in advanced competition horses, which generally enjoy excellent conformation. GH believes that the joint injuries are a result of a hard tense back, which reduces the flexibility in the hind quarters. The hind legs don't land like springs, but more like pistons, and the fetlock is often almost horizontal. The hind legs cannot therefore dampen the forces as efficiently, and with the leg being straighter (rather than bent), more force is acting through the fetlock joint (an effect of the mechanical structure in this configuration).

GH believes that a current, well known and high performing horse is likely to have problems with this area in the next 12 - 24 months.

Whilst it appears very solid, the point where the head joins the neck is done via a fairly small joint, the atlanto-occipital joint. This joint allows the horse to 'nod', and to have some lateral movement. There are, however, some 'fingers' (lateral processes) that can become blocked by the atlanto-occipital joint - so the lateral movement that is available to this joint is reduced when the head is behind the vertical. This is quite important to remember.

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Biomechanics of Lateral Movements

Many people have observed that when a tense horse is asked to perform a shoulder in at the walk, they begin to visibly relax and chew. This effect is not a function of a bit in the mouth - it is also observable in horses that are ridden in bitless bridles and those ridden with a neck strap.

When the horse does a shoulder in to the left at the walk, the hip joint moves forwards and inwards in a circular movement. A protrusion towards the rear of the hip joint (to which a muscle is attached), moves outwards and backwards.

The muscle is therefore activated in a circular motion. This muscle connects directly with others from the hip joint to the jaw (via, for example, the Oblique Externus, Pectorals, Under Neck Muscles etc).

This is a very interesting effect, and the effect on the relaxation of the horse can be very beneficial for us.

We can also, for example, add correctly times leg aids to a shoulder in (so that we have the reflexive contraction of the stomach muscles).

By careful movement of the stomach muscles via the hind leg action and reflexive contractions of the stomach muscles (following a correctly timed application of the leg aid), we can get chewing and a relaxed jaw and poll.

This area is relaxed by chewing.

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Bent Branderup

Bent has, over the last two years, spent time taking high-speed video footage of horses moving. He has sought out wild horses in the USA, as well as looking at trained horses under saddle (in dressage, and also race horses). The aim of these videos was to examine the basic gaits.

BB refers to 'Takt' (rythym/beat) as what we can see with the naked eye. This is all that the old masters could do (they couldn't take high-speed video).

He looked at how the feet landed (not just when, but also how - flat, rolled, toe first etc).

The video was shown. The first horse, the mustang in the wild, had 100% parallel legs during the trot. The feet fell flat on the ground. Wild horses are interesting, as they tend to have good gaits that have not been spoilt.

BB commented that in nature, horses don't run in circles, they run on straight lines. Therefore, riding circles will have an effect on the Takt.

Some of the old masters said that teaching a horse to go on a circle correctly is the most difficult task for a horse.

On the circle, the inner hip goes forward and under, and the ribs rotate. On the video, a horse on a circle, we could see that:

  • The inner fore and the outer hind legs land together.
  • The outer fore and the inner hind leg do not land together. The hind leg lands first, followed shortly after by the fore leg.

This confirms Pluvinel's comment that on a circle, the inner hind leg steps under the horse's centre of gravity.

We could also see in the video that the horses did have 'schwung' (impulsion, and swing in the back) during the walk. In fact, it was found that the amplitude of the swinging back is greater in the walk than at any other pace.

The hooves could be observed to be landing cleanly and softly on Bent's horses (he commented that his arena doesn't look like it was used for testing granades after he has been working on it).

Bent commented that a backward working hand blocks a young horse - yes, we will use the hand in a backwards direction when we ask for collection, but first we must make sure that the hind foot can come forward freely.

The swinging of the horse's spine means that the rider's hips are in constant movement - which is why riding is often used as for rehabilitation work, and with handicapped people.

Bent commented that just because a horse is on the forehand, it doesn't mean that it must be uncomfortable to ride. However, every horse that is uncomfortable to ride is on the forehand.

We could see (in the slow motion video) that the old knabstrupper stallion (that is blind, and has had three broken legs) has no suspension in any of his paces. But we can also see how softly his feet land. His trot is also parallel in all phases; for most modern dressage horses, the trot is a four beat gait.

The video showed a race horse cantering past on a training track. The canter was a four beat canter, instead of the hind and fore leg landing together, the fore leg landed slightly ahead of the hind leg.

It might be ok to have a slightly four beat canter in a pirouette, for example, but only if the hind leg is landing just a little bit before the fore leg, so that the hind quarters are carrying more. This is an example of a positive change in the Takt.

The video moved on to show the same race horse in a race as it approached a curve. It was on the wrong lead for the curve, and did a flying change. Bent said that race horses will tend to do this automatically, as they instictively know that being on the correct lead gives them the most use of the the 'pushing power' in their hind quarters.

BB has all of his horses barefoot. He does not believe that shoes are necessary for dressage horses as they are ridden today. He said that he can see that his training is working in his horses feet - he has to trim the front feet more often than the rear feet (i.e. the rear feet work more, and get worn faster).

Bent posed the question: can we believe the old masters when science has proven them incorrect? (such as in the case with the spine that 'bends in a constant curve over the entire length'). Bent thinks that yes, we can still use them. They may not have had the scientific advantages that we do, but they could describe what they saw, and what they felt. These can be very good guides for your training.

BB also said that people in different disciplines and styles should communicate with one another, in order to improve their knowledge. They shouldn't just 'talk about' other riders in other disciplines.

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Joint Question and Answer Session

Q: If shoulder in is such a good exercise, why is it introduced so late in the FN training plan?

GH - The FN says that the shoulder in is a collected movement, and has a collecting function, so it comes later. GH uses the shoulder in when trying to fix horses.

BB - commented that Steinbrecht says we need to watch out that the hind leg stays underneath the body of the horse (the same comment for traverse). So you can do it, but try to do it correctly.


Q: We split training into gymnasticising the horse, into muscle training, and into condition (cardio) training. How do I know what to do, and when to do it?

BB - This is not an easy question to answer, as it depends on what field the horse will work in to some extent. Most horses don't do too much endurance work anymore - the cavalry horses would often do 80 km rides between breakfast and dinner. Even most endurance riders don't ride more than 60 km in a day, now. A dressage horse needs to work for about 5-7 minutes during a test, so he needs to be smooth and supple as the priority (rather than his endurance).

GH - we just saw in Bent's video that the rythym of the horse's foot falls changes when he is on a circle, to when he trots in a straight line. This is in itself a gymnasticising and muscle building exercise for the horse. But, don't do it too fast.

BB - don't forget that you can overtrain a horse and mess up the movement. Horses don't make mistakes in nature.

GH - how do we define 'gymnasticising'? Making things smooth, and supple, not just building up muscles. Most of the old trainers started with 'riding' the inner hind leg as the most important thing. People such as Newcastle, Pluvinel, Guerinere, Steinbrecht - they all talked about 'ridability'. If you have the inner hind leg, you have a ridable cavalry horse.


Q: If the old masters all wanted the same thing, why are things so different today?

Today, the riding art is for the tournament. In the past, when the riding art was directed at a 'gebrauchspferd' - that is a horse for a job, and that job was as a cavalry horse, or a stock horse. But a fighting horse. These are very different uses.


Q: My horse is crooked, and makes me (and other riders) sit to the right?

Maybe the horse is crooked to the right. Maybe he is made worse by a rider that is also crooked to the right. Difficult to comment without seeing you ride the horse.


Q: What exactly did you mean by 'Relative Aufrichtung'? What about horses with a very high neck set - how can they get their heads down, if their conformation doesn't allow it?

BB - asked: how many hours does the horse spend with his head down eating? 12 - 16 hours? Then he can lower his neck when you are riding.

GH - Iberian horses often have naturally a very high neck set. If you are just riding for fun, and everything else is ok and the horse is balanced, then you don't need to fight with him to get his head down.

BB - you should also think about the head position with respect to the relative weight difference between the rider and the horse. If the rider weighs very little and the horse a lot (e.g. a 50 kg lady on a 600 kg warmblood), we can probably leave the horse in a natural balance more. However, if we have a 100 kg farmer on an Icelandic pony, then it is more important for the horse to stretch its neck.


Q: We are told that judges have only a small influence over the dressage that we see. But they are the ones that say what wins. How can we change things?

GH - there is a political background to this. Let us say that a horse wins one competition, with one judge. If the next judge says "no, I will not give that horse high marks, as his training is bad", then the rider won't win a second time - and the judge won't be invited to judge at the competition again.

GH thinks that judges should be randomly selected and allocated to shows. No show, or person, should be able to select which judges are used. At the moment, the riders complain that a particular judge "doesn't like them", and they won't come if a particular judge is judging. The shows calculate the loss of income if a star doesn't compete (as people in the audience like to come to see star riders), and then the show won't hire that judge.

The whole system stinks of corruption.


Q: What do the breeders think of the politics of riding & showing?

GH - Most breeders want their horses to have a good life. Many of the breeders are farmers, and spend nights in their paddocks waiting for foals to be born. They have a good connection to their animals.

They tend to tolerate the 'show trot' normally (because they would like their horses to make some money at the auctions), but they don't embrace it, so to speak. There are, of course, some that don't care.


Q: Can a horse stretch too much? Have his nose too close to the ground?

It is relative, we need to have the head in a position to give a correct balance. Look at how the horse is built. Position the head so that the back is loose and the hind quarters can move (pushing here, not carrying).


Q: On biomechanics - science vs history vs Rollkür.

BB - it is interesting to read old books (by the acknowledged 'masters'), because we see again and again that they knew what they were doing and talking about.

Sometimes, scientists come and say "no, you are wrong in your description - that doesn't happen". Ok, it is true, they were scientifically incorrect. However, their descriptions of what they feel are correct, and what we are looking for today.

It can happen, though, that the scientists have a lot of data - but they make the wrong conclusions. They are not riders, and don't understand what they are seeing.

GH - yes, this is very true. As many of you will remember, in 2006, the FEI and vets investigated Rollkür, to determine whether or not it was bad for the horse. They attempted to do what I did in my video (mapping the horse during movement by putting markers on the horse, and taking video of the horse moving).

They saw that when the horse was in Rollkür, the back had the greatest amplitude in its swing (e.g. greatest movement). They interpreted this as:

  • Biggest amplitude of back movement, equals
  • The biggest movement, which therefore equals
  • The best training

So we have an example of measurable data being incorrectly interpreted.

GH said - we just saw in the Bent's video that the greatest amount of swing in the back is during the walk. In Rollkür, the walk is the first gait to die due to the stiff back.

BB - if a rider can't ride and keep all three gaits nicely (e.g. the rider destroys the gaits), then it is not art - it is a 'demolition'.

More Information.
Whilst none of Bent Branderup's books have been translated into English, he has just released a double DVD on the aids and their application in English. This is available via his website Gerd Heuschmann's book Tug of War, and his DVD If Horses Could Speak, are both available in English from many equine book and DVD sellers (published by Wu Wei Verlag).
Gerd Heuschmann DVD Information:
Bent Branderup DVD Information: