Despite success, the example set by Germany as world dressage leader is endangered. Kurt Albrecht von Ziegner, renowned dressage trainer, especially in the USA, says, "go back to the classical methodology, stop thinking only in terms of movements and start thinking more about your partner, the horse."
German dressage has been much respected on a global scale
for decades. At the Olympic Games in Atlanta, the German team gave more reasons
for respect by winning yet again. At the European Championships in 1997, German
riders won both individual and team gold. In many countries, above all in the
USA where dressage is experiencing a boom, people are more interested than ever
in the German system because it promises the most success. A behind the scenes
look in the German arena is especially appealing because this is where one can
learn the new "tricks..."
Many promising talents have been prematurely aged or ruined
by ignorance or false ambition on the part of their owners. Most of them by
being forced to perform exercises they were neither physically nor mentally
ready for. The "German System" should not allow something like this to happen.
One must expect from riding schools that carry the FN seal, that they see themselves
as protectors of the system -- and the German riding school in Warendorf must
set the example. Mediocre trainers cannot make draw reins and other methods
of force the norm, just because they themselves cannot get by without them,
and because they are incapable of teaching their students the correct seat and
aids to a degree where they do not need these devices.
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What then is the point of the dressage training? Remember,
if you will, the work Picture of a Trained Horse (Bild des gerittenen Pferdes),
in which one of the most important German dressage judges of earlier times,
Oberst von Heydebreck, shared his vision of dressage. This book has been translated
into several languages and is well-known abroad. In it, there is nothing about
movements, because they are only a means to an end in the continual strive toward
harmony between horse and rider. He puts more emphasis on tempo, balance and
expression - all elements that are only to be achieved through submission, contact,
straightness and impulsion. The movements allow for gymnasticizing and obedience.
Their training effect is the greatest when they are correctly ridden. In the
dressage tests, judges reward those who are the closest to the ideal. This should
not be at the cost of throughness, tempo and impulsion, however. This is the
essence of dressage, and this is where the emphasis of the training should be
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If we stop seeing the horse as an object, then we have to think about how to preserve his natural energy and charm throughout his entire training. Everyone bears the responsibility of keeping the training system pure, above all, the German Riding Federation, the German Judges Federation and the German Rider and Driver Association.
The warnings both spoken and written have been discussed for years, but have obviously been ignored. A lever should be used where more effectiveness is sought: in the dressage tests. If this is to succeed, at least in individual tests, the relationship must increase from 4:1 in favor of the collective remarks to 4:3 or 4:2. This change would be a step in the right direction. The fundamental elements of the training system would again assume their proper importance and the mechanical drilling of movements would stop.
In the USA, there is a Prix St James, which is a combined dressage test that consists of Part I (Basic Test) and Part II (Prix St. Georges.) The total points from both tests determine the winner. In Part I, 280 points can be earned from 24 movements, and 200 points from the collective remarks (10 elements). This is a relationship of 1:4:1. Here, the goal is to show that no "tricks" lead to FEI, only solid basic training, whose fundamental elements of submission, throughness and impulsion are highly valued. Too bad that there is not something like that here. It would serve the purity of our system well -- and our horses would thank us for it...
Our author Kurt Albrecht von Ziegener has operated a riding school is Mechtersen south of Hamburg since 1971. The almost 80 year old belongs to the most prominent and successful dressage trainers in the USA, where he developed the new judging system, the Prix St James (see text.) Trained as an officer in the calvary school in Hannover, he became a leading NATO officer in the 1950s and took over, among other things, the construction of the Turkish calvary school in Ankara. Von Ziegner, who was awarded the German Rider Cross in gold, enjoys high international esteem as an author of various texts and articles.
von Ziegener, Kurt Albrecht. "Vorbilder Gesucht." Reiten &
Fahren St. Georg [magazine]. January 1998. pp 68-69.
Translated with permission from the editors.
© Cynthia Hodges 2012
All rights including translation reserved.