Sunday, November 28, 2010

Read before You Ride?

About a weekend ago, I received an email from a reader who’d read an old blog post of mine in which I recommended certain dressage books. I hadn’t listed the authors of the book, and she couldn’t locate them by the titles. The reader mentioned she wanted to read about how to do the movements before she tried to do them. I completely understand what she’s saying.
I’m a reader. I always have been. My collection of dressage books rivals anything you can find on my riding friends’ bookshelves. I know a lot of dressage riders haven’t read even one book on dressage. In fact, I’d say that’s the norm in my barn as opposed to the exception.

From the beginning the cerebral aspects of dressage fascinated me, as did the “mystical” aspects. Over the years, I’ve voraciously read books on both aspects. I credit my dressage reading with giving me a very good basic understanding of the aids and how to properly ride the movements before I put one foot in the stirrup. Now did my body have a clue how to do a shoulder-in or a half-pass from reading it in a book? No, not at all. But I could visualize riding a half-pass and using my body to curve the horse’s body around my leg while moving him sideways.
My instructors over the years haven’t had to spend countless hours explaining to me the aids and riding of the movements because I had that clear picture from hours of pouring over dressage books. In fact, I find American instructors are often remiss in explaining the how and why of riding dressage movements in any way but the most rudimentary ways. I know there are exceptions, and my very first dressage instructor was certainly one of those.
Another huge contributor to my dressage education can be accredited to a long-defunct magazine titled Dressage and CT. If you haven’t had the privilege of reading this magazine, you might attempt to dredge one up. I still have my copies for the years I subscribed and might be willing to part with a few. Email me if you’re interested.

Dressage and CT wasn’t for everyone, only one or two of my friends enjoyed reading it at much as I did. It was the magazine, I’d haunt the mailbox for every month. The articles in D&CT were detailed, insightful, and often thought-provoking. Charles DeKunffy and Dominic Barbier were frequent contributors along with others who chose to tread off the beaten path. Some of the articles would take a movement and diagnose every minute detail. Heavy on theory and willing to debate different methods to the nth degree, D&CT did an incredibly good job educating aspiring dressage riders.

The publisher of D&CT didn’t shy away from controversial subjects. In fact, he encouraged them to the point where I waited each month to see what controversy would be addressed next. In fact, one of my favorite features to read happened to be Letters to the Editor. The magazine’s willingness to tackle controversial issues was most likely its undoing in the end. It’s been a long while, but I believe it was sold to another publisher, renamed and watered down. I think one of the current American dressage magazines is actually its descendant. I’d have to go back through my oldest magazines to unearth that bit of history.
D&CT embraced alternate forms of dressage and became an advocate for the lighter methods (non-Germanic). Regardless of whether or not I agreed with the articles or methods, I did enjoy the exposure to other ways of thinking. D&CT taught me more regarding theory than I ever learned in all the books I read.
The current dressage magazines rarely cause controversy, choosing to walk a politically correct fine line. Perhaps, that’s the only way to survive in the tough magazine market.
In the meantime, here are those dressage books I’ve read over and over again, including their authors:

Guide to Dressage—Louise Mills Wilde
The Beginning Dressage Book--Kathryn Denby-Wrightson and Joan Fry
That Winning Feeling—Jane Savioe
Riding Logic—Wilhelm Museler
The Dressage Formula--Erik Herbermann
Practical Dressage Manual--Bengt Ljunguist
Dressage Questions Answered. --Charles De Kunffy

If you’re a rider and a reader, I highly recommend the books listed above.

Hope you and yours had a memorable Thanksgiving.

1 comment:

Kate said...

Thanks for the recommendations - much appreciated!