The Art of Riding by Phillipe Karl


Written March 2, 2014 by Marsha Heiden

Ride Your Dream! Buy an Andalusian!

Ride Your Dream!
Buy an Andalusian!

If you own an Andalusian buy this book! If you are thinking about buying an Andalusian buy this book! If you ride dressage buy this book! If you only have one book in your equine library this should be it! I avoided buying this book for a  number of years because  it was more money than I wanted to spend on it.   Truly my loss! Finally as my exploration into French Classical Dressage   continued it was a necessity to add The Art of Riding: Classical dressage up to High School Odin at Saumur   to my shelf. It was written by Philippe Karl and published by Cadmos in 2010.

This book tells the story of  Odin a Lusitano  stallion and  his training  with Phillipe Karl primarily while at Saumur. It however is more than the story of one horse’s journey but an in depth look at the progressive  training in the French Classical tradition that regards lightness and balance  as primary in the  development  of the horse. It is a method and way of  training I have sought to embrace for decades in the training of my own Andalusian horses.

The book begins with a ‘Hippo-thesis’, a frank analysis of Odin’s confor-mation as a riding horse, then proceeds with ‘The requirements of bal-ance’ interspersed with Phillipe Karl’s well articulated process of educating  a horse are also stories of Odin. Antidotes about Odin’s problem areas in training and trials in exhibitions, as well as, the political climate at Saumur that at times made Odin’s presence at Saumur precarious.  The book continues through the end of Odin’s education discussing lateral suppling, longitudinal flexibility, work at the canter, collection, flying changes, piaffe, passage, pesade, and canter pirouettes in-hand, on long reins, and under saddle. Instead of overwhelming us with detail Karl lays out with great care a step by step process the nuts and bolts of developing the horse in a classical approach. The book demands a certain understanding of training principles, assumes the tact and feel of the rider is adequate it lends it-self to those of us who wish to be better rider’s and trainers. Most notable those riders and trainers looking for the way of lightness and balance.

The Art of Riding: Classical dressage up to High School Odin at Saumur is well worth the money. If you have been looking for a book that speaks in a methodical way about training for lightness and balance then look no further. Clearly written, beautiful photographs, and helpful diagrams in my opinion a must have for any dressage rider that want to rider lighter and better. I love to ride my Andalusians and this book makes every ride better than the last. Ride lighter! Enjoy the ride! I know I do!

Book Review: Dressage in the French Tradition

Kabala MRR 2010 2010 Grey Andalusian Mare

Ride Your Dream, Buy an Andalusian

Written January 28, 2014 by Marsha Heiden

As a trainer of Andalusian horses I am always in search of a better understanding of developing my horses through proper classical training techniques. I found this book to shed some light on classical dressage as it has developed throughout the centuries and how the differences should be viewed as I determine a training plan for each of our horses. For those of you unfamiliar with author I think this quote by Nuno Oliveira will suffice as reference enough to make the author credible.

“I have the honor to declare that Dom Diogo de Bragança has been one of my best students and that I consider him as one of the rare riders I know who is capable of taking on the greatest difficulties of Equestrian Art with the greatest finesse.” 

Dressage in the French Tradition written by Dom Diogo de Bragança whose techniques were built on a long apprenticeship with the Master Nuno Oliveira, and his study of equestrian theories brought to life with the practical application on the numerous horses he has successfully trained. The scope of his studies and experiences bring to life the synthesis of dressage theories and methods he covers in this book. Dressage in the French Tradition develops the reader’s understanding of classical dressage in which the horse, ridden with the greatest impulsion and lightness, displays his maximum activity in response to the minimum effort of the rider.

The book provides guidance for classically training a horse with consideration given to their breed and build in determining the best method of training a particular horse. This is not a ‘How To’ book or a book for novices. This is a book for equestrians that have immersed themselves in the theory, as well as the application of dressage. Dom Diogo de Bragança maps out why certain methods are used with certain horses. He discusses the synthesized theoretical approaches for the horses he has ridden. He emphasizes the importance of tailoring training in order to be effective for the development of a specific horse you are training. His views inspire individualized training plans to develop each horse as an individual. Indeed one training method does not fit all and Dom Diogo de Bragança does a good job of further illuminating us. In general the book has the problems seen in many translations with flow and wordiness in certain places. I would advise reading this book a bit at a time in order to reflect on each bit of information and give yourself time to integrate this into your broader understanding of dressage in general. If you desire to challenge and enhance your knowledge of dressage then this is a must for your library. It is not an easy or quick read yet worth the nuggets of understanding and clarity you will gain while reading it. An example of these nuggets are Dom Diogo de Bragança’s unemotional balanced view of Baucher’s contributions, and the sections on FEI dressage, and why the loss of the signature of academic equitation, lightness is a critical issue in the current rules.

The newest version has been revised from the original 1976 text and includes an interesting chapter on the specialized dressage for bullfighting, a form of horsemanship in which the horse, while dancing with danger reminds us of the original practice of dressage as it was meant to be practiced, in the midst of battle. The book 8.9 x 5.9 x 0.7 inches contains 196 pages. It is published by Xenophon Press LLC (2011). The ISBN-10: 0933316216, ISBN-13: 978-0933316218

Halting the Andalusian Horse

Intimo Infinidad H at Stud Andalusian Stallion

Ride Your Dream, Buy an Andalusian

Written January 28, 2014 by Marsha Heiden

Struggling to get a good balanced halt on your Andalusian horse? Then try this French Classical technique. Start at the halt.  Have a steady feel of both sides of the bit but retaining a pushing feeling with your arms and hands toward the bit, i.e., contact. When your Andalusian horse feels soft in the jaw walk forward and then quietly elevate your hands upward (not backward) while retaining the contact until your horse stops.  Your hands should immediately return to your starting position. At first you may have to elevate the hand several inches but eventually just a slight lift in the reins will balance your horse and the halt will occur.  Next I will discuss how to soften the horse’s jaw and poll with flexions. Stay tuned!


The Andalusian Horse: What Makes Them Special?

Spring Wood Farm Andalusian Horse at Stud For Sale

Ride Your Dream, Buy an Andalusian

Written June 8, 2013 by Marsha Heiden

The Andalusian horse is truly one of the most remarkable breeds I have ever known. Granted I raise, train, and sell them so I have a vested interest to say so. You’re intelligent so I won’t argue that I am somehow objective about the wonder of the Andalusian horse because clearly I am not. So with that in mind let me tell you how I came to purchase my first Andalusian.

I rate myself as a knowledgeable horse person, decent rider, and trainer. In my fifty some year journey with horses I have ridden and trained Welsh Ponies, Thoroughbreds, Hanoverians, Trakehners, Arabians, Norwegian Fiords, Australian Stock Horses, Quarter Horses, Appaloosas, Paints, Draft crosses, and Swedish Warmbloods to name a few.  So I have had experiences with a numerous breeds. In addition, I was a full-time instructor at Lake Erie College. I taught both riding and academic courses in their Equine Studies Program. One of the courses I taught was called the History of Horses and Horsemanship. Over the years I taught this course I learned a great deal about many breeds of horses as part of the curriculum. It was during this time that I became convinced I wanted to own an Andalusian horse someday.  Their beauty lightness and ability to do the collected work of the manége fascinated me.

In 2004, I was able to purchase my first Andalusian, and the love affair of a lifetime began.  Since the day my first Andalusian colt set foot on Spring Wood Farm my equestrian journey has become a refreshing and fascinating life experience.  Here are some of my personal observations about the Andalusian horse. They are not only beautiful but extremely intelligent. They are partners not pets. You must be respectful of them if you want their cooperation. Originally bred for war, bullfighting, parades, and performances these horses are brave, and bold. They fear little. Gain their respect, and love and they will give you their soul without reservation. Get angry, upset or frustrated with them when training and you will get nowhere.  

They notice everything but are easily relaxed by a kind word or pat from someone they trust that reassures them all is fine. Teach them something once. They have it. They process what you teach them. Bring them out the next day and you swear they had been practicing it since you left them.  They learn by observation. I have a two year old that learned to do the Jambette while watching my stallion practice it. She is quite good and we never taught her to do it. They are light to your aids. The lighter you use your aids the better they perform. I swear they can tell what you are thinking. One day I was riding my stallion and thinking, “I wonder if he will be able to do flying lead changes his counter canter work is so strong.” Working in true canter I headed across the long diagonal line and my stallion did a flying change as if to say to me, “Don’t worry Mom the flying changes are a piece of cake.” The other day I was having a very nice ride on one of the young horses I have for sale. I was extremely pleased with the ride and was doing a final few strides of right lead canter and my mind wandered to another thought for only a second and the filly gave a little hop as if to say “Pay attention Mom your still riding me and I need to know what to do next.”  I could go on but you get the picture. Of course my antidotal stories may not convince you and given I am also often a skeptic I can understand that perspective. If I were reading this and had not experienced the Andalusian breed for myself I would be rolling my eyes and saying “Sure.” So if you are the least bit intrigued by this blog find some Andalusian horses and spend some time with them. Listen to other owners and trainers of Andalusians. Read books written by individuals that ride and train Andalusians and you will hear these types of stories and others even more fascinating about the Andalusian horse.  

Suggest Reading

Delgado, M. & Pignon, F. (2009). Gallop to Freedom: Training Horses with Our Six Golden Principles. Trafalgar Square Books

Loch, S. (1986).  The Royal Horses of Europe. J. A. Allen

Karl, P. (2010). The Art of Riding: Classical Dressage to High School: Odin at Saumur. Cadmos Publishing

Podhajsky, A. (1979). Complete Training of Horse and Rider. Wilshire Book Co 

The Andalusian Horse: Riding in Lightness and Throughness

Spring Wood Farm Andalusian Horse at Stud For Sale

Ride Your Dream, Buy an Andalusian

Written May 18, 2013 by Marsha Heiden

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to ride the horse of your dreams? Can you feel the beautiful, strong, intelligent, and athletic horse whose natural balance is effortless to ride underneath you? The horse performs with the slightest use of your aids, every move you envision is performed with ease and perfection. Have you ever ridden such a horse?

If your answer is “no,” then let me introduce you to the Andalusian horse. The Andalusian horse has many names. An Andalusian horse may be referred to as “a Spanish horse,” “a Lusitano horse,” “a PRE,” “a Portuguese horse,” “a Spanish/ Portuguese horse,” or “a Lipizzaner.” Although there are some differences among these horses they all share bloodlines that originated on the Iberian Peninsula. The Iberian Peninsula that encompasses Spain and Portugal was under Moorish occupation for more than 700 years. This long period of occupation by the Moors resulted in the Iberian Peninsula being isolated from the balance of Europe. This isolation led to the circumstances that preserved these phenomenal horses that today are called Andalusians.  


The purchase of my first Andalusian horse in 2004 has allowed me to “Live the Dream.” Training Andalusian horses has been a profound gift that has provided me with new and unique learning opportunities. These horses have inspired a keen sensitivity to the nuances of preparing young horses for the world beyond my farm. This gift has come with a growing responsibility to assist other horsemen or women in finding and gathering correct information so that these precious horses will be brought to their full potential with love, respect, and kindness each and every step of their journey through life.

I hope to share the magic of the Andalusian horse with you in hopes that you can “Ride Your Dream” someday soon.