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