Most dressage coaching books discuss only the physical aspects of riding and training: horse position, rider position, use of aids, schooling exercises and movements. Betsy Steiner, however, an international rider and trainer, believes that the physical side is just one-third of the riding equation, and that two equally important vital components – the intellectual and the psychological aspects – are often ignored. Her approach to riding and dressage training is to use the body, mind and spirit, all working together to create a rich experience that addresses horse and rider as the three-dimensional beings that they are. The author bases her gymnastic training system on the Classical Training Pyramid, which comprises six levels – rhythm, suppleness, contact, impulsion, straightness and collection – each one representing a critical rung on the training ladder. Her approach is different in that she has the rider and horse individually ‘climb’ each rung with her Mind-Body-Spirit Training Building Blocks. This allows her to involve aspects such as the rider’s commitment, enthusiasm, consistency, relaxation and patience, as well as the horse’s mental focus, contentment, trust and willingness, side by side with the more traditional methods o training.
This training system is geared towards maintaining proper form and alignment – crucial for human and equine athletes alike. Progress is achieved by use of inventive gymnastic schooling exercises for the horse, and a tailored programme of Pilates exercises (a method of physical and mental conditioning used by many dancers, performers and athletes), enabling the rider to become athletic, lithe, energetic, supple, strong and flexible.
Never before has such a multifaceted training system been laid out for riders and horses of all levels with the wonderful bonus that the work is firmly rooted in the classical method – the ultimate key to all good riding and training.