This short article, or better said a story, is about the last 100 years of dressage evolution, or for the sake of a better word, the dressage decadence. Before dressage became part of the Olympic Games, it was practiced only by the very refined riders, usually by the military officers. It was also part of the education of the cavalry officers in the military academies of that day. Once these officers graduated from the academy, they became also qualified as riding teachers for the cavalry recruits. Please keep in mind that I am talking about the western and central Europe, as nothing like this was part of the education of the cavalry officers in the US.
Today most people simply failed to
discern between the terms "school" and "dressage", which I am trying to
present in most related publications. The so called "school", when referring
to training of riding horses in the military, is primarily referring to the
training and physical conditioning of horses to move and work in the
(artificial) riding balance, which is described in the article on balance. It
is a gradual process that takes about one year, before the horse is fit, and
feels comfortable in carrying the rider in the so-called "campaign" level of
riding balance. The training, or teaching if you will, of the rider to train
and ride the horse to move and carry the rider in the campaign collection, or
balance if you will, cannot be taught by man, but only by the horse, which
again is a process, where some riders will never learn.
The dressage actually begins at the higher level, which means bringing the horse gradually to a higher level of collection then the campaign level. It was basically the next step in refining the horse for the battlefield, and since the life of the rider in the battle depended much on the training of the horse, and because the officers were much more valuable to the army than regular cavalry soldiers since they were hard to replace, the military officer needed more reliable horse on the battle field. In short, the practice of dressage had nothing to do with appearance, but had the practical purposes as mentioned above. This is why such thing as counter canter was practice so the rider can still turn the horse on what folks today call "the wrong lead". Furthermore the training of the horse to adjust to pain was also part of the dressage training, hence in dressage the addition of the curb and spurs, so the injured horse can still be controlled and maneuvered when injured and in pain. In the so-called school, practiced by the cavalry soldiers, there were no spurs allowed, since the addition of spurs and the curb bit belonged to the higher education of the horses, as well as the riders.
The beginning of corruption and decadence in the equestrian world.
was the rich, the bluebloods, the aristocrats, that wanted the addition of
equestrian disciplines to the Olympic Games. This in reality gave the rich
man, the aristocrat, a way of purchasing a gold medal, literally, because once
the animal is well trained, pretty much any nincompoop can present it.
However, even in those days people knew that the dressage should be presented,
trained or ridden, only by the elite riders, like the officers mentioned
above, therefore it was only the military officers that presented dressage at
the Olympic Games. Please remember the word "elite" from the previous
sentence, as it will help in better understanding of the decadence in the
present state. It would be also prudent to add to this paragraph, that it was
not the best riders or officers participating in the Olympic Games, but rather
officers that were looking into the future, to make names for themselves, so
they can become eventually teachers of riding of the civilians, since it
became more than obvious that their profession was coming to an end in the
more mechanized armies.
And so, you can see that even in the past, it was not the best riders competing in the Olympic Games, but rather these were opportunists seeking name and recognition, which they would later turn into income. This did not change throughout the 100 years, but rather got even worse, where fame is easily transformed into wealth, and so the corruption and decadence, not only in sports, but also in our modern society.
The piaffe and passage were not part of the military dressage, because neither has any practical implementation in the training of the modern military horse of that day. Since the dressage would in essence appear to the spectators, as nothing more than walking, trotting and galloping the horse in the dressage arena, hardly anyone would come and look at it, and so to draw more people to the sport the piaffe and passage were added. Since neither has any practical implementation in riding of horses, it was obviously added solely for the sake of the spectator.
After the WWII, the Olympic dressage competition was opened more to the civilians, or better said to the rich folks, who then hired the now unemployed cavalry officers to train their horses. It was at this time that the dressage was getting the reputation of the elite riding of the "elitists", if you will. It was also at this time that the corruption was starting to set in, and with it the politics of the sport. Later on, during the so-called "women liberation frenzy, or hysteria if you will", of the sixties and seventies, the women infiltrated the dressage on a large scale, and with it they accelerated the decadence and corruption, as everything became all about appearance, fame, recognition and the potential income from it.
This whole equestrian world became a world on its own, while reflecting our social decadence and corruption. Led by now "liberated" vanity of women, the practical purpose of dressage was completely abandoned, and was replaced with pure circus like entertainment for the public, and with the addition of drama, music, romance and what not, the horses became the passion of many women. Furthermore, to attract more people, various lower levels were created, while the dressage standards were gradually lowered, so all nincompoops can take part. The so-called lower levels of dressage today can be simply summed up into: "dressing properly for the occasion, using the proper tack, while riding in an arena that has letters in it". People got so confused and stupid that they actually use terms like "training level" in dressage, while the horse is not required to move in collected gaits, which means he could not even present the basic requirements of the school, as described above.
In addition to all the above, the feminists, women suffering from inferiority complex, spun and twisted the word "elite", not referring to the actual riding, but rather to the intellectual aspects of it, as if there would be such thing. Therefore, this thing they call dressage today became the sport of the so-called "equestrian elitists", or better said of people that wish to be perceived as such, hence the term among women, "the dressage queens", like Anky and such. The politics of this "dressage sport" then divided the participants into different classes, the lower classes for the less fortunate and envious wannabes, with cheaper horses, and cheaper tack and clothing, and the higher class for the rich, or for the supported by the same, with expensive horses, tack and clothing.
I would like to close this article with a simple comment: "if a person thinks of himself, or herself, as smart and intelligent, he or she is stupid and arrogant, because no wise or intelligent person ever sees him or herself as such, and the trade mark of the wise and intelligent is first and for most humility. For this reason I am pointing out the fact, that in all equestrian competitions, outside horse racing, you do not see the best, but rather you see the most vain and opportunistic people set to exploit the sucker born every minute.
The below video shows the three stages of decadence in dressage.
Written by Ludvik K Stanek a.k.a Lee Stanek