Some very good questions… Part 3

One of my (Jumper Girl’s) favorite books on riding is “Centered Riding” by Sally Swift.  I had heard about it years ago, but only got my hands on a copy recently.  When I finally read it, I was totally impressed.  For all that the pictures and visualization techniques can sometimes seem a little silly, the concepts are solid and I found myself actually physically nodding in agreement at several points.  That is, until I got to the section on jumping position.  Which elicited a big WTF?  She seems to think riding in a chair seat is going to stop people from throwing their bodies forward over fences!  Has she ever actually jumped?  ‘Cause being behind the motion and not having your body weight over the stirrups is a perfect recipe for having to try to catch up, at least in my experience.  Otherwise, great book!

Which brings us to our third reader inspired post.  We already covered why we featured Cowgirl Spirit Rescue Drill Team and our general thoughts on Parelli.  This one’s all about sorting through the, for lack of a better word, bullshit out there in the horse world.


“The only NH style routine I’ve flat out learned from a NH trainer is to disengage the rear end on an aggressive bolting draft cross (one day she spooked and bolted so hard I literally pulled a groin muscle trying to stay with her! YOW!). We taught her on the ground and then in the saddle that a certain touch on the reins meant to swing out her back end (and therefore stop)….

…The dressage trainer’s response was to be better at riding (though I can hardly disagree with this statement), but the owner and I weren’t going to become trainer quality riders without said equine to practice on, so weird non-dressage measures that our trainer never would have tried turned out to be the answer.”


“Ohhh SR…between Craig Stevens and Parelli, you may have open a big can of worms. Those are two very controversial people!”


We’ve already told you what we think of Parelli – that under the incredible amount of marketing and sales pitches, there are some decent ideas that might be helpful to newbies, if it’s used as one of many resources.  The problem is when people rely on one technique or methodology to the exclusion of all others.  CattleDog related a story about using an NH principle to successfully deal with an issue in a dressage horse.  That’s smart.  She also mentioned that her dressage trainer never would have tried it.  That’s not so smart.

Craig Stevens is another dressage trainer.  He runs a facility called the National School of Academic Equitation. From his website:

“Craig is both educated and eclectic in his approach.  As a student, Craig worked with the best of the 20th century classical trainers, studying with such master horsemen as Joao Oliveira of Portugal, the French masters Michel Henriquet and François Lemaire de Ruffieu, members of the Cadre Noir, as well as with Katherine Durand. And, most importantly, he learned to read French in order to research equitation history. He read everything he could get his hands on, and he’s not done yet. Craig is constantly engaged in a relentlessly joyful pursuit of an equestrian education, and he loves finding treatises by master horsemen whose works are not well known.”

He promotes a “classical” approach to dressage, with an emphasis on softening the aids and focusing on developing the rider’s seat and balance.  Sounds pretty good, right?  But then every picture of him, he’s riding like this:

Sigh…  hands in his lap, eyes looking straight down and those are not happy looking horses.  We can think of another post he would’ve fit into!  A little further exploring through his site reveals how to videos – exciting!  They include gems like this one:

Apparently using the leg for lateral movements is a “useless modern invention”.  The only aid necessary for a shoulder-in is inside rein!  I feel so stupid after all these years of successfully moving my horse off my leg… it seemed effective at the time, but I guess I was wrong.  I’m so enlightened now!  From now on I’ll just pull his face around with my inside rein and call it a shoulder-in! Hurrah!

Interestingly enough, he also has a video describing what he thinks the effect of a direct rein should be and it sounds suspiciously like the NH trick CattleDog successfully used on the DraftX.

So perhaps it’s not strictly an NH technique?  Right or wrong, his videos give us a lot of new ideas to consider!


“Wait, Lee is the same guy that wrote “Rolkur (Hyperflexion)”??
Because I’ve read that article before and he doesn’t sound like a complete wacko there.”

-Monica Morais

Yup, the lovely Lee Stanek wrote an article called Rolkur (Hyperflexion).  It’s very easy to dismiss someone who thinks that women are the source of all the world’s problems, that riding horses don’t need any turnout (if they’ve never had it, they won’t be able to miss it!) and doesn’t realize that the canter is a three beat gait.  But if you can get through the sexist ranting (and the general bad English), he occasionally raises a good point.  We completely agree that the hyperflexion that has come under scrutiny in the dressage world lately is a disgrace.  And we also think his thoughts on pressure and release as means of working a horse through fear issues are valid.

The point that we’re trying to make here is that no single person is going to have all the answers.  We don’t agree with everything Craig Stevens preaches, but we do like his approach of trying to constantly expand his base of knowledge.  Opening yourself up to new information is never a bad thing, even if sometimes you simply learn what not to do.

“The problem is when people stop thinking”


Amen to that!


About snarkyrider

We're snarktastic

Posted on November 9, 2011, in horse, Misc Horsies and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. Um… he completely missed what a shoulder-in actually IS. What he described was a leg yield. What he performs is a leg yield. A shoulder-in rotates the shoulders off the forward track so they move sideways. This can have multiple tracks depending on the degree of angle but it should never move the way that horse was traveling… so diagonally as that… *headdesk headdesk headdesk!*

  2. Thank you for confirming what I was thinking! I watched that horse go leg yielding across the arena and thought maybe I wasn’t understanding the camera angle! Side note however… How in the heck does one send a horse leg yielding like that WITHOUT using any leg?? Pulling the inside rein and following it up with absolutely nothing else makes my horses perform a sloppy circle-ish maneuver that I like to call “a failure”!

  3. 1. OK, I had to stop in the middle of the first video. I couldn’t watch anymore. Craig Steven is a moron! The aids for the shoulder-in are confusing?? Maybe for his ridiculously nut sized brain. I didn’t study with any great masters and I managed to get the concept. BTW, if he ever tried to study under any of those guys, no doubt he was kicked out of the arena in less than 10 mins.
    Lateral movement without using your legs… Seriously?? The only thing you get by using the inside rein is turning the horse’s head! *headdesk*

    2. Yeah that Lee omg-women-riders-are-evil does seem to make one or two valid points, which is quite surprising in the middle of all that insanity. But how can he not know that a jog is not the same as a trot?? *headdesk again* I swear this guy must suffer from multiple personality disorder…

    • P.S. “The words like lope or canter merely refer to a particular speed in gallop” No, you dumbass, there is more than a difference in speed, there’s something called collection! Geez! (unless the only canter he’s ever seen is crab canter…)

  4. Let me get this straight – he’s saying that dressage cues should all come from your hands, while your legs and seat just sit their like wet noodles? Isn’t that kind of the opposite of what most of the modern, softer approach trainers are advocating in place of the overflexed, overbitted European style of the last 20 years?

  1. Pingback: We all screw up sometimes… « snarkyrider

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: