Phoenix-Halfpass-338x450What Is French Dressage?

French dressage is known for its philosophy of lightness, which is called LÉGÈRETÉ.  We work with the laws of nature, using knowledge of the way horses think, learn, and move to get the best from them without force or fear.

Training Goals for Every Horse

The training of every horse includes (1) establishing relaxation and understanding, (2) straightening the natural crookedness in their bodies to create balance and healthy movement, and (3) developing the horse's body so that he carries the weight of his rider more athletically, toward his haunches.

How We Approach Our Goals

  • “Hands without legs. Legs without hands.” ~ Francois Baucher

    The biggest difference between classical dressage and competition dressage is the use of the rider's aids. Classical dressage does not use constant driving aids to push the horse onto the rider's restraining hands. The leg and hand aids are used separately, briefly, and lightly to keep their meanings clear.  This keeps the horse from getting dull and discouraged.

  • Release of the Aids

    We use our aids to ask for things and to add quality to those things. But we never use our aids to keep the horse performing what we want. That's his job!  As soon as the horse is doing the task, the rider stops using the aids, but still expects the horse to keep doing the task on his own.  Imagine running along side a child that's learning to ride a bike without training wheels.  You would have to let go, if you want them to learn to balance on their own.

  • Phoenix TrotInHand 450x338Minimal Use of the Aids

    We sensitize the horse to our legs, so that we get a lot of impulsion from a light amount of pressure. Horses like the freedom from constant nagging pressure, and it improves their attitude about moving forward. 

    The reins are used with a light contact, and because the horse is not uncomfortable with the bit pressure, he follows the rider's hands willingly.  This shouldn't be confused with a horse who is hiding behind or above the bit with very little impulsion.  That's why we sensitize our leg aids.  The more connected the horse is mentally, the lighter the physical contact can be.  

    We are building the quality of our aids for communication, not the quantity of aids for control.

  • A Relaxed and Mobile Jaw

    French dressage teaches the horse to release the tension in their jaw by softly mouthing the bit when light rein contact is applied in an upward direction. This unclenching of the jaw triggers a domino effect of released muscles that travels from the horse’s jaw (TMJ) all of the way down their spine. This is key to getting the horse to use his whole body and lift his back.

  • LongWalk450px"Mise Main" Bringing Into Hand (On the Bit)

    Once the horse releases the tension in their poll that they had from clenching their jaw, they usually want to drop and stretch their necks naturally.  As the horse stretches his nose forward and down, we yield our hands and allow the stretch that we have just asked for. A very important part of this process is to simply STOP following with your hands when the horse gets to the posture that you wanted.

    This is the way we teach the horse to seek the rider's hand (no matter where the hand is), so that we can shape his posture at will. If we feel the horse bracing, rushing, or becoming crooked... we ask the horse to release the tension and come back into self-carriage.

"Horses of different conformation types and temperaments will have different strengths and challenges, and we adjust to fit each horse’s needs in terms of posture, impulsion, and training strategies."

History of French Equitation

equitation history

History of French Equitation - Part I: Dressage a la Francaise

History of French Equitation - Part II: Modern French Classical Equitation

History of French Equitation - Part III: Tradition Does Not Exclude Love for Progress

Bitless Dressage?

Bitless SilverStarBlack lgAre you a bitless rider who wants to study dressage?

In traditional circles that can be challenging!  There are many tools for communication besides metal bits, and the European classical schools have ridden and trained in cavessons for centuries. 

Classical correctness is not only possible to achieve without a bit... I believe all training should be able to pass the bitless test of "balance without force" regularly throughout the levels.

Bitless dressage riders are welcome here! 


About Classical Naturally


T. Recer
We had a great day of training with Maria. I'm so glad that I can have my son learn a safe and peaceful method of horsemanship and not the wack'em, … read more