If there was a laboratory where all aspects of dressage could be examined under a microscope, the Global Dressage Forum would be it. For two days in October, approximately 300 riders, trainers, judges and breeders from 30 countries came together at the Academy in Hooge Mierde, the Netherlands, to discuss, debate and share all things dressage.
In a letter of introduction, Dutch trainer Sjef Janssen said, "I personally expect the Global Dressage Forum to be the frontrunner in new developments and innovation in our sport."
The forum brought to light a wide range of topics and discussions including terminology, the scores currently being given in competition, the issue of riding deep, the correct way to train young horses and the importance of a horse's temperament in dressage.
Here is a sampling of the interesting discussions that took place at this year's forum. For a full report, read the January 2003 issue of Dressage Today magazine.
Robert Dover, five-time U.S. Olympic dressage team member on using the upper leg when riding downward transitions: There is a difference between downward and upward transitions. Horses want to hollow in the downward transitions. I find that if you use more upper leg and less lower leg, your seat becomes lighter, which will create an opportunity for the horse to stay round with his back up during the downward transitions. If the seat is heavy during the downward transitions, it will make him look hollowed out like a bathtub.
On the term "classical": Personally, I don't like the word "classical." It makes me recall the horses in old pictures with their heads up and hollow backs. Was that classical? To me, classical means completely adjustable to the will of the rider.
David Hunt, president of the International Dressage Trainers' Club: I don't like the term "classical" either. We must look forward. Horses in history weren't always perfect. It's about the quality of a relaxed horse with three good gaits.
Mariette Withages, president of the FEI Dressage Committee: There's nothing wrong with "classical." The FEI Rule Book says we should train horses in a proper way. It says nothing about doing it in a traditional way. The rider should be able to put a horse low or high as his conformation needs it. The horse must be in self-carriage and have correct basic principles.
Ernst Hoyos, former rider at the Spanish Riding School, on the school's position on riding a horse "deep": Big extremes are dangerous, both down and up. Ride horses the way they need to be ridden as individuals. Extremes can be hazardous to the development of muscles.
On developing the piaffe: If you develop the piaffe out of the passage, then you end up with a passage-like piaffe. It's not engaged enough.
For more information on the Global Dressage Forum, visit the Web site www.globaldressageforum.com.