There is not a coaching manual or book that does not mention them, but on examination there is sufficient confusion and misunderstanding to ask if they really are the best structure for us to use for dressage training.
The sheer number of contradictory books on the scales of training, the rejection of the scale by experts in biomechanics, and the major concerns of those two hugely well respected equestrian professors, Dr. Andrew Mc Lean, all suggest we should at least keep looking for improvements.
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He knew it was better to wait than rush a horse’s training.
Our highest aim is to make our horses more beautiful and keep them healthy through their training.
Not Perfect by Any Means What we must acknowledge is that the scales are not always perfect in concept or use and that students should be encouraged to keep an open mind and test things to see if they are good or if they can be improved.
As Jean Bemelans said at the Global Dressage Forum in 2007: “In Germany we have the classical training scale. If you have a perfect horse with a perfect character with no problems, then you can stay on the classical scale of riding, and step by step you come to the Grand Prix. You can have a nervous horse, there are many problems, then you have to find out the right way to come to the end with that horse.
To achieve this the three daily priorities with all horses are 1) take small steps, 2) keep variety in the training and 3) foster the horse’s personality … Translating Losgelassenheit The first real difficulty in the scales of training is the translation of losgelassenheit. It is now usually translated as looseness or suppleness and at times relaxation, but in German looseness is “lockerheit,” suppleness is “geschmeidigkeit” and relaxation is “entspannung.” So why was the specific term losgelassenheit used?
It is a noun that has been created from the verb loslassen, meaning “to let go,” therefore losgelassen “to have let go” or “be comfortable mentally.” Heit is just an ending that changes verbs and adjectives into nouns.
However, even today our student coaches are told that they are classical principles.
The three fundamental classical principles dating from Xenophon, 2,400 years ago, are that force should not be used, that the horse should be developed naturally and that the result should be beautiful and beautifully easy.
In the 1970s I was lucky enough to spend two short periods at his training stables, Gronwoldhof, when he explained to me that most people misunderstood and incorrectly translated the scales of training.