Classical Dressage Masters

The great classical dressage masters of our times have left us a written account of their study of the training the horse. This study that started thousands of years ago with the domestication of the horse but was first began to be recorded in the 4th century BC

The following men and women are but a few of those who, through their writings, have contributed to the propagation of techniques and training principals. These training methods are based on the principal of the harmonious and natural development of the horse, using the understanding of the horse psyche and an awareness of the biomechanics of the horse.

dressage art

Although the term and principals of biomechanics is a modern science, these master trainers in their writings show an awareness of the importance of physical functionality of the horse in horse training.

These studies and principals are most accurately and consistently expressed in the teachings of classical dressage. Thus most, if not all, of these "horse-masters" fall into the category of classical dressage trainers and riders.

Classical dressage or classical methods for training the horse.

Beware of the modern day notion that a person can "invent" a new horse training method. There are no quick and easy ways. Truth is that the training of a horse is a study, a craft, an art. Training takes patience and the knowledge develops over many years. Many of the principals by the horse-masters are principals that are not ready to be understood until they have been experienced. The experience takes many years to acquire and many different horses to acquire it from. The principals can be built upon and expanded and explained with different nuances of the language, but it cannot be reinvented. There are people who would try to convince us that their training-method is unique and a product solely belonging to them. And I admit that these people usually have a very good sales technique that has made them popular and .....wealthy? Learning the methodology which already exists and gaining an understanding of that methodology through practice and experience is the path to successful training.

Now with that being said :) lets continue into this fascinating world of the great masters of classical dressage. We hope to expand this list with your help and suggestions. We apologize before hand that we make no mention here of the Unsung Hero but hope that one day they will write or be written about and appear among these great contributors to .....the study of the training of the horse.



Lived around the period 430-355BC, during the Classical Greek civilization. An age of great advances in the studies of philosophy, art, literature and architecture. A time when the principals of democracy were introduced. It was the time the great scholar Socrates lived who Xenephon admired greatly. Xenophon was a writer, a Greek historian and a cavalryman in the Geek army. Among his works were two short treatises that dealt with his knowledge and understanding of the horse, how it should be cared for and how it should be trained.These treatises were "On Horsemanship" and "The Calvary General"

Contribution: The writings of Xenophon are the oldest writings on the subject that are preserved and have been read and studied. They are important because it is the first time (to our knowledge) western civilization is introduced to the concept of a training system for the horse that deals with the nature of the horse's mind and the mechanics of his body motion (now known as biomechanics). Xenophon also explained the correct position and seat of the rider and it is still the position which is used today regardless of the riding discipline. "When mounted, the rider should sit on the horse not as if he were sitting in a chair, but as if he were standing with his legs apart......The lower legs should hang loosely from the knee,.....The rider's body above his hips should be supple,...

Classical Dressage Trainers and Authors

Antoine de Pluvinel

1552-1620 Pluvinel had studied horsemanship with Pignatelli who was a man known for his harsh methods of training. Despite this or perhaps because of this Pluvinel is the first of the French riding masters, and the first known horseman to advocate the teachings of Xenophone after the Dark Ages.

Contributions: Pluvinel was the author of: "L’Instruction du Roy en l’Exercise de Monter a Cheval" His theories advocated gentleness and careful use of the aids so that the horse would enjoy his work and thus show off its beauty and grace. Pluvinel introduced the "shoulder in" and the work on 2 tracks to supple the horse. In 1594 he founded the "Acadie d'Equitation" one of the first of its kind that brought about a trend of indoor riding schools. These schools propagated all through Europe during the Renaissance.

William Cavendish, 1st Duke of Newcastle


1592-1676 Cavendish was born in England. He was a very accomplished man, not only being known as a soldier but also as an author, poet, playwright, architect and politician.Contributions: Author of Méthode et invention nouvelle de dresser les chevaux in 1658 Which translate to "A New Method and Extraordinary Invention to Dress Horses and Work them according to Nature..." It was translated and published in 1747 as: "A General System of Horsemanship".

This book is still a very important source for the classical dressage training methods.

Francois Robichon de la Gueriniere


1688-1751 Gueriniere was born in France studied under various training instructors and held positins in the equestrian academy of France and later as Directuer du Manege des Tuleries. He is one of the most quoted and influencial riders of classical dressage. His training methods have influenced many horseman during and after his life.

Contributions: Gueriniere is credited for being the first to write about and explain the shoulder in, the flying change and the counter canter. He wrote about the practicing of these movements and the benefits they have for increasing the horse's gymnastic ability and suppleness.Gueriniere was the author of "Ecole de Cavalerie" which translates to School of Horsemanship. The book is quite extensive dealing with training, equitation, veterinary care and general horsemanship. The book is widely regarded in classical dressage as a one of the most important books written on the subject.

Gustav Steinbrecht


1808-1885 Steinbrecht was born in Germany and studied veterinary Medice. He studied training under the dressage trainer Louis Seeger who's methods were developed from the teachings of Gueriniere. He was one of the most influential of the German riding masters.

Contributions: Author of the book Gymnasium of The Horse.

Colonel Alois Podhajsky


1898-1973 Colonel Podhajsky is most remembered for having saved the Lippizzans of the famous Spanish Riding School of Vienna, Austria during WW II. He became the director of the Spanish Riding School in 1939 and continued in that position until 1965. Colonel Podhajsky was influencial in promoting Classical Dressage, teaching classical horsemanship and leaving a legacy of invaluable literature:
*The White Stallions of Vienna.
*My Dancing White Horses: The Autobiography of Alois Podhajsky.
*The Complete Training of Horse and Rider.
*The Lipizzaners.
*The Art of Dressage
*The Riding Teacher: A Basic Guide to Correct Methods of Classical Instruction
*My Horses, My Teachers *Meine Lehrmeister die Pferde. Erinnerungen an ein großes Reiterleben.

Nuno Oliveira.


Nuno Oliveira was born in 1925 and died in 1989. He is regarded as one of the last of the Old Master Trainers. He worked tirelessly all his life learning and teaching the art of classical dressage as set forth by the Great Masters of Renaissance Europe. Oliveira gave performances in Classical Dressage on his splendid horses throughout Europe and Great Britain. He taught clinics all around the world passing on his love of horsemanship and quest for perfection in classical riding as an art. He leaves behind these invaluable books:
*Reflections on Equestrian Art
*Classical Principles of the Art of Training Horses
*From an Old Master Trainer to Young Trainers
*Horses and Their Riders

Quote for a Classical Day

"The apex of perfection in equestrian art is not an exhibition of a great deal of different airs and movements by the same horse, but rather the conservation of the horse's enjoyment, suppleness and finesse during the performance, which calls for comparison with the finest ballet, or performance of an orchestra, or seeing a play by Racine, so moving is the sight of perfectly unisoned movements." ~ Nuno Oliveira

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