Books Books books! No wonder books are always the first to be burned in a political uprising. Books may contain the truth. They can make people aware of what they are missing, show up the lack of knowledge. Those who seek to bend the rules or boast of a new system will be the first to say you don't need to bother about books.


Yet in all of my riding, whenever I've discovered a really special aid, something really personal between me and my horse and thought "wow!" - it's been there... in one of the old classics. Which makes me realise just how much we owe these wise authors, these master horsemen who dreamed, lived practically wrote on horseback...


When I began to write, just a few years after Henry's death, my first series of magazine articles The Classical Seat (which became a book) was considered revolutionary in content. Nevertheless I was determined to do it, since Henry had shown me how all balance emanated from the seat and without first establishing this, the horse could never move to his full potential. Realising so little was in print on the subject, I was determined to pass on his wise words faithfully, even though in those days, the seat was rarely mentioned in a British riding lesson.


To my surprise my articles were a huge success. However this did not please the powers-that-be. There was such a furore that a full blown pamphlet was published by one angry author, a Fellow of the Institute of the Horse and not content with sending it out to all the riding clubs and riding schools, he then tried (unsuccessfully) to sue me. Debates raged at the highest level in the British horse establishment and I was amazed. My name was suddenly propelled into the limelight and if only they'd known what a service that did me, they might have resisted.

 

Notoriety wins you far more friends than lying low, so very soon everyone was asking for more articles. There were pages of editorial comment on the lines of is Sylvia Loch right or not right about the Seat? in two austere UK journals, namely Horse and Hound and Dressage Magazine.


Others asked What is this 3 point seat? or Do you believe in the Magic Triangle? and so on. More experts were drawn in and the arguments raged for weeks, one top authority even publicly insisting that he only had skin where his crotch ought to be... To prove or disprove these matters, I was invited to give lecture-demonstrations and these only helped my case - thanks to the horses. I think people thought I would be caught out. Looking back, I can only assume that writing about well guarded equititational secrets had upset the top brass. I believe the majority knew in their hearts that what Henry had taught me was the truth, but they saw no reason to make these methods available to all. Indeed being so honest and forthright had rattled them to the roots.


What I was saying about classical was also considered out of step at a time when competition dressage was seeking to shrug off the old ways which had been dominated by educated army officers such as Podhajsky competing at the Olympics, just prior to the war. Suddenly it was to be all very modern, with modern horses and a modern approach, testing horses to the limit, looking for the perfect athlete and measuring everything that moved in terms of power and length of stride, rather than lightness and flexibility. On more than one occasion, I remember, in the late seventies and early eighties, seeing a Grand Prix horse leave the arena because the power had projected itself forward to the point of no return!

 

During this fashion, even the revered Spanish Riding School was considered by most dressage riders and trainers to be archaic and of no real relevance in the new competitive atmosphere. This, despite the fact that Vienna set the international FEI standards! Indeed the prevailing attitude was very much that classical horses, the classical seat, and the classical precepts should be allowed to gather dust on the bookshelves of antiquity....


How things can change! Now, having published 8  major books, with some 1400 published articles all on Classical Dressage - I'm glad to say the message seems to be getting through again. Indeed some people are talking about it as though it's the latest thing! Being the first to go public, I guess therefore, I need to own up and take some of the flack for having kick-started the whole mad craze it seems to have become. As for discussing the seat! Well, everyone's at it, but The Classical Seat now in its 9th edition is still the best-seller!

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The Power of the Pen