THE Borders Festival of the Horse organised by the British Horse Society ended with a spectacular indoor event at the magnificent Ladykirk Stables, when Sylvia Loch gave a demonstration of fine classical dressage to an audience of over 300 people.
The event also celebrated the opening of the school to horses once again after an absence of over 120 years.
Dressage trainer, writer and rider, Sylvia and her 15 year old Lusitano stallion, Prazer, entertained the crowds with an exhibition of Dressage in Lightness - a type of high school riding that you would normally only see in Vienna.
Prazer means ‘pleasure’ in Portuguese and judging by the 300 people who arrived from all over the country to watch - pleasure was not in short supply.
Comments left on Sylvia’s website by some of the people who attended the demonstration included: “I just wanted to say thank you for a truly enjoyable afternoon.
“It was wonderful to watch – and particularly interesting in that you used horses/riders at different levels so that we could see how the classical techniques improved both.
“I am a keen follower of natural horsemanship (Parelli) and to hear someone else talking about putting the relationship first and the importance of the seat rather than the reins was wonderful.
“There were some very interesting comments made when you asked your final rider to put her hand on her hip and ride with one hand – so helpful to those who do not appreciate that the body needs to align with the horse.... and the proof was right in front of them – an immediate improvement!
“It was a fantastic turn out and we can only hope that everyone goes away with your message firmly in their heads – and shares it.
“I do hope we can encourage you to do some more events like this”
“I attended the recent demonstration of horsemanship at Ladykirk and wanted to let you know how enjoyable, informative, educational and impressive it was.
“If I could achieve even a small degree of the skill and empathy shown by Sylvia I would be over the moon (as would my horse I’m sure).”
“Thank you Sylvia for sharing your vast experience with a captive audience!
“Your beautiful friend Prazer showed such enthusiasm and immense presence, desperate to display your combined talent to all of us.
“The atmosphere created in Ladykirk’s magnificently restored arena was the perfect venue for this truly classical master class!”
“What a fab day, what a prestigious venue and what a brill turnout.Thank you once again and many congratulations on such a successful demo.”
“Thank you very much for your demonstration. It was amazing as usual, the highlight of the festival.”
The venue for the event was the unique and very beautiful indoor riding school at Ladykirk, owned by Henry Askew and designed by Mr Tattersall of Pall Mall for an ancestor David Robertson, whose Ladykirk horse, Little Wonder, won the Derby in l840.
Measuring approximately 70 x 20 metres, the Adam inspired riding school is the largest of its type in the country.
Delighted at the reponse she has received following the dressage event, Sylvia said: “Classical dressage is somewhat different from competition dressage as the horse must be light on the rein and preferably ridden one-handed (as was required for cavalry skills). I showed this last Monday.
“Also, the Lusitano breed is a pure descendant of the ‘Baroque’ horse of former times and their cousin, the Lipizzaner, is still used at the Spanish Riding School of Vienna. Being ‘light’ cavalry types, they respond to very discreet ‘weight aids’ (torso, seat and leg) to make all the different manoeuvres that were once required in battle.
“This is what I was at pains to show and explain to the public at the demo.
“Even for today’s dressage competitions, it is much nicer for both horse and rider if they can be trained in this way, which is what we achieved with all the guest horses and riders who responded brilliantly.
“I believe it is because ‘Dressage in Lightness’ is so little seen today, that we managed to draw such a big crowd at Ladykirk.”
Sylvia is one of the country’s leading exponents of classical dressage and her aim is to demystify it and keep the spirit of tradtional classical dressage alive.
She has been teaching dressage for 35 years and has taught clinics and seminars in the United States, Australia and Kenya.
In 1995 she formed The Classical Riding Club, a networking organisation, which currently has 800 members.
The final word goest to a keen horsewoman who said: “Anyone who was fortunate to attend her demonstration at Ladykirk recently, or who has seen her training DVDs, can see that all of Sylvia’s horses are light, their movement is free, and most important, they look happy in their work.
“Contrast that with some of the more extreme outlines we see today where the horse looks like a machine, rather than a free flowing “live” animal, and the rider looks as though they are sitting on a Harley Davidson!
“There is much we can learn from those who base their teachings on the classical principles.”