Training Scale FAQ – Part 1 Rhythm

What’s First? Rhythm or Relaxation?

401Rhythm, Relaxation (suppleness) & Strength

These are the three pillars of performance, according to the HDV12 German Cavalry Manual—original source of the Training Scale. Gymnastic training—creating strength and agility in the horse—paired with careful education is precondition for a healthy equine athlete. This combination of physical training and education is called dressage (HDV12 German Cavalry Manual).

The Chicken and the Egg

p2p_step2In the so-called Training Scale or Training Pyramid, which is a visual representation of the concepts presented in the chapter “Goals and Principles of Dressage” (HDV12/1937), we often see Rhythm and Relaxation as two different ‘steps’ on the bottom of the Training Scale, with ‘Rhythm’ appearing on the bottom. Several master riders like Dr. Klimke and K. A. von Ziegner (see his book Elements of Dressage), have taken issue with that, and rightfully so. This simplification can lead to confusion.

Taken too literally and without proper understanding of the classic German training system, we could mistakenly understand this to mean: Create Rhythm first, then achieve Relaxation.

The good news is: It’s not that simple. This is good news since it makes the practical application much easier than we may think. What it really means: Without relaxation, no rhythm. And if there is no rhythm, there cannot be relaxation.

Doesn’t sound simple? More like the chicken and the egg? Not quite…

What does the HDV12 say?

The HDV12 mentions both elements—Rhythm & Relaxation—in the same header and describes both concepts in the same paragraph. The reason: Rhythm & Relaxation are interdependent.

riding long and low
Image courtesy & copyright Bianca Rieskamp

The rider attempts to regulate the rhythm by encouraging the horse to move in the natural posture and speed of the respective gait. This includes a long neck, open throat latch and relatively low nose (not much lower than shoulder bone height).

Relaxation, also called suppleness, is the precondition for successful dressage (see HDV12 German Cavalry Manual chapter “Goals & Principles of Dressage”). A relaxed horse with swinging back will move in rhythm, without rushing (think metronome). In other words: Rhythm is an indicator of a relaxed and supple horse.

Stop & Go

Yellow light of traffic lights in summer cityThe importance of Rhythm & Relaxation cannot be overestimated. Next time you see a sign showing the Training Scale in a barn or arena, imagine that the two bottom steps are blended into one: “Rhythm & Relaxation, precondition for successful dressage”.

Above you will see a horizontal traffic light (in your mind’s eye, of course…). It will default to RED until you can honestly say: “Suppleness is the precondition for successful dressage. My horse and I have achieved this, as indicated by a relaxed natural posture, a swinging back and rhythmic movement in all gaits. I may now move on to the next chapter in my training…”.

Only then will the traffic light switch to GREEN and you are on your way to developing Contact.

But, of course, Contact is also not really that simple… Stay tuned to learn about “The Meaning of Contact in the Training Scale”.

You can order your copy of the HDV12 German Cavalry Manual below or here from Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

Enjoy your horse and please be in touch with questions.

Stefanie Reinhold

 

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A Functional Miracle? The M25 German Cavalry Saddle

Saddle fit challenges and problems from saddle fit are a common theme in barns all over:

  • Back problems in the horse
  • Rider sitting uncomfortably or behind the movement
  • Compensatory problems in response to wrong saddle fit, such as contracted top lines, etc.
german cavalry saddle m25 dressage distance riding
Ready to go! A 1938 M25 German Cavalry saddle!

Partly, our modern saddle fit dilemma is caused by a variety of different horse and rider shapes, and a multitude of available brands, builds, and sizes. Altogether, this makes saddle fit a science.

How did the cavalry handle saddle fit challenges for thousands of horses?

M25 German Cavalry Saddle
An M25 with all common original accessories as a collector would appreciate.

The M25 German Cavalry saddle replaced the older M90 model in 1925 and was produced through 1945. Since many saved these saddles after the war, you can still find some usable or even collectible specimen today.

The advantages of the M25 saddle:

  • Comfort for the horse on distance rides by even weight distribution over a large contact area
  • Easy and quick to maintain, clean, repair
  • Extreme durability
  • Accommodate fasteners for equipment
  • Rider comfort as a second thought

In a world of similar backs and hind-ends…. long ago!

Its innovative design solves a lot of saddle fit, back soreness, and rider position problems—as long as horses and riders are relatively uniform in shape. The design seems somewhat genius for the purpose (more on that below), and tailored to a world where riders were relatively lean and male, horses were of similar built and height and horse comfort came before rider comfort (way before rider comfort!).

M25 German Cavalry Saddle – the specs!

SADDLE TREE

M25 German Cavalry Saddle Tree
The M25 wood saddle tree with rawhide hammock.

A hammock design saddle tree made from wood and rawhide with steel connectors. The tree keeps the rider off the horse’s back and provides some flexibility in response to the horse’s movement and relative comfort to the rider (the key term here is relative). It is also easy to repair—saddle expert Jamie Lynch has worked miracles on replacing the rawhide for some of my old M25s.

By the way: You can take the entire saddle apart to clean or replace worn parts!

The tree came in 5 HORSE SIZES – from narrow (1) through extra wide (5), with sizes 2 and three also showing a difference in rock (2 has more ‘rock’ than 3).

There is no difference in the length of the tree, only the angulation and width.

SEAT

The seat is attached over the tree and is a sturdy, yet somewhat cushioned construction (key word is somewhat…). All seats are the same size, catering to the idea that all riders in the cavalry had similar shapes and needs.

M25 German cavalry saddle billets
Updated, narrower billets

BILLETS

In the original M25, the billets are wider than today’s billets and attached to the saddle by means of rawhide strips.

HARDWARE

  • As there was a need to carry come equipment, there are hooks built in to the saddle that make it easy to attach various pouches, etc.
  • The saddle tree features steel parts that cannot be replaced.
  • There are fasteners for a breast plate and a so-called ‘coat hook’ on the back.

Got an M25 and want to use it? Here is what to watch out for:

  1. Make sure the wood of the tree is sturdy and free of worm holes. The linen wrapping should be as intact as possible.
  2. Have an expert saddle repair shop install replacement billets to match a modern girth. Even if you do have an original girth, 80-year-old girths and billets are not safe enough due to crying and cracking leather.
  3. Examine the cushion for any bumpy filling or holes. Have it re-flocked and patched if necessary. Stay as close to the original materials as possible.
  4. Always use this saddle in combination with a folded wool blanket (instructions can be found in the HDV12 German Cavalry Manual and here).
  5. If your horse is very short-backed and low-withered, an M25 may not be the ideal saddle. A tall, high-withered horse is usually the best candidate, just think ‘Trakehner’ or ‘Hannoverian’ (the classic German cavalry horse)…
saddle placement according to German cavalry manual
The HDV12 provides instructions on saddle placement

How to tell where your saddle comes from

All saddles that passed inspection and were used for the cavalry  have a stamp on the back of the seat showing the Imperial Eagle. In addition, you will find the size (1 through 5), the year and a combination of letters identifying the maker (please see list below).

WARNING

If you do source a usable M25 for you and your horse, be warned:

  • Your horse may get very used to that much comfort, especially in combination with the folded wool blanket.
  • You may love the fact that you are sitting right above and in synch with the horse’s center of gravity.
  • However, your hind end may not appreciate the relative firmness of this saddle or your hip bones may be too far apart to appreciate the twist. In that case, you have a dilemma as your horse will demand the M25 and you will long for the comfort of your modern saddle.

Questions? Comments? Please reach out!

Enjoy your horse!

Stefanie Reinhold

M25 German Cavalry Saddle – Makers (thank you to taunusreiter.de)

bdt , Solewa Lederwarenfabrik , München
bmd , Max Müller , Nürnberg
bmn , Böttche & Renner , Nürnberg
bmo , Deuter , Augsburg
bmd , Carl Kurtze , Pening i. Sa.
cdg , Anwaerter & Buback AG , Stuttgart
cfz , Landeslieferungsgenossenschaft d. Sattler-, Tapez.- u. Polsterhandwerks, Wien 1
cky , Landeslieferungsgenossenschaft d. Sattler ( usw. ) Nordmark , Hamburg
clg , Enst Metzig , Liegnitz
cqr , Sadina – Schell , Finkenwalde / Stettin
cvb , Otto Sindel , Berlin
cvc , Zeschke Nachfolger , Müllrose bei Frankfurt / Oder
cvk , Breuning & Koch , Wuppertal – Elberfeld
cwk , Fischer & Co , Wien
cww , Carl Weiss , Braunschweig
cxb , Moll , Goch – Rheinland
czz , Carl Freudenberg , Weinheim a.d.B.

dde , Robert Larsen , Berlin
ddy , Gregor Angermann , Berlin
dfq , Trutz , Coburg
dkk , Offermann & Söhne , Bensberg
dmb , Schröder KG , Ansbach
dny , Bollmann & Co. , Tuttlingen
dta , Waldhausen , Köln
, Johann Fröhlich , Wien
dvx , Ferdinant Stiegler , Mainz
dvy , Landeslieferungsgenossenschaft pfälzer Sattler ( usw. ) , Speyer
dxh , Landeslieferungsgenossenschaft für Sattler ( usw. ) , Stettin

eqr , Passier & Sohn , Hannover
esf , Landeslieferungsgenossenschaft der Sattler ( usw. ) , Reichenberg
eff , Landeslieferungsgenossenschaft der Sattler ( usw. ) Würtemberg , Stuttgart
evg , Max Oswald , Karlsruhe
exv , Heinrich Vordemberge , Osnabrück
eyp , wie oben

fkv , Landeslieferungsgenossenschaft der Sattler ( usw. ) Thüringen , Erfurt
fkx , Gustav Sudbrack , Bielefeld
fmn , Orthey , St. Marienberg , Westerwald
fsy , Albin Scholle , Zeitz
ftb , Landeslieferungsgenossenschaft ( usw. ) Baden , Karlsruhe-Hagsfeld
ftq , Landeslieferungsgenossenschaft ( usw. ) Sachsen-Anhalt , Magdeburg
ftt , Vereinigte Lederwarenfabrik Eugen Huber , München
fuq , Cottbusser Lederwarenwerk Curt Vogel , Cottbus
frz , Paul Klopfer , Berlin
fys , Kampmann & Rahm , Wuppertal – Elberfeld
gap , Ernst Angermann , Schlettau im Erzgebirge
gaq , Otto Stephan , Mühlhausen im Erzgebirge
gdm , Wiko Lederwarenfabrik , Brake bei Bielefeld
gfg , Hepting & Co. , Stuttgard – Feuerbach
gfh , Gustav Schiele , Loburg , Bezirk Magdeburg
gig , Kaspar Roth , Altenburg in Thüringen
gjl , Landeslieferungsgenossenschaft ( usw. ) Wuppertal – Barmen
gkg , Roser GmbH. , Stuttgart – Feuerbach
gmo , Kampmann & Rahm , Kaiserslautern
gna , Gustav Buchmüller , Stuttgart
goq , Landeslieferungsgenossenschaft ( usw. ) Schlesien , Breslau
gpf , Carl Tesch , Berlin
grz , Gebrüder Krüger , Breslau
gtu , Landeslieferungsgenossenschaft ( usw. ) Südmark , Graz
gut , Schürmann & Co. , Bielefeld
gxc , Reinhold Adam , Oberursel im Taunus
gxy , Gebrüder Klinger , Dresden – Löbtau
gyd , Krumm AG. , Offenbach
gyb , Wilhelm Bauer , Offenbach
gzr , Wöhler & Co. , Wuppertal – Barmen

Jumping Horses – Then & Now

The HDV12 German Cavalry Manual is very clear on one thing: Never, ever, ever interfere with the horse’s natural movement when jumping.

But is that still the case in modern riding? Let’s examine some modern trends versus the classical approach.

“No rider can make a horse jump. You allow the horse to learn to jump himself, then stay out of the way.” (Rolf Becher, who developed the Chiron method*).

German Cavalry manual Caprilli seat forward seat
The first two phases of the jump. (HDV12/1937)

The Origin of the Forward Seat

The ‘Caprilli seat’ — a forward-leaning versus backward-leaning seat meant to be easier on the horse — was relatively new in the first quarter of the 20th century. Cavalry officers from all over Europe were sent to Italy to learn this revolutionary seat. The German cavalry soon adopted this seat in their regulation (HDV12).

The forward seat was developed by Italian cavalry officer Frederico Caprilli, who initially faced resistance from the cavalry establishment and only earned fame and recognition after it was proven that horses were more willing and effective jumpers with the new seat.

Forward seat nurmi stubbendorf eventing olympics
Major Ludwig Stubbendorff and his horse Nurmi at the 1936 Olympics.

How to ride the classic forward seat:

  • Feet stuck through stirrups to gain stability
  • Lower leg from knee down stays calm and quiet by the horse’s side to create a foundation for the upper body’s movement while following the horse’s movement
  • The rider’s knees serve as ‘shock absorbers’
  • Shoulder and knee stay aligned in all phases
  • The rider keeps soft contact with the horse’s mouth

Example:

jumpingthen

Fast-forward to the 21st century

The arrival of the ‘modern jumping seat’

In recent decades, there has been a development toward what we can call today’s ‘modern’ jumping seat. Here some of the features of the ‘modern’ jumping seat as we can observe them in books, online media, live competitions and instruction:

  • Instead of balancing on the basis of a sound foundation, the rider ‘hovers’ over the horse’s neck, supporting his or her weight and balance by elbows locked against the horse’s neck.
  • There is not steady (and reassuring) connection to the horse’s mouth, instead the reins either fly away only to be abruptly picked up again after the jump, or never soften enough.
  • The feet are barely in the stirrups, which support the toes or ball of the foot at most.
  • Without ample support from the stirrup, the knee (supported by elbows) locks (or not) and the lower legs fly back, touching the horse’s rib cage right under the cantle or stab into the horse’s side.

While these may not be the ‘official features of the modern jumping seat’, there is ample photo evidence, that this is a very popular way to ride now.

Examples:

jumpingnow
A rider in an international competition

Let’s give it a try!

The classic forward seat, that is…

Several successful riders on the international scene prove that you can have your (classical ride) cake and eat (win) it, too! Riders like Ingrid Klimke train to classical principles with the HDV12 as basis for their success.

If you are not already doing it, give it a try: Get back to classic and “get out of the horse’s way”.

The HDV12 German Cavalry Manual is an easy read with ample illustrations.
If you follow it closely, you can do no wrong, especially if supported by a caring and knowledgeable instructor.

Enjoy your horse!

*) a method to teach the classic Caprilli (forward) seat with playful methods and without fear