-  Not all relationships between human and Horse can be classified as horsemanship.  Horsemanship requires a person who is an Equestrian, someone who can be an influential and trusted leader of his/her equine friend.  The person able to achieve this role, is one who is compassionate and patient with the horse, respects and loves the species, and is seen as trustworthy by the Horse.

These are the characteristics necessary to begin the journey to becoming an Equestrian.  The road is long, life long, but the journey is rewarding as the Equestrian develops harmony with the equine.

The Safety of the Equestrian and Well being of the Horse are vital to every successful training program, if either are jeopardized, a mutually beneficial relationship can not exist.  The Equestrian must measure all actions to these standards.

- In this stage the Equestrian develops the balance and strength to become a passenger that does not interfere with the Horse. 

The Equestrian must not only develop through riding, but must also maintain an exercise program and lifestyle that maintains overall health and strength.

Here the experienced Equestrian develops their strength with new theories, techniques and movements.

Developing a fluid and functional seat, body, hands and legs is a life long journey, when one improves another needs to catch up. And when you feel you have it, a different Horse will create new challenges. As the Equestrian goes through these different stages  some areas will become stiff while at times others become too loose. This is why it is extremely important to have a set of eyes on the ground to assist, whether a ground person, video, or both.

 - the Training Principles of Classical Dressage provide the guidance for the development of both Equestrian and Horse to play the games we like to play, or do the work that may need to still get done.  Either way, the trusting relationship will build the strength, balance and mind to bring out the true potential of both.

As humans, we love to play. As a species, Horses love to play.  The time tested Principles of Classical Dressage provide us a means to develop both Horse and Equestrian to be able to enjoy the games, safely.

Classical Dressage provides the process that helps the Equestrian develop a trusting relationship with their Horse that achieves  harmony of mind, body and spirit.

The Equestrian Learning Tree

- This is where the Equestrian begins to guide the Horse into reaching its true potential.  The Equestrian has gained the Horse's trust and respect, and the Horse has given its direction in life to the Equestrian.  It is extremely important the Equestrian follows the proper development path of his/her equine friend so as not to cause harm to the Horse or the trusting relationship.

The Equestrian now uses the communication aids to develop the Horse.  An understanding of the Principles of the Training Tree is necessary to guide the Horse in the proper direction. The Equestrian develops the mind and body of the Horse through gymnastic exercises, new experiences, and continual rewarding of positive behavior.  The Equestrian is able to bring out the Horse's true potential, above and beyond what  the Horse would develop on its own.

 -  The stage where harmony is achieved.  Horse and Equestrian work as one with mind, body and spirit. As with beautiful music, where all instruments work together to create a wonderful masterpiece, both Horse and Equestrian achieve harmony.  The communication is invisible, the trust obvious, and the commitment enduring.  

At first this stage will only be felt for a moment and may come at any time, but once the Equestrian achieves this moment, both Horse and Equestrian will enthusiastically pursue the next moment when they can exist again, as one. As the Horse and Equestrian strengthen through the Principles, the moments will begin to happen with more frequency, then moments will become full strides, then full movements.

Once here, the Equestrian understands what the "Art of Horsemanship" truly means.

 - The Equestrian develops the ability to know what will happen and to guide the Horse in a positive direction.  The Equestrian through experience, trial and error, instruction, reading, meditating, and observation will develop the wisdom to know what is right and the skills to do what is right.

Here the communication aids work as if invisible, providing guidance to both the Horse and the Equestrian, each are "tuned in" to what the other is saying.

The Equestrian understands that Classical Dressage is a means to an end. That end is not a specific training method, but to develop a relationship of trust and communication that performs in balance and harmony. All horses and riders are different and many more differences occur when horses and riders are partnered together. And differences even occur from day to day with the same partnership.  The Equestrian develops the ability to put aside their own frustration, pride, goals, and needs so as to be able to best develop their equine friend.

-  It is important for the Equestrian  to understand the Horse, what its needs are, how horses communicate and how to build its trust.  The Equestrian will come back to this stage with each and every Horse they encounter.  Although the general aspects of care, communication, and trust are the same in the horse species, understanding the subtle differences of each Horse, is key to quality relationships.

The Equestrian learns that Classical Dressage is not one sided, it includes the natural communication necessary to build a trusting relationship, and the exercises to develop strength and balance in both horse and rider to prepare for the demands of higher level performance.  So in addition to learning how horses communicate, the Equestrian becomes familiar with the communication between horse and human.

Here the experienced Equestrian learns the aspects to new movements, theories, techniques, and methods.

Different graphical representations are used to illustrate the Classical Principles for the development of the Equestrian.  The analogy we use is that of the tree.  The development of the Horse-Equestrian relationship is one of continual growth. It is rooted with truths that must occur if the process is to grow.  The Principles, when applied properly provide the stability for achieving the Equestrian's true abilities. 

 When all the Principles are working together the Art of Horsemanship is achieved, the place where Horse and Equestrian work together in harmony, in body, mind and spirit. 

 The Principles cannot be viewed in isolation, nor do they follow an absolute direction.  Instead their interrelationship is like the rings of the trunk.  They build upon and within, there is no destination with any one, only a journey of continual growth.

-  The Equestrian must be able to know what is happening or what has happened.  Through thought and feel the Equestrian develops the understanding of how the Horse is moving, behaving, resisting, cooperating, etc.  The communication aids become a conduit for listening to the Horse.  

The Equestrian now "hears" what the Horse is saying instead of just using the aids to control the Horse.  The Equestrian now has two- way communication with the Horse and develops an understanding of how the Horse is reacting to the environment.

- the Equestrian must develop their ability to relax around their equine friend and to move with the rhythm of the horse.  The Equestrian's body is one of the main communication aids, from the ground the horse reads the body language, just as they read the body language of their pasture mates.  From their backs, the Horse feels adjustments to the Equestrian's weight and responds accordingly.

It is important that the Equestrian learn to relax and move with the rhythm, learning how their body can flow with the Horse's.  Here the Equestrian becomes a passenger of the Horse, enjoying the ride.  It is important that the Equestrian at this stage is matched up with a Horse that can be a teacher, if the Horse is developing along with the Equestrian, then both can become frustrated and neither may develop.

Lungeing of the Equestrian at this stage is a very important aspect of Classical Dressage.  With an experienced ground person and well trained lunge Horse, the Equestrian can focus on riding to the rhythm without the added complexity of the communication aids.

In this stage the communication aids of weight, voice, legs, and reins are used to communicate to the horse when to go, stop, change direction, and speed.  The Equestrian learns to move all parts of their body and associated aids with the horse.  In this stage, the goals of the aids are only to maintain the safety of the Equestrian and well being of the horse.

Here the experienced Equestrian tries new theories, techniques and movements to understand the horse's response.