The equine world is diverse. There are a plethora of disciplines to choose from. On top of that, there are many methods and systems for both teaching and learning horse riding.
I have been fascinated by classical schooling in the form of work in hand and seat training for a long time. My search for the knowledge and skills to train my horses harmoniously lead me down many different training paths. I was searching for a proper understanding of the classical dressage work of the old masters. Eventually, this led me to Marijke de Jong and her Straightness Training Academy.
Straightness Training addresses the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual balance of the horse. Using the five training components of groundwork, longeing, work in hand, riding and liberty, we teach the horse to stretch, and to tense and relax his muscles. This approach makes the horse fit, supple, strong and muscular so it can carry the rider correctly.
The gymnastic exercises in the programme develop the horse’s balance and train the horse to divide the weight equally over all four legs (be straight). This will keep the horse healthy as a riding horse until old age, which is a goal I have for my horses.
Explaining the educational programme
The Evaluation System for Straightness Training consists of five grades:
Grade 1 - the novice trainer and horse level
At this level, the focus is on mastering the basic Straightness Training skills; tool handling and the correct timing and dosing of aids. We practice the first 3 keys of Straightness Training: lateral bending in the body of the horse, the forward down tendency of head and neck, and the hind legs stepping under the centre of mass (LFS).
Grade 2 - the elementary phase
At this level, we focus on quality in balance, suppleness, shape, tempo, and rhythm in all exercises (BSSTR), leading to a well-moving horse in a state of relaxed activity. The exercises are done in both walk and trot.
Grade 3 - the competent level of skill
The focus is on connection, where the horse’s energy flows over the back from behind towards the trainer’s hand, and collection, bringing the centre of mass toward the hind legs (CC). We work towards bringing the horse to a higher mental state, the beginnings of self-carriage of both body and mind.
Grade 4 - the level of the advanced and athletic horse and trainer
At this level, the horse and trainer are fit, supple, strong and athletic enough to perform the advanced exercises in the canter. On a mental level, both trainer and horse are giving their 'Best Aikido' and bringing out the best in each other.
Grade 5 – the masterpiece
The horse and trainer work together in a kind of synchronicity, the movements are effortless and flowing, the level of artistry.
I am delighted that I have discovered Marijke de Jong's Straightness Training Academy, and since I started studying with her in 2010, I have not looked back. The depth of knowledge I have gained from Marijke is immense, and I am still learning from her.
Wendy Poore is a licenced Straightness Training Instructor based in the UK. Her interest in classical schooling, work in hand and seat training lead her to train with some of the best classical instructors in the country, but she still craved knowledge, theory and understanding. She started studying with Marijke de Jong in 2010, joined the Straightness Training Academy and graduated as an Instructor in 2015.
Do you know you can look up your nearest Straightness Training instructor on Pluvinel? Lessons with a licensed instructor complement the online Mastery course and the Evaluation system. Find out how you can become a member of the Straightness Training Academy here.