Academic art of riding and balance in riding

I am in love with the Academic art of riding. The Academic art of riding is based on the ideas of the old grand masters such as:

– Xenophon (430 – 354 BC)
– Antoine de Pluvinel (1552 – 1620)
– François Robichon de La Guérinière (1688-1751)
– Gustav Steinbrecht (1808 – 1885)

The Academic art of riding is led by grandmaster Bent Branderup. His motto is “Two spirits who want to do what two bodies can”. This means that not only the horse must be trained physically, but also mentally. The thoughtful use of gymnastic exercises serves to build the horse and to keep it healthy. The academic art of riding starts with the realization that the horse is a prey animal and a life partner and starts with building training first from the ground.

The basis consists of gathering a lot of knowledge about the horse and the use of the different aids, to start a communication between man and horse. The goal is to “dance” together. The rider’s responsibility is to ensure that the horse has enough confidence and is guided by the rider.

In the previous two modules you could read more about the anatomy, biomechanics and the physical skew that we may have to deal with in horses.

The moment we start using the horse to ride, physical damage will occur anyway. Simply because the horse was never made to carry a rider. We can try to limit this damage as well as possible through the responsible training of the body, so that we can hopefully give the horse a long and pleasant career as a riding horse. This first of all starts next to the horse.

Balance in riding

In the previous modules you could read more about the anatomy of the horse and the consequences of the various natural assymetries of the horse.

To not overburden the horse physically, good training is essential for the horse. So that it can bear rider weight in a healthier way.

more weight on forehand

Naturally the horse carries more weight in on the forehand (about 60% with a well-built horse), this has come from evolution so that the horse can graze efficiently.

With the training of the horse we work towards a so-called “horizontal balance”. What the horse naturally also uses, but what will be disturbed as soon as we as human beings sit on the back of the horse.

horizontal balance


By gymnastics of the horse by means of exercises, we convert the natural balance (more weight on the front) to carry more weight spread over the 4 legs and from there to more weight via the hindquarters (riding balance).

The horse learns to bend more in the joints of its hind legs. As a result, the horse tilts its pelvis, uses the abdominal muscles so that the back is better supported (this is necessary because anatomically speaking, the back is also the weakest part of the horse because it is long, horizontally and gravity pulls on it). The forehand and the withers are also more “lifted”. The muscles in the neck are also tightened properly so that the head can be carried well, with the result that the horse feels light in the hand. This also leaves space between the vertebrae in the spine and, for example, “kissing spines” is avoided.


In addition to the physical benefits, there are also mental benefits. By building the training of the horse gradually and with a lot of love, patience and reward, strength and forcing are not necessary and the horse remains motivated to work with and a bond of trust is created between you and your horse.

The horse is a very sensitive flight animal and quickly builds up tension. Although difficult for many to see, this tension always comes from the horse physically. Scientists, Jean-Marie Denoix and Jean-Pierre Pailloux describe in their book Physical therapy & massage for the Horse: “The back of the horse is an emotional filter”. By which they mean that physical tension in the horse can be seen and felt in the back.

A horse that feels better in its body and does not have to be constantly alert to danger or imminent discomfort will be guided and shaped better.

You will therefore notice that physical issues have an effect on the mental part of the horse and vice versa.

Let’s take a look at what exercises we can use for this.