Pesade Levade Terre a terre Walkcourbette Courbette
Croupade Capriole
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Basic exercises
• Haute Ecole
Haute Ecole at Liberty

A question that occupies the minds of many classical dressage trainers, is if the Haute Ecole jumps originally were meant as weapon during battle, or if they have always been trained as an artful way of aiming for the highest collection possible.

Click here for the movie on Haute Ecole exercises

The question that’s central to solve this puzzle, is how useful the Haute Ecole or School jumps were during battle. That is, if they weren’t done in a nice indoor arena with excellent footing, but instead on an irregular, bloody and muddy battlefield. It’s very likely that the School jumps were rather seen and used as a stylized version of the most impressive movements a horse can make, than as a direct weapon in horse to man combat. Next to that, what’s often forgotten is that the School jumps are much more than just pretty movements. The School jumps are the only collected movements in which the horse uses his hind- and front legs completely symmetrical: he uses his hind- and front legs in pairs instead of one after another like in walk, trot and canter. That symmetry turns the School jumps into the ultimate showcase of the traininglevel of the horse: every stiffness or crookedness will result in more or less asymmetrical or unbalanced movements during the jumps.

Terre a terre Terre a terre Terre a terre
Blacky in terre a terre: 3) Levade...
2) Jumping along with the hindlegs...
1) A forwards levade...

Haute Ecole at liberty?
If you ask a classical dressage trainer about training Haute Ecole exercises, he will most likely reply that only the most experienced trainers and the best horses will ever reach that highest training level. That is very logical if you realize that the traditional training methods are based on training the horse with force or at least with pressure-release. In order to apply that pressure in such a subtle way that the horse does what you ask from him, without at the same time becoming scared of that pressure, requires a lot of experience and sensitivity from the training – something that you will only acquire after many years of training under the guidance of a good trainer. Next to that, the School jumps really are tough exercises and if you force your horse to do more than he is able to do at that age or at that stage in his training, then those movements indeed can be quite risky.

However, if you simply leave away all pressure so that you can’t force your horse to do anything against his common sense, and if your horse spends his free time in the pasture, you will see that for horses doing Haute Ecole jumps is just as natural as breathing. As all the Haute Ecole exercises are based on how horses do those movements ‘in the wild’ when they feel like it and when they are mentally and physically ready for it, they can also be exercised as a part of training Natural Dressage.

Pesade Diepe levade
The best thing is that horses themselves seem to agree with that completely. When Blacky realized that an exercise like the pesade isn’t just a great way of earning treats, but also something that is fun to do, within a few months time he also invented the levade, terre a terre, walk courbette and the real courbette jump. Not because I told him to do so, but simply because for a horse, nothing feels better than moving!
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© of this site, pictures and texts: Miriam Nieuwe Weme