Someone shared this lovely video on Facebook, and in my estimation it has not had enough views – so I’m doing my little part to spread it around. The video is of the top two rides from the 1976 Olympics. You can find lots of vintage Dressage videos on YouTube – but what makes this one so interesting is that it has vintage commentary on the rides themselves.
These rides are from a time when Grand Prix dressage was a long journey, generally with the same partnership from beginning (or very nearly). The results show the communication, trust, strength and quality that come from such partnerships. These rides also more closely fit the FEI directives than anything you see today: polls are the highest point, noses in front of vertical, extensions actually cover ground.
Note also that half-pass looks the way half-pass should look; it is a collecting exercise, and the horse staying over his legs is key, whereas today it’s all about just how far the legs can reach. The mistaken idea that half-pass is about extreme reach actually leads to wear and tear on the horse’s joints.
One last thing to watch for – the horses’ behavior during the awards ceremony. Although the crowds are cheering, the horses still focus calmly on their riders, and reins are still relaxed – a far cry from today, when there is a call to remove the horses from the ceremony for being too dangerous. Back then, a properly developed Dressage horse was just assumed to be calm and obedient – or they weren’t Grand Prix horses!
Watching this was a relaxing, enjoyable, pure delight – I hope you feel the same! It is a bit long, so pull out the popcorn. (Note of caution: someone felt the necessity to overdub hoofbeats, which is a bit distracting. Hopefully that won’t spoil it for you!)
Be good to your horses!