All books are of use to the very advanced riders who has had great practice in riding, so that he can pick out the good advice, using it profitably, while knowing which parts to discard.
Above all, it is necessary to ride often, while not entirely allowing the books to gather dust on the shelves.
Nuno Oliveira, Reflections on Equestrian Art
No single book is perfect, and there are many variations to getting the desired end result. What astonishes me about this list of books is how much they share, considering the span of time they cover. To me this is proof that the classical horsemanship developed over centuries truly is rooted in the nature of the horse.
My favorites …
Riding Logic, W. Museler – This is a classic! I have read it clear through at least four times. I lead with it on this list because I have been amazed at how many of the other books listed here reference it.
The Way To Perfect Horsemanship, Udo Burger – This is, so far, my favorite practical classical work! Well laid out, easier to read than some, and just hit a lot of familiar notes for me.
A Horseman’s Notes, Erik Herbermann – Another favorite, this out of print book is more a philosophical work by a great horseman.
Dressage in Harmony, Walter Zettl – A delightful book! Well laid out, easy to read, both philosophical and practical. From one of the few remaining classical masters, this should be in the library of anyone who studies Dressage.
Balancing Act: The Horse In Sport, An Irreconcilable Conflict?, Dr. Gerd Heuschmann – If you pick only one of his books to read, make it this one. Much of what is in the earlier work (above) is in this one, plus much more practical knowledge.
Sport Horse Conformation, Christian Schacht – Easy to read and highly informative, this is a book I refer back to often.
Important to read …
The Art of Classical Horsemanship, Egon von Neindorff – This is a lengthy tome, and not always easy to read; but an important work by arguably one of the most influential classical horsemen of the Twentieth Century.
Tug of War: Classical Vs. Modern Dressage, Dr. Gerd Heuschmann – I bought this after seeing interviews with Dr. Heuschmann on Epona.tv. This book, and those interviews, helped me realize that my impressions of current competitive Dressage were bang on.
The Truth About Horses, Andrew McLean – This is an important book for anyone serious about training horses. Although it is short sighted in light of what science is now learning about horse thinking, it nonetheless covers extremely important information about behavioral science. This book will help you wade through the vast amount of misinformation about positive and negative reinforcement. (Disclaimer: although I like his behavioral approach, I have since been sorely disappointed in their under saddle work with young horses, pushing them too hard too soon under saddle. But the ideas in this book are still valuable.)
Other notable titles …
Dressage For The 21st Century, Paul Belasik – I liked a lot about this book. I like the principles, and there is some great philosophy in there. Again, however, I’ve seen recently that his stable pushes young horses too far too fast – proving that theory and practice don’t always follow.
Anatomy of Dressage, Heinrich and Volker Schusdziarra
The Riding Teacher, Alois Podhajsky – Although an “old” work now, it should be read by every instructor, and perhaps by every student. His compassion toward student and horse are reflected in this work, and should be a model for any instructor.
The Complete Training of Horse and Rider, Alois Podhajsky – Compared to many of these other books, this is a light breeze through the full breadth that is training from start to high school Dressage, but still has many important points to make.
Practical Dressage Manual, Bengt Lungquist – I read this first through the lens of a young, very beginning, Dressage rider who was receiving all the wrong instruction. But I respect what this man accomplished, so I will be rereading this book as a convert to classical methods and will update when I have.
Dressage, Henry Wynmalen
Academic Equitation, General Decarpentry – A classic work, but I admit that I did not agree with much of it. But still worth a read, if only to understand references to it.
The Principles of Riding, German National Equestrian Federation – My copy of this, and the follow-up book (below) are nearly two decades old. I love these two volumes, but have heard (and seen examples) that it has changed as modern competition Dressage has changed, so I’m not sure I would feel the same about the current versions.
Advanced Techniques of Riding, German National Equestrian Federation
Horsemanship, A Comprehensive Book on Training the Horse and Its Rider, Waldemar Seunig – This is an oft-cited classic work. I don’t know if it’s the length of the book, the style of the author (this is a translation from German), or the fact that it repeated much I’ve read in other works, but I found this one a bit of a slog to get through. Good material, some I’ve quoted on this blog, but not an easy read.