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Gustav Steinbrecht’s “Gymnasium des Pferdes” is one of the great milestones of equestrian literature, alongside Xenophon, de Pluvinel, Newcastle, and de la Gueriniere. It forms a connection and transition between two eras. One the one hand, it is the culmination point of the equestrian literature of the late 18th century and 19th century that, under the influence of the Industrial Revolution, tried to explain equine biomechanics by comparing the horse’s body to a mechanical device.
On the other hand, it forms the theoretical foundation for the German army training manual H. Dv. 12(Heeresdienstvorschrift) and its successor, the “Richtlinien fuer Reiten und Fahren” of the German National Federation. The “Gymnasium of the Horse” belongs on every dressage rider’s bookshelf. It’s the kind of book that cannot be glanced through casually, but that needs to be studied, because every word is chosen deliberately, and every sentence is full of knowledge and meaning. It’s a book that needs to be re-read regularly, because with each new reading you will discover something new, and your understanding will evolve and deepen with each reading.
It is a true classic, because it is universally accepted and admired, not only in Germany, but also in the rest of the dressage world, and it contains so much wisdom, so much invaluable advice that even 130 years later it has lost nothing of its relevance. Steinbrecht formulates rules, principles, and guidelines for horse training more concisely and more sharply than almost any other author. His book has really stood the test of time.
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