Below the title, the cover of Jane Savoie’s Dressage 101 reads, “The Ultimate Source of Dressage Basics in a Language You Can Understand” and I think a more accurate description could not be made. If you are going to pick one single book to best learn about dressage, from defining “on the bit” and learning to do the elusive “half halt” and continuing on right up the levels through advanced movements, this is the best book I’ve come across. It is an easy read with clear definitions, step by step instructions, and beautiful illustrations. Jane has such a knack for breaking down difficult concepts and making them easy to understand that even someone unfamiliar with dressage could pick up this book and quickly get an understanding of the basics.
To put it in perspective, those who know me know I’m a voracious reader, and I have a large library of horse books. Most of them are neatly organized on the shelf, with the “favorites” that I re-read over and over on the top-middle shelf. But Jane’s book didn’t even make it to that shelf. It lives in the place of highest honor, on the coffee table in the living room. It’s the book I’ll pick up to read a random chapter when I have a few minutes to kill, or the one I’ll reference for ideas when I need a new way of explaining something to a student. When the living room needs to be cleaned up, this book gets moved to the nightstand- there’s no point actually putting it away just to take it out again…
So, besides being easy to understand, what does this book have that others don’t? Pictures!!!! Tons and tons of full color photographs, showing both what a movement should look like, as well as what they look like when done incorrectly. This is so great for visual learners, and I love to send my students to study pictures so that they come to their lessons with a clear understanding of what they are supposed to be doing. So often words fail to convey a concept, or it would take too many words to explain how and where every part of the horse should be to correctly ride a movement. A really good picture not only does what all those words cannot, it also plants the image in the mind, so the body can recall all those pieces without having to think through piece by piece by piece. When in the saddle, the position and aids need to happen so quickly that by the time I get the words out “Put your leg here, and squeeze this rein, now press this leg….” the moment has already passed. But when the rider can visualize how a rider sat in a picture, many body parts can be coordinated in a single moment, without getting the brain involved with part-by-part instructions. This is one HUGE piece missing from many riders’ educations… not enough time spent watching and studying other riders, both in motion and in pictures, and internalizing how all the parts work. Jane’s book is a wealth of excellent, clear pictures for study. Even if you don’t like reading, I bet your riding will improve by studying the pictures and captions (and I bet you’ll get intrigued enough to read the book anyways, but that’s besides the point…).
The other thing this book does exceptionally well is start at the VERY beginning. Most dressage books seem to assume the horse and rider already have a sort of base-level ability. Jane starts one aid at a time, and gives you steps to teach your horse any piece that is missing from the foundation work (which will benefit non-dressage riders/horses as well). The way she lays it out, it’s easy to read through and try a few things on your horse to double check you have those basics right and move on to the part you’re ready to start at, or to fill in any gaps. It’s often holes in the foundation causing troubles with more advanced movements, so having this reminder of all the little pieces that make a solid foundation is a great way to trouble shoot upper level problems as well. She also refers back to some of these early lessons as she discusses more advanced movements and some the things that can go wrong, making it very easy to see how logical and progressive training is. So basically no matter what level you’re working at, you’ll find good advice in this book that is easy to understand, and even more importantly, easy to apply. You won’t fall asleep reading this, instead it’ll be the inspiration you need to go get on your horse and have a productive ride!
In addition to this being an excellent, enjoyable read you are sure to reference over and over throughout your journey up the levels, ordering it by clicking the link below will also help support me and my efforts to continue training ottb’s, learning and sharing as I go in an effort to help riders everywhere to ride better and find success even on unlikely horses. I only get a dollar here or there, but every little bit helps, and Remy has some big show goals this year so your help is very much appreciated! Please click, order, and share!