All the points of the Skala of Dressage are important. But one that always troubles me the most is straightness.

Like a human being every horse is crooked by nature. Which gets worse when we crooked people sit on their backs. And it is your duty as a rider to make Lees meer


Engagement can be explained  as forward energy, ask for and controlled by the rider, delivered by the horse without tension. The horse moves forward freely, swinging his hindlegs more under his body with each stride. This engagement is necessary for the correct contact.

A lot of times this is confused with going fast. It has nothing to do with speed. A horse can go very slow and be super engaged (collection), whereas Lees meer

The contact

The next item in the Scala of Dressage is the contact. Also a matter that causes a lot of confusion. With contact in riding we mean the elastic connection between the hand of the rider and the mouth of the horse. The connection is made by the rider but -and this is where it gets difficult- accepted and sought by the horse. So it means that the rider should take up the reins, but the horse then has to reach for the contact and be soft and light…

Why on earth would he do so? Well, it is not just a simple matter of the front end and things you do with your hands. Oh no, contact is so much more. Lees meer



The scala of dressage states a horse should move freely forward with natural movements in all gaits. ‘Relaxation’ is the next point. And it can be quite confusing. If a horse is truly relaxed, it is asleep.

You need a certain muscle tone to perform. Relaxation in de scala is working without tension. But not only the absence of tension, it is also a state Lees meer

The natural rhythm of trot

Trot is a two beat movement. The diagonal pair of legs is lifted up simultaneously, while the other two are on the ground. Not only the diagonal movement of legs should be equal, also the coordination of movement of front- and hindlegs should match.

You could say that if a horse moves with a lot of front leg action, while he’s dragging his hindlegs, his rhythm is not good. Unfortunately some judges Lees meer

The natural rhythm of walk

So let’s go over the points of the scala in more detail. First the natural rhythm of the gaits. A horse puts his legs down in a certain order in each gate. If he’s restricted by physical problems or by a rider, this rhythm becomes unnatural. If you want to know if the rhythm is pure, you need to know the natural footfall of each gait.

The walk is a four beat movement. Each leg is lifted and put down individually. The front leg is lifted when the hindleg on the same comes near to be Lees meer

‘Modern’ dressage

Germany used to win all the dressage titles the last century. But then came the Dutch.

Anky van Grunsven was our lead women. With her partner Sjef Janssen she worked out her own system of riding, which very soon was referred to as ‘modern Lees meer



Physiotherapist Saskia Heykants is always looking for improvement. Hence the reason for her to ask Maarten van Stek whether she could possibly pay him a visit. ‘It intrigued me how he manages with his one arm to train a horse into the Grand Prix. That is unusual to say the least. I think we can all learn from that.’

Saskia is fascinated by rider position and seat. How, as a rider, can you become more efficient with your aids through your seat, that is what she is Lees meer

The scala of dressage out of the window

Last time I explained the scala of dressage is the backbone riders are holding onto for centuries. As do I, when things get difficult. However, Anky van Grunsven is not too keen on it. And what she says makes sense.

The six points of the scala in the right order are: rhythm, relaxation, contact, energy, straightness and collection. Anky finds the scala too rigid Lees meer