Book Review: Piaffe-Passage and Work in Hand by Mitja Demitrij Cernac

When I was first asked to review this book I was quick to point out that I am not riding at the Grand Prix level where Piaffe and Passage are part of the test. I have only worked on piaffe or passage with my coach on the ground to help me and it is done as an exercise to improve something else we are working on. So I explained that I could review the book and comment on the layout and ease of understanding the content but I could not comment on the training methods put forward in the book. So here goes….

PIAFFE is the first part of the book. There is a clear explanation of what constitutes a good piaffe, what we should look for when watching a horse piaffe, and what aids should be given to achieve the piaffe, both when working in hand, and when mounted. Finally the book describes what problems can be encountered in piaffe. There are clear diagrams of how to recognize a good piaffe and one that is fulfilling all the requirements.

There are also photos of internationally known riders executing piaffe correctly. Here is Tina Vilhelmson Silfven on Don Aurelio.

PASSAGE is covered in the second part of the book. The passage is described, and the aids to achieve it are described both for in hand work and mounted work . There are also a clear description of the problems that can arise and how the passage can go wrong.

The book concludes with the work of transitions ( ie. walk -piaffe, piaffe- trot, piaffe- passage etc) that are used to develop the passage. Again there are photos of well executed passage.

There are also photos of riders who are doing the movements badly. These photos have been photo-shopped to conceal the identity of both horse and rider. Horses markings have been changed and riders faces have been changed.

As I said at the beginning I am not an expert of piaffe or passage but I think this book adheres to the classic principles of the movements and most importantly emphasizes good treatment of the horse in the learning process of these high level movements.

8 Comments Add yours

  1. Mitja D. Cernac says:

    I always stress the fact that the horse to learn a movement properly, has to understand it. Mechanically repeating it hundreds of times equals a training of a trick to the poodle (i.e. in german puddledressur). It is the teachers duty that his (hers) pupil understand him (her). To train properly, the trainer has to understand the anatomy of the horse as well as horse psychology and use it accordingly. Forcing will get you nowhere. trainer should always ask – How do I explain this matter to this particular horse – they have different ways of understanding, much the same as humans do.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. saraannon says:

    I keep up my hope that one day these types of books will show the actual bone structure and biomechanics of the horse in movement. And I am always deeply disappointed when they disregard the forty years worth of research showing the vertebrae in a horse’s spine work more like the gears in a transmission than like a bridge or a bow. Good riders feel when the movement is right regardless of they frame their ideas but so many horses suffer because those who don’t have the feel try to force the horse into moving according to ideas that should have been given up decades ago…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      I understand what you are saying. There have been books written on the topic of the horse’s spine and the neck and how they are contorted by some riders to attain a certain “look”. But I have not been asked to review those books. This one at least does not encourage forcing the horse into these advanced movements with too much speed and coercion.

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      1. saraannon says:

        Yes and the good riders are lovely to see. It’s learning that the rationale for parenting electric spurs comes directly from Steinbrecht’s Gymnasium of the horse along with reading the recent study concluding that 75% of riding horses are clinically lame and their riders are oblivious that distressed me…along with the local dressage crowd insisting that it is normal for training level horses to become lame…

        Liked by 1 person

        1. anne leueen says:

          The whole electric spur thing is dreadful. Why on earth do you need electric spurs? And I would know the minute I got on my horse if he was lame and my coach would never teach me if he was even slightly uneven. I cannot imagine why a training level horse should be consistently lame. Things happen and horses are lame due to an abscess or other injury caused by paddock hi jinks but it should be an unusual occurrence.

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          1. saraannon says:

            Your blog cheers me up. It’s great to see Correct movement and cheerful horses.

            Liked by 1 person

          2. saraannon says:

            And I can’t imagine deciding between spurring my horse’s sides bloody and electric shocks. But it seems there are a distressing number of people who think that’s ok….

            Liked by 1 person

          3. anne leueen says:

            Horses are too forgiving.

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