Country diary

Sylvia Loch demo
Sylvia Loch demo

Photographs of a demonstration for the local horse festival two years ago inspired leading classical rider and author Sylvia Loch to put pen to paper.

The Balanced Horse, the Aids by Feel not Force, was commissioned and published by Kenilworth Press at the end of last month.

The Kelso-based author’s eighth book is her last.

She told The Southern: “I always said I would stop writing horse books when I felt I had said it all. What was different about this one was the photos. Once I saw them, I knew I had to do another book. “

More than 300 people attended the dressage expert’s show for the Borders Festival of the Horse at Ladykirk, near Berwick, in 2011.

“The pictures said it all. They were much more natural and captivating than anything else I had ever seen.

“Moreover, as I explained the aids, showing my methods at that moment in time, there was a photograph for every single sequence you could think of.

“All this is much more convincing than posing for ‘pretty pictures’. It shows riding for real, reacting to what the horse needs to feel, or requires in each and every moment or movement.”

She feels the Olympics last year saw a return to more traditional, classical riding which, she said: “I have always argued is the only way to ride a horse, ethically, kindly and in a way which he understands.

“For ages, this was rejected.

“I often felt judges were looking for power rather than the total giving of the horse to the rider in dressage tests.

“The culture has been the same in many riding schools. Teachers and trainers still tend to concentrate on how to make the horse do something rather than how to ask.

“ Without understanding the latter, riding often ends in force or coercion.”

And the aim of her latest book is to confirm what riders should and should not be doing when giving aids to ask the horse for certain action.

She explained: “In classical riding you have to work with the biomechanics and psychology of the horse so that you put him into a position of balance, where it’s easy for him to give you what you want.

“In other words, you make it possible ... rather than demanding something that is hard for him to understand in the first place.”

The 68-year-old, originally from Edinburgh, was brought up in the pony club and hunting worlds, “but my knowledge of horses changed dramatically when I went to live in Portugal from l969 to 1979”, she said.

For there she met her late husband, a cavalry instructor who rode in the Iberian way and who introduced her to it too.

Back in Britain, she founded the Lusitano Breed Society of Great Britain in 1984 and The Classical Riding Club in 1995. She is the only British person to be awarded an honorary instructorship by the Portuguese School of Equestrian Art. She has given demonstrations around the world, including the Queen’s riding school at Buckingham Palace. Students come from far and wide for lessons at her yard. She has judged all over the world and writes part of the programme for the Spanish Riding School of Vienna when they visit the UK.

Later this year she will cast her eye over competitors at the Lusitano Annual Show.