Dedicated to my wife,
and to our children,
David, Andrea, Miguel, Cristina
This love for horses started early in my life. I was too young to remember the first time I rode a horse. My father, David M. Billikopf, used to take me on the saddle with him before I could walk. Later, it was the farm workers who taught me little by little how to ride "a la chilena" (the Chilean way) at our vineyard in San Javier de Loncomilla, in the Chilean Central Valley. The Chilean saddle is a most comfortable saddle with sheep skins and formed to your seat, so it is almost impossible to fall off.
It was not until I first saw my first photograph of a horse and rider from the Spanish Riding School performing a courbette that I was totally hooked on dressage, not just on horses. I remember when my brothers Nicolás and Iván gave me my first dressage book. I was so disappointed because I thought that the author had stolen some of my ideas about the half halt. That was in 1968 and I was 14. The book was: Entrenamiento del caballo de equitación by Ernst Altstadt.
That same year I began taking formal lessons from Teniente Carlos Carmona, a former Chilean police officer from the Cuadro Verde. This was a gift from my mother, María Encina Bezanilla. The first week I took seat development; the second week I took seat development and jumping (going over barrels on their sides); and the third week I took seat development and advanced jumping (going over barrels that were upright). I worked on seat development and jumping every single week after that while my lessons lasted, and left the country about two years later.
I continued to read all this time. Soon after we arrived to the US, I remember that while my parents and siblings were enjoying Central Park in New York City, I was sitting on a park bench reading Podhajsky, riding each movement in my mind over and over again, page after page. So while in a way I was horseless, in another I still had my mind to daydream.
I took some jumper and hunter seat classes in New Canaan in my second year there, once again, thanks to a gift from my mother who could tell I felt totally naked without a horse. At the end of my senior year I was 17 and started teaching riding at a wonderful summer camp in Vermont. I was bragging that I had never been thrown by a horse, so the old ranch hand put me to a test and gave me Bonnie to ride. She tried to buck me off, but since she was not successful, the ranch hand congratulated me and had me take her around the track at a gallop. I was not even half-way around when Bonnie pulled a James Bond car trick on me and I found myself flying through the air, only to land back on her neck. The mare continued to gallop around with me holding on as one would from a branch in a tree. Pride did not permit me to just fall off, so I managed to put my knee between her chest muscles and slow her down and finally climb back on without ever touching the ground. I had saved Bonnie from being sold. So my first official dump-off would just have to wait. Bonnie and I become great friends and she taught me as much as I taught her during the two summers I worked there. I gave up a trip with my family to Europe and one crossing the United States to work there, and I have never regretted it.
I started my agricultural classes at the University of California that second fall, while I was 17, and one of the first things that happened was that I was given the opportunity to teach all of the English riding classes there. I also bought a horse, Copihue. After four years at UCD, I got a job working at a Combined Training farm in Napa in 1976, where as a coincidence, the Riding Master there was Capitán Camilo O'Kuinghttons, of Chile, and Christine Chatousse-Sauvignon, of France. Camilo had been a member of the Chilean Olympic Squad and taught Combined Training.
In 1977, my wife and I traveled back to Chile, where I met Comandante Antonio Piraino; he was the Director of the Chilean Dressage Squad, and had been doing this for 16 years. He had participated in the Olympics and won the Silver Medal in Dressage at the Pan American Games in Cali, Colombia. I was introduced to him by a friend of the family. Comandante Piraino took me out to San Bernardo, where his horses where kept. We began doing the equivalent of a first level test and moved all the way up to Olympic level, changing one horse after the next, all day long, except for time for lunch at the Officerís Dinning Hall.
Comander Piraino had me get off one of the first one of his horseís that I rode and showed me how I had done in the half-pass at the canter. Wow, that looks good, I thought, only to have my bubble burst when he told me it was wrong, as I was allowing the hindquarters to lead. Then he showed me how to do it correctly. What a difference! That night I was doing half-passes, flying changes, and all sort of movements all throughout in my dreams. Piraino liked my riding and there was a standing invitation for me to ride with him every day, all as a gift from this great and wonderful man. One day he asked me to ask the horse to perform a passage. "What are the aids?" I inquired. His answer surprised me, "Do that which you think you should." I did, and got the passage.
Every time I went to Chile, there was that standing invitation, which I took every opportunity to enjoy, to ride under the instruction of Comandante Antonio Piraino. The next great riding master I learned from was Reiner Klimke, by watching his ten tape dressage series. I continued to ride, teach, read and daydream to the point where I do not know for sure where each idea originated.
My love for horses flows from both sides of the family. Jacob Billikopf, my paternal grandfather, loved horses, as did Francisco Antonio Encina on my motherís side. Although the latter was not a direct ancestor, there is well documented love f or horses on my maternal side of the family.
Since 1981, I have been working for the University of California Agricultural Extension doing research and promoting effective labor management practices among farm employers. I taught dressage for over 20 years and while at this time family and work responsibilities have kept me away from horses, I thought I would share this book and thoughts with you meanwhile, until I can do so in person and have time to ride, train, and teach again.
I am filled with gratitude for what has been given to me. As I said earlier, it would be difficult to pinpoint each thing that I have learned and where I learned it. It has all been incorporated into my feeling for dressage. Much of what I have written here, then, is based on what I have learned from the Masters, both directly and through the records they have left, as well as things I learned from the horses directly and through continual application of the principles. Even though in the subtitle I use the words, "Classical approach based on the traditions of the Chilean Riding School," the influence is truly international in nature: not only is the dressage in Chile influenced heavily by the international dressage community, but this work includes the influence of the Spanish Riding School, the French Cadre Noir, and the Olympic Dressage riders from the nations of the world.
I would like to acknowledge the following:
A loving Creator, for providing me with a feel for riding and a love for horses.
Prepared riding teachers, who have influenced my riding and encouraged me; who have helped me grasp some of the finer points of riding. The riding teachers I have had can be separated into those who have taught me (1) in person, and (2) through their books. And, of course, the hundreds of horses who have made it possible.
-Comandante Antonio Piraino V. (Chile)
-Capitán Camilo O'Kuinghttons (Chile)
-Christine Chatousse-Sauvignon (France)
-Teniente Carlos Carmona Kopp (Chile)
Books & Videos:
-Alois Podhajsky, The Complete Training of Horse & Rider In The Principles of Classical Horsemanship. Doubleday & Co. 1967.
-Alois Podhajsky, The Art of Dressage: Basic Principles of Riding and Judging, Doubleday and Co. 1976.
-Waldemar Seuning, Horsemanship: A Comprehensive Book on The Horse and its Rider, Doubleday & Co. 1956.
-General Albert Eugene Edouard Decarpentry, Academic Equitation, J. A. Allen & Co., 1977.
-Colonel Albert Eugene Edouard Decarpentry, Piaffer and Passage, John Howell Books, 1961.
-Reiner Klimke, Die Dressur, Studio Lorenz Video Produktion, Teol 1 - 10 (Tapes in English).
Horses & Students, who allowed me to experiment with my ideas.
I would like to thank Kathryn King Johnson for kindly proofreading this publication as I transfer it into the Web. Any faults that remain are the author's.
The idea of writing a book on equitation has been a dream for me since I was a youth. For years, every time I went into a book store I went to the horse section to see if perchance there was a new dressage book. I finished my first draft of this book in December 1977. I completed the third revision by August 1986. I decided in the spring of 1999 that it was time to put it on the Web for others to enjoy.
We have much information on riding that saves us from having to re-create the information every generation anew. The rider who has never had information passed on to him from the past generations would probably never achieve the high levels of equitation. This is especially true for the dressage rider.
Each generation has the opportunity to further expand their skills and pass these on to the newer generations-or to slide back and lose ground. More so than most skills, riding necessitates a thorough mix between practice and theory.
Because of the large gap between those who know about riding and those who do not, it sometimes appears as if riding knowledge were a secret or a magical thing. It is not. The purpose of this book is to share detailed information of experiences I have gained through years of riding and studying dressage both on and off the horse. It is my hope that these words will help riders and instructors unlock some of the mysteries of training and riding the dressage horse. Sometimes it helps to hear an explanation from another person.
You will have to determine which comments in this book have merit. It is thus my obligation to be convincing if I expect readers to give my suggestions a try. Even though at times my opinions will sound very dogmatic, this is born of enthusiasm and passion for this beautiful sport and art. I look forward to your comments and suggestions, so this book can become more useful. I would suggest that you give the book a quick reading to get a feeling for the principles and philosophy. Then you can concentrate on those chapters that apply to your present work. It is as these principles are put to work that they will make most sense. I certainly have enjoyed writing and testing these principles.
This is a sport where men and women compete as equals, and a sport that can be enjoyed even unto old age. Perhaps the most brilliant rider and horse combination I have ever seen was that of Anne-Grethe Jensenís (Denmark). I apologize to those whom I may offend for using the first person singular masculine. I felt it was better than the rather awkward "he or she" throughout the book.
© 1999-2010 Gregorio Billikopf
All rights reserved.
No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the written permission of the author. Printing this electronic Web page is permitted for personal, non-commercial use as long as the author is credited and copyright notice included.
A Passion for Dressage
Table of Contents
19 May 2010