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Episode 74: Anja Beran Part 1: What Is Classical Dressage and Why Use Bits?

This episode begins a very special series. In July I attended Anja Beran’s Annual International Workshop. I was accompanied by eight other clicker trainers. At the end of the week Anja sat down with us for an evening of questions. I began by asking Anja for her definition of classical dressage. From there the conversation ranged over a variety of questions, including one from Heather Binns on the use of bits, spurs, and whips. I know many in the clicker training community are unequivocally opposed to the use of these tools. But when you hear Anja’s explanation of how she uses these tools it, it may not change your mind for your own practice, but it may help you to understand why others choose to use them. This is a double decker episode. Dominique was not able to join us for the interview, but I wanted her reaction to Anja’s interview. When she first heard Anja talking about bits and spurs, she sent me a distressed email. Why are we presenting this interview? She had heard similar words from other trainers. Everyone says whips are arm extenders, but what she has seen is at some point they aren’t used to just point, they are used to hit. The words she was hearing at first made her very uncomfortable. She was not at the Workshop so she had not watched Anja Beran’s training as I have done now over three years. She has not seen the horses nor has she experienced what I also know - you can ride horses into soundness. But after listening to Parts 2 and 3 of the interview, Dominique came to understand that Anja Beran very much shares our ethical foundation. The welfare of the horse sits first and foremost at the center of her training. This is an important interview. I feel very privileged that Anja spent so much time with our group. It was a great pleasure to spend the week watching her beautiful horses. It is important to preserve classical dressage. It is part of our riding heritage and there is much that can be learned from the old masters that is of benefit to our horses. I hope you enjoy this interview.

series with Anja Beran.

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