Horse Riding

What is Alta Escuela riding?

Alta Escuela refers to the “high school” of classical dressage.

This Spanish phrase translates to “high school” and is used to denote advanced dressage movements and techniques that go beyond the basic or “lower” school (Doma Vaquera) of training.

Alta Escuela has its roots in the classical equestrian traditions of Spain.

It’s closely associated with the Spanish Riding School and the tradition of training horses for the military and royal performances.

This style involves advanced dressage movements that require a high level of skill and training for both horse and rider.

These include but are not limited to, movements like the piaffe, passage, pirouettes, and flying changes.

Alta Escuela emphasises the beauty, grace, and precision of both horse and rider.

The horse is trained to respond to the slightest aids from the rider, and the movements are executed with a high degree of control and finesse.

While Alta Escuela can be performed by various breeds, it is most closely associated with the Andalusian horse (also known as the Pure Spanish Horse or PRE).

This breed is known for its agility, sensitivity, and natural aptitude for the high-level dressage movements characteristic of Alta Escuela.

Alta Escuela is considered a part of Spain’s cultural heritage.

It’s not only a riding discipline but also a representation of Spanish history and tradition in equestrianism.

Similar to classical dressage, Alta Escuela is grounded in a philosophy of respect and understanding between horse and rider.

The training is progressive, building from simpler movements to more complex ones over time.

Alta Escuela is often showcased in exhibitions and performances, highlighting the artistic and cultural aspects of the discipline.

There are also competitions specifically for Alta Escuela riders and horses, judging them on the execution of these advanced movements.

Alta Escuela requires dedication, patience, and a deep understanding of equine behaviour and training principles.

Where can you see Alta Escuela riders today?

  1. The Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art: Located in Jerez de la Frontera, Spain, this prestigious institution is famous for its demonstrations of classical dressage, including Alta Escuela. The performances, often referred to as “ballet on horseback,” showcase the skills of both the Andalusian horses and their riders.
  2. Spanish Riding School in Vienna: While primarily known for its Lipizzaner horses and classical dressage, the Spanish Riding School occasionally features elements of Alta Escuela in its performances.
  3. Equestrian festivals and shows: Equestrian festivals and shows, particularly in Spain, often feature Alta Escuela demonstrations. These events are great opportunities to see the discipline displayed alongside other equestrian arts.
  4. Competitions and exhibitions: There are competitions and exhibitions dedicated to Alta Escuela and classical dressage. These events can be found in various countries, especially in Europe.
  5. Special equestrian events: Certain international equestrian events, like the World Equestrian Games or the European Dressage Championships, may include exhibitions or demonstrations of Alta Escuela.
  6. Horse fairs: Traditional horse fairs in Spain, such as the Feria del Caballo in Jerez, often feature Alta Escuela performances as part of their equestrian displays.
  7. Equestrian tours: In some regions, especially in Spain, equestrian tours are offered where visitors can witness training sessions and performances of Alta Escuela.
  8. Online platforms and media: For those who cannot travel, many performances and demonstrations of Alta Escuela are available to watch online through equestrian websites, social media platforms, and video streaming services.

Visiting one of these venues or events provides not only the opportunity to see Alta Escuela riders in action but also to immerse oneself in the broader culture and tradition of equestrian art.

What’s the difference between dressage and Alta Escuela?

Dressage is an equestrian sport that showcases the harmony and sophistication of horse and rider.

It’s based on precise movements and exercises aimed at developing the horse’s physical strength, agility, and balance, while also enhancing the rider’s communication and control.

The fundamental principles of modern dressage were established in the 18th century by notable horsemen such as François Robichon de La Guérinière and Gustav Steinbrecht.

  1. François Robichon de La Guérinière (1688–1751): De La Guérinière is often considered the father of modern dressage. He was a French riding master who wrote “Ecole de Cavalerie” (“School of Horsemanship”), published in the mid-18th century. His work laid down many of the principles that form the basis of modern dressage. He is credited with introducing and refining several key concepts and movements, including the shoulder-in, which is fundamental in dressage training as it promotes suppleness and balance.
  2. Gustav Steinbrecht (1808–1885): Steinbrecht, a German horseman, wrote “Das Gymnasium des Pferdes” (“The Gymnasium of the Horse”), published posthumously in 1886. His work emphasised the gymnastic development of the horse, focusing on building the horse’s muscles and improving its balance and coordination in a methodical manner. Steinbrecht is often quoted for his motto, “Ride your horse forward and straight,” which remains a cornerstone of dressage training.

These horsemen, among others, helped to formalise the principles and techniques of classical dressage, emphasising the importance of harmony between horse and rider, systematic training, and the physical and mental well-being of the horse.

Their teachings have greatly influenced modern dressage and continue to be studied and practised by dressage riders and trainers around the world.

It focuses on achieving a supple, relaxed, and collected horse that responds willingly and effortlessly to the rider’s aids. Through a progressive training system, modern dressage aims to develop the horse’s natural athletic ability and gymnasticise its body.

Alta Esquela, on the other hand, originated in the Iberian Peninsula and is deeply rooted in the traditional horsemanship of the region.

It’s a term that encompasses a variety of equestrian disciplines known for their elegance, artistry, and historical significance.

Alta Esquela often refers to the high school movements that were traditionally performed by horses trained for the battlefield.

Unlike modern dressage, which is governed by standardised rules and movements, Alta Esquela encompasses a more diverse range of movements that showcase the horse’s grace, agility, and responsiveness.

These movements often include the levade (a controlled elevated stance), the capriole (a powerful jump with a kick), and the courbette (a forward leap performed on the hind legs).

While both modern dressage and Alta Esquela share a common goal of developing a harmonious partnership between horse and rider, they differ in their historical origins, training techniques, and specific movements.

Modern dressage is regulated and practised globally as a competitive sport, whereas Alta Esquela is more rooted in the cultural heritage and traditions of the Iberian Peninsula.

You may also like...