Sangre de Reyes




Classical Riding Academy

The Online Learning Center:

The Virtual Classicist

Classical development of the dressage horse
Classical development of horses  for other disciplines

In hand work
Long line work
Doma Vaquera


Alta Escuela: High School
General Horsemanship
Helping the rider to overcome FEAR 

Classical Dressage Training

Work In Hand

Successful training is enhanced greatly by the very essential work in hand. Dr. Babits stresses this in her training and work.

Work in hand is wonderful for keeping a trained horse fit and tuned up, starting a young horse, and rehabilitating injured or older horses.

Individual exercise are used such as lateral work, transitions, piaffe, Spanish Walk to further develop the horse. Additionally, work on the long lines is practiced.

Starting Horses

All young horses begin their training with working in hand. They learn basic transitions, roundness, balance, and some collection, along with lateral work as their foundation. Once under saddle work is begun, attention is focused on using the rider's weight and seat to ask the horse for work. Horses are started using a serreta, which is a leather noseband with rings attached. The horse is ridden off of the rider's seat and weight, and only the reins on the nose are used for direction and refinement if necessary. The horse wears a bit and is gradually transferred over time into the bit. This process preserves the sensitivity of the horse's mouth for complete and utter lightness.

Resistance/Behavior Training

  "A "thinking" trainer will always ask "Why" is the horse resisting--is the resistance stemming from discomfort or pain, or is it actually behaviorial?. Our goal in training is to prevent resistances. As an equine veterinarian, I am able to approach a resistance objectively and assess the horse for tightness in muscles, lameness, dental problems, or for other myriad problems that can afflict the horse. I decided on becoming an equine veterinarian so I could objectively make that determination when training horses--is it pain related or behavior stemming from Horse-Human Herd issues? I specialize in working with problem horses--they are not problematic, simply communicating with us if we choose to listen and hear them!"

General Horsemanship

"Basically, I enjoy helping horses, which means I enjoy helping people help their horses! Because of my diversity in the horse industry, I enjoy working with all types of horses and riders not necessarily in the discipline of dressage or classical riding. General horsemanship, the practice of observing, listening to, and modifying responses from the horse is a great art. I want to be able to help as many horses and riders achieve harmony, lightness, and sensitivity."

Work In Hand

Work in hand should be an integral part of the development of every horse, whether they are young horses growing prior to work under saddle, well schooled horses, or horses undergoing rehabilitation or retraining processes. Work in hand if done properly, puts the horse and person on the same level, and helps to develop a proper language of understanding between the two, a beautiful dialog in which both parties can understand each other. Work in hand should commence with riding the horse in mind. It is taught with aids that will mirror those in the saddle for various movements. It teaches about ENERGY forces, and how to utilize those produced by the horse, as well as your own to direct and teach the horse.


The purpose of the in hand work is to develop communication, balance, strength, straightness, concepts of forward, and muscle memory in the various movements, making it much easier for the horse when under saddle. Basic transitions in all gaits, and lateral work are very important aspects of in hand work. Shoulder in, renvers, travers, half pass, walk pirouettes, turn on the forehand in its variations, and the lateral work performed on curved lines and circles all will be utilized. the education of the piaffe begins in the transitions, and the reinback work, and is begun very early to develop balance and strength in the horse. If the horse is advanced in his schooling, and has aptitude that he has displayed, then work in the airs above the ground begins with the piaffe and in hand work development. Work in the pillars on select cases is also performed. A focus in particular on how CONSISTENT body language when asking for movements is emphasized to help both horse and rider. Working toward utmost lightness where horse perceives the person's body language and performs is the goal of the work during the entire process. 


The beauty in the work in the riendas largas, or long lines, is that you can begin to get a feel for what riding the horse will be like, for each individual horse. You will learn to be attentive and observant, a constant listener, to ascertain the horses degree of forwardness, balance, strengths, and weaknesses, and especially straightness.


One can easily begin to develop proper straightness of the horse in the long lines so that when a rider is on the horse's back, there is a degree of straightness (and therefore balance, strength, and suppleness) already in place. This promotes future soundness in the horse's development mentally and physically. 


If the work in hand has been properly prepared and applied, the work in the long lines is easily an extension of it. A key focus is placed on transitions in all gaits, collection, extension to develop suppleness, and the lateral movements in particular.


I find the horse much more easily understands and develops the lateral work under saddle if first having mastered it in the long lines. As the horse's education in the long lines proceeds, the work in piaffe and Spanish Walk can be explored.


When teaching other riders to work in the long lines, there is attention to detail: observations of the horse's attitude, movement, straightness, any resistances, and of course, the safety of both horse and trainer.Yes, it can be physically taxing, but is rewarding! In the riendas largas, attention to lightness during the entire process of its development is paramount!

Riendas Largas/Long Lines


Doma Vaquera

Doma Vaquera is a traditional Spanish discipline born out of working the horses in the campo, or country. It is beautiful, exhilarating, LIGHT, horses and rider working together, controlled, yet fast at times. It is NOT the types of cowboy dressage and western dressage practiced today, and not the garrocha seen at these events!!!! True doma vaquera is a quest for oneness with the horse, proper development of the horse in a classical manner, and also is a journey for utmost expression and lightness!!! It is used to handle the cattle in Spain, most of which, are fighting bulls, and therefore, the horse must learn to place extreme trust in the rider, and move with utmost of quickness and agility while remaining calm. There are specific movements to doma vaquera, but FORWARD, STRAIGHT, CALM, Steinbrecht's main classical principles, are the foundation for this work as is the lateral work. The horse must display a great deal of impulsion, in the walk and canter, the two main gaits where doma vaquera at the medium to higher levels is practiced. Rhythm, balance, suppleness, strength, collection, and lightness all are key principles in the development of the doma vaquera horse. They must be forward thinking at all times.


Lateral work such as the shoulder in, half pass, and full pass are taught, along with walk pirouettes, turn on the haunches, and turn on the forehand IN the direction of movement (reverse pirouette). Canter work includes counter canter, circles, flying changes, half pass, pirouettes. Walk and canter are shown in both collected and extended paces, to full gallop in the canter work.

Specific work in doma vaquera consists of the Doma Vaquera Pirouette (Vuelta sobre las patas); the Media Vuelta sobre las patas which is the half turn on the hind legs; La Parada a Raya, a quck halt without the horse sliding, and stopping quickly from a gallop with relaxed poll and jaw; Arremtida, a reinback to walk sequence; Arrear, Templar, doblar, which is from halt to gallop (the quickness and air time from halt to gallop), slowing down from gallop (templar), an then turning, speeding up again. 


My mentor schooled me in doma vaquera, and I was lucky to compete at the advanced level, while also bringing along some young horses in the basico to intermedio levels. He worked very hard to bring it to America, establishing tests, and educating riders. However, it has fallen to the wayside. It is fun, exciting, beautiful, and classically traditional. Help me get it raging in America by coming to learn!!!!


La Garrocha

The apparent artistic representation of la garrocha is becoming more common place in America now, particularly in cowboy dressage and other western performances. However, it has been adapted to their purposes and uses, and not upheld by its traditional sense or representation. These performances are not good representations of what la garrocha is or its purpose.

To be a garrochista is a very honorable title to have bestowed upon oneself. One must be adept at using it while working cattle in the fields. The typical garrocha is not a wooden dowel or curtain rod as often seen now. It has a keen balance, and is typically 14' long (4.27m), with the end more tapered, and wider at the base for where the hand grips it. The narrower tip holds a metal point or spear at the end. It is not a training tool. It is a working tool, used in helping to work the tough bulls out in the country. However, it can also be used artistically for performance. La garrocha and doma vaquera go hand in hand, and a garrochista will also be well versed in doma vaquera.


Doma vaquera is ridden with one hand, as is work with the garrocha. La garrocha becomes an extension of the centaur like connections of the horse's and rider's body. The traditional performance of la garrocha is full of expression, lightness, and tremendous communication between horse and rider. It should make you "feel."


Doma Clasica: Classical Dressage

There is but one dressage. Classical.


The principles of classical dressage are designed to properly over time develop the horse's mind and body into the lightness and beauty while carrying a rider that he would exhibit in the freedom of the field. It is not contrived, nor forced. It is not mechanized, nor robotic. It takes time.


From the beginnings of work in hand, the long lines, through the under saddle work, classical principles and development of the horse's education (and rider's) with lightness in the forefront, along with a relaxed and willing equine partner, shape and mold the classical horse.

Doma Clasica: Classical Dressage

My position can best be stated in this little brief post to social media: 

Classical Riding. Classical Dressage. Classical Horsemanship.

Permit me for a second to speak about something as close to my heart as life: the misuse of the word classical. I fear greatly in this world today how much the word "classical" (as well as lightness) is being misconstrued, misused, abused, and strewn about like leaves riding on a whirlwind without essence to its true meaning. It has become like the word "dressage," and "doma vaquera" and so many other far from its true meaning. It is used to sell, used to garner more people into the clutches of clinics, lessons, all in the name of money. Yet, very few actually practice that which is truly classical, truly classical riding and classical dressage.


Now, if a clinic or lesson has the word classical attached to it, it must be good, it must be softer and better for the horse. Yet, the principles of true classical riding are so rarely being practiced, and I include traditional doma vaquera on this too (in terms of people using the term in the US, and not truly riding DV), as what I see are horses that are not truly forward, not straight, not bending correctly, being thrown away by the reins and seat so the horses always are light, when they aren't light; being thrown away by the seat and hands in the name of softness.


True classical riding is FOR THE HORSE, and the rider's/trainer's/clinician's/instructor's part in this is to ensure the physical and mental development and soundness of the horse and in so doing, developing a beautiful partnership and connection. And, it takes years, and time, and hard work, and thinking and frustration, and heart and guts, and there is no glory. My Masters would be rolling over in their graves right now at the current state of affairs in the ugly, forced modern dressage, and the "dressages" all over the place now...we have western dressage, cowboy dressage, dressage, competitive dressage, classical dressage...Yet, these are for people, not horses. True, classical dressage is very rarely practiced. People talk about it, use its name, but the horses don't lie. Dressage, horsemanship, or whatever you choose to market or call it must be practiced for what it is, for the betterment of the horse according to THE CLASSICAL PRINCIPLES. Let's all think before we throw around the word classical. 

I leave you with a quote:

"Careful, danger! When talking to riders about impulsion, they tend to push; when you mention lightness to them, they tend to throw the reins away. The rider who leaves a horse on his own in the name of lightness is not working but is just strolling with his horse. The one who pushes and pulls is a wild person." --Nuno Oliveira


Alta Escuela:  High School

The alta escuela is the highest development of the classical dressage horse.


Here, the horse displays extreme lightness, and performs the piaffe, passage, jambette, pirueta inversa sobre tres remos (pirouette on three legs), Spanish Walk (Paso Espanol), Spanish Trot (Trote Espanol), and the airs above the ground, including levade, capriole (la Cabriola), courbette (la corveta), Elevada, terre-a-terre,piaffe forward and back, canter in place, and canter to the rear ( galope in mismo sitio y atras).


My mentor once told me, what do those who have won an Olympic medal in competitive dressage have to look forward  to now or try to achieve? His answer, was always pursuit of alta escuela, for there is no higher art an relationship with a horse than that. 


In the realm of alta escuela, the classical principles of developing the horse are honed and practiced with lightness always in mind, such that over time, the horse learns to develop the most advanced movements. For those who show certain aptitudes for the airs, they can be further developed. Only if the horse is structurally built for and able to perform airs, should they be taught, and ONLY if the horse displays aptitude. 


Nothing contrived or forced can be art, and the highest art from between horse and rider can be seen in the lightness and oneness in alta escuela work. 


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Dr Bessie Babits

Mimbres, NM 87564

(575) 779-2466 (click to call)


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