Sangre de Reyes Classical Riding Academy, Inc.
Bibiana and Dr. Babits in Levade
Sangre de Reyes Classical Riding Academy is owned and operated by Dr. Elizabeth (Bessie) Babits, BVSc, DVM, a lifelong horsewoman with over thirty years of experience working with horses. That experience has included starting young horses of various breeds, working with horses that have behavioral problems and resistances, classical dressage, alta escuela, doma vaquera, garrocha, airs above the ground, work in hand, long reins, and driving. As an equine veterinarian, she uses her knowledge gained from over 17 years in equine clinical practice to ensure the health and well-being of the horses in training. She epitomizes what the "Celebration of the Horse-Human Bond" truly means, and practices what she preaches. Harmony in lightness throughout the training of the horse is a key element of her work. Expression, animation, physical and mental soundness of the horse, brilliance, creation of partnerships between horses and riders that become one, and development of that harmonious fusion into a masterful work of art become the ethereal goals of her level and type of traditional classical work. Instead of adhering to techniques and methods which denote rigidity, she has designed four main classical principles to which she adheres to and by which she develops the individuality of her program for each horse or horse and rider combination. It is the quest for the higher dimensional plane of existence between horse and rider through true and pure lightness in classical riding that becomes the ultimate high level of achievement that she strives for. If you are willing to become a student of the horse, to invest the focus, discipline, time, passion, and love for the horse into the classical equestrian arts, then Dr. Babits will grandly welcome you into the lightness of artistic academic classical equitation. Bienvenidos a todos...
Classical Dressage/Doma Clasica
The principles of classical dressage are designed to properly over time develop the horse's mind and body into the lightness, equilibrium, and beauty with a rider that he would exhibit in the freedom of the field. It is not contrived, nor forced. It is not mechanized, nor robotic. From the beginnings of work in hand to long reins, and then the under saddle work, classical principles and development of the horse's education (and rider's) with lightness always in the forefront, along with a relaxed and willing equine partner, shape and mold the classical horse.
CLASSICAL RIDING. CLASSICAL DRESSAGE. CLASSICAL HORSEMANSHIP. THERE IS ONLY ONE.
"Permit me for a moment 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, 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 terms...so far from its true meaning. It is used to sell, used to garner more people into the clutches of clinics and lessons, all in the name of money. Yet, very few actually practice that which is truly classical riding, truly classical dressage.
In this modern world, 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. However, the principles of true classical riding are so rarely being practiced, and I include traditional doma vaquera as well (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 round over the back, not straight or bending correctly. Often they are being thrown away by the reins and seat so the horses always are "light," when they aren't in lightness or self carriage at all.
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. It takes years, and time, and hard work, and thinking and frustration, and heart and grit, 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. These are for people, not horses. There is but one dressage for the well-being of the horse. People talk about classical riding, 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.
Sangre de Reyes Classical Riding Academy teaches true classical dressage and classical principles. It is not a rushed or hurried practice. It takes time, humility, and the desire to bare oneself to the horse while maintaining a fierce passion to learn and strive forward without any ego whatsoever. If your aim is purely selfish in form, to garner a certain movement for a show, or to win ribbons solely, and there is not regard for the horse, please look elsewhere. Here, at Sangre de Reyes, we educate, delving into the depths of the horse and academic equitation, using movements as exercises for the horse's development or to alleviate or negate a resistance. If you are not prepared to do the work, please go elsewhere. We are here for THE HORSE." --Dr. Elizabeth Babits
Alta Escuela is the highest development of the classical dressage horse. The horse displays extreme lightness, performing as of his own will, and executes the piaffe, passage, Spanish walk, Spanish trot, jambette, pirueta inversa sobre tres ramos, and the high airs, the Airs Above the Ground. The Airs include levade, capriole (la cabriola), courbette (la corveta), passade, ballotade, terre-a-terre, canter in place and canter to the rear. There is no higher art and relationship between horse and rider than in the alta escuela. It is the epitome of that deep connective bond.
In the realm of alta escuela, the classical principles of developing the horse are honed and practiced with great lightness always in mind, such that over time, the horse learns to develop the most advanced movements. For those horses who demonstrate certain aptitudes for the airs, they can be further developed, but only if the horse is structurally built for and able to perform these airs.
Nothing contrived or forced with resistance can be considered as practicing or creating art. The highest artful masterpiece between horse and rider can be demonstrated in the lightness and oneness in alta escuela work. Dr. Babits is adept at training and teaching in Alta Escuela, and if this is where your journey leads you, she will gladly provide instruction, assistance, and support.
DOMA VAQUERA is a traditional Spanish discipline born out of working the cattle in el campo, the countryside. It is beautiful, skillful, exhilarating, and enrapturing. Horses and riders display incredible artistic lightness, demonstrating their ability to work harmoniously together. It is controlled, collected, and then at full gallop. It is not a depiction of what is is seen in cowboy and western dressage practiced today, nor is it of reining. It is most closely related to classical dressage and alta escuela with a flair for the control, speed, energy, and yet relaxation needed to work cattle. All of the work is done one handed. True doma vaquera is a quest for oneness with the horse. It encompasses the development of the horse based on classical principles and classical dressage, and includes lateral work, collection, tempi changes, pirouettes, half pass, full pass, and specific movements such as the media vuelta. Forward, straight, and calm, Steinbrecht's mantra, is as much practiced here as in classical dressage. It is a journey for the utmost in trust, expression, and lightness with the horse. It originated as a means of working the cattle in Spain, many of which are fighting bulls, and therefore, the horse must learn to place complete trust in the rider, and vice versa.. The horse must move with deliberate agility and quickness while remaining in a positive, relaxed mental state. In the walk and canter, the horse must exhibit the highest degree of impulsion.
Lateral work, such as the shoulder-in, half pass, and full pass are performed, along with the canter half pass zig zag. The walk pirouette and reverse pirouette are performed. The canter work includes counter canter, collected canter, gallop, half pass, tempi changes, and canter pirouettes (slightly different from classical dressage pirouettes). Exercises specific to doma vaquera include the walk full pass; the doma vaquera pirouette (vuelta sobre las patas); the media vuelta, which is a half turn on the hind legs; la parada a raya, a quick halt from a gallop without sliding much; 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 the gallop (templar), and then turning, speeding up again.
Dr. Babits was mentored by a horseman who lived and trained in Spain. She was fortunate to be able to compete at the advanced level, while also bringing along some young horses in doma vaquera. He worked very hard to bring true doma vaquera to America. However, it is a difficult discipline, and takes time, and has fallen to the wayside in place of the working equitation. It is Dr. Babits' hope that she can continue his mission and try to establish more riders in doma vaquera in the US, establish competitions, and really work to form such an amazing discipline in the USA. She is available to teach and school riders looking to learn more about doma vaquera.
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 mere shadows of what la garrocha truly is, and its intended 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 approximately 14' long (4.27 m) 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. The garrocha is not a training tool, as you will so widely hear in America. It is a working tool, used in helping to work the tough bulls out in the country. It requires that the horse and rider have attained a level of equilibrium, collection, and ability to properly enact its use, both in work and in art. Used, artistically in performances, la garrocha and doma vaquera go hand-in-hand, and a garrochista will also be well versed and trained in doma vaquera. The traditional performances of la garrocha are full of expression, lightness, tremendous communication between horse and rider, and will leave a heart-felt, inspiring, and momentous impression upon any person graced to observe its beauty. If you are interested in acquiring knowledge and skills in la garrocha, then Dr. Babits can help you achieve that goal!
Riendas Largas/Long Reins
Work in Hand
RIENDAS LARGAS/LONG REINS--The beauty of working in the long reins is that you can begin to get a feel for what riding the horse will be like, if it is a young horse, unbacked. For horses already under saddle, the work in long reins enables you to further enhance strength and equilibrium, as well as understanding, of various exercises. You will learn to be attentive, observant, a constant listener, and to ascertain the horse's degree of forward (impulsion), equilibrium, strength, and straightness. One can easily begin to develop the horse's straightness in the long reins so that when a rider is added, 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, then the work in long reins is easily an extension of it. Emphasis is placed on transitions in all gaits, collection, the lateral movements, and piaffe, passage, and Spanish Walk. The horse much more easily understands and develops the lateral work under saddle if first having mastered it in the long reins. As the horse's education progresses, the work in piaffe, passage, and Spanish Walk is explored and carefully developed.
If you are interested in learning more about how to long rein, then we can help. Our stallions work beautifully in the long reins, and can help teach you the concepts. Additionally, Dr. Babits has authored a book called The Long Reins Field Manual, which may be found as an ebook or paperback on Amazon. Visit the online Store, La Tienda, to purchase the book here, signed, or find it on Amazon.
WORK IN HAND--Work in hand should be an integral part of the development of every horse, whether they are young horses, well-schooled horses, or those undergoing rehabilitation from injury or retraining processes. If done properly, work in hand places the horse and person on the same communication level, and helps to develop a proper language of understanding between them, an informative dialog which both parties can understand well. Work in hand should commence while keeping riding the horse in mind--what you do and work on in hand should translate well to what you will be doing under saddle. It is taught with aids that will mirror those when the horse is ridden. It also helps to teach 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 work in hand is to develop communication, balance, strength, straightness, concepts of impulsion and 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 this work. Shoulder-in, renvers, travers, half pass, full pass, walk pirouette, reverse pirouette, and the lateral work on curved lines and circles/voltes all will be utilized. The education of the piaffe begins in the transitions, and the reinback work, and is initiated very early to develop balance and strength in the horse. If the horse is advanced in his education, and has demonstrated the aptitude, then work in the airs above the ground begins with the piaffe and in hand work development. Work in the pillars with select individuals is also performed. A focus in particular on how consistent body language when asking for movements is emphasized. Working toward utmost lightness where the horse perceives the person's body language and performs accordingly is the goal of the work during the entire process. If you are interested in furthering your horse's education by work in hand, Dr. Babits will help you achieve that goal. She has also written a book on the subject, entitled The Work in Hand Field Manual, and it may be purchased as an ebook or paperback on Amazon. You may also find it in the online Store, La Tienda as a signed copy.