Engagement can be explained  as forward energy, ask for and controlled by the rider, delivered by the horse without tension. The horse moves forward freely, swinging his hindlegs more under his body with each stride. This engagement is necessary for the correct contact.

A lot of times this is confused with going fast. It has nothing to do with speed. A horse can go very slow and be super engaged (collection), whereas Lees meer

The contact

The next item in the Scala of Dressage is the contact. Also a matter that causes a lot of confusion. With contact in riding we mean the elastic connection between the hand of the rider and the mouth of the horse. The connection is made by the rider but -and this is where it gets difficult- accepted and sought by the horse. So it means that the rider should take up the reins, but the horse then has to reach for the contact and be soft and light…

Why on earth would he do so? Well, it is not just a simple matter of the front end and things you do with your hands. Oh no, contact is so much more. Lees meer



Physiotherapist Saskia Heykants is always looking for improvement. Hence the reason for her to ask Maarten van Stek whether she could possibly pay him a visit. ‘It intrigued me how he manages with his one arm to train a horse into the Grand Prix. That is unusual to say the least. I think we can all learn from that.’

Saskia is fascinated by rider position and seat. How, as a rider, can you become more efficient with your aids through your seat, that is what she is Lees meer

Pushing down

Some riders push their hands down unto their thighs, holding the reins as to force the horses head down. It means you have to tip forward –out of balance- and brace your back. I have even seen instructors advising this. But if you need such force to get the outline, there is something very wrong.

The harder you pull him down, the more a horse wants to push his head up. If you use draw reins with force and you take them off, a horse will stick Lees meer

I need the support

People are ‘handy’, we use our hands all the time. Being on just two legs makes us wobbly, so if we lose balance, we stick out a hand or two to correct it. This is firmly lodged in our brain. So if we sit on something as wobbly as a horse, and someone gives us reins in our hands, we use them immediately to steady ourselves.

Reins are attached to a bit in the mouth. Pressure on a bit gives an unpleasant feeling. Horses react by sticking their tongues out or opening their Lees meer

Don’t look down

Humans have hands and use them for almost everything. And as our eyes are in the front of our head, we like to watch what we are doing.

One of my cherished trainers, John Lassetter from England, once let a group of pupils dismount during a clinic and crawl through the school on all fours. Lees meer

On your toes


‘Heels down’. I wonder if this is the most made remark in dressage training. And I think it is completely useless. But I’ll come to that.

If you stand on your toes in the stirrups, your upper leg and knee will come away from the horse. This makes you unstable. Some riders think dressage Lees meer