The Art of Natural Dressage

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PostPosted: Wed Aug 12, 2009 3:28 pm 
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This is information about the Trofeo Mundi menage testing that is being promoted by JP Giacomini and the Traditional Horsemanship Association. There are a few things that makes me quite excited about these tests. Although once again it is impossible to control how people would train horses for something like this, there are at least certain traits that judges are supposed to take into consideration. Things like tension in the horse (tail swishing, mouth, general relaxation of the horse) as well as the basic knowledge of the rider. I hope that it is one more step that bodes well for the well being of horses. First, I'm listing some of the items that interest me, then below in quotes are questions that JP Giacomini has answered regarding the association and the menage tests.

1) JP assures me there is NO tack requirement for any of the levels. That means you can go bitless. Any type of saddle. It isn't about tack. It's about classical horsemanship. Item 11 below states something about "C" (Compulsory) tests requiring a snaffle. This isn't what JP told me. So I'm hopeful that he's right since he's the founder of all of this...

2) A focus on the horse's well being

3) They are working on a way to be able to judge the tests through video submission. This means it is less a "competition" than a test of skill.

4) It allows for (and embraces) the different gait styles of all breeds. This means that not just warmbloods can take part.

The tests are laid out at More info will be added there soon.

Here is a video about the Menage tests: ... ation.html

Organized by the Traditional Horsemanship Association (THA)
Contact: JPGiacomini

"Nobody can win a TM class without a clear demonstration of an in-depth understanding of the classic principles of horsemanship that are spelled out as the requirements of the TM Horsemanship Score." JPG

THA is an association run by experts for the benefits of its members. THA really cares about the development and promotion of the classic principles of horsemanship and the presentation of the many national traditions that contributed to it along the centuries. THA focuses on the education of the numerous amateurs who form the core of the horse world by offering affordable competitions (TM Manege, TM Versatility and TM Combined Trial) and judging the correctness of training in relation to the classic principles. THA will soon release a certification program that will use the same tests as the competition, but will be performed at home, filmed in a standard fashion and judged by qualified experts who will receive each test through the mail.

THA was created by JP Giacomini, first as the non-profit Trophaeum Mundi Foundation in 1992 and reorganized as a new association in 2008. JP is an all around horseman, international trainer and Olympic coach with 42 years of training and teaching experience in the main Olympic disciplines: Dressage, Show-Jumping and Eventing. During 25 years spent in the USA, JP has also helped endless numbers of amateurs to resolve everyday training problems while riding absolutely every breed of horse in a variety of disciplines. He felt very strongly that the art of training any kind of horse (in a word: Horsemanship) was no longer valued as it used to be and has been replaced by competitors acquiring highly specialized horses with amazing talents and superior gaits. In turn, those gaits have become the focus of dressage competitions, demoting training to second place in the list of riders' priorities. THA was created as a remedy to those issues.

THA is located in Kentucky at:
309 Caldwell Street DANVILLE, KY 40422 USA ,
Tel: (859) 236 15 30

Its first purpose is to the ruling body for a unique competition program that's fair to all breeds and fun for competitors. It is currently composed of 3 distinct competitions ("The TM Games"): "TM Manegeâ„¢", "TM Versatilityâ„¢" and "TM Combined Trialâ„¢". THA's mission is to present Traditional Horsemanshipâ„¢ as the embodiment of an educated, mutually satisfying relationship between Horse and Human. It is an artistic equestrian spectacle of ever changing music and beautiful costumes that preserves the classical training correctness. THA will also offer a certification program using the tests designed for the previously named competitions.

TM is the acronym for "Trofeo Mundi", a phonetic rendition of Latin language that translates as "World Cup". It is issued from the name chosen for the competition when it was first conceived in 1992 and demonstrated in Portugal in 1996 (see the video on Google Video: ... 5300&hl=en ).

THA is recruiting organizers willing to create local clubs that will first run clinics and schooling shows and later formal shows. As THA grows, we will look for experienced show organizers to develop bigger venues leading to the establishment of regional and national championships. Eventually, THA plans to progressively develop its competitions up to the level of a World Cup, with different international leagues and a World Final every 2 years. Several Equine Fairs have accepted to run THA demos starting in 2009, and we are recruiting demo riders interested in participating in a fair not to distant from them. Keep checking the website and we will announce on which fairs have decided to partner with THA.

THA promotes the physical and emotional wellbeing of the horse at the forefront of its preoccupations. This is translated by a training standard based on the relative ideal biomechanics of each horse and rider and the lightness both of the aids used and the movements achieved. Each level of TM Manege comprises a number of tests of increasing difficulty, until the highest test that includes all the movements required for that level. This test will be used for the championship of the show and will require the presentation of a second freestyle test. The tests are designed as much as possible as training sequences, so riders can use them as guidelines for the training of their horses. The progression covers all the equine gymnastic movements that, once customized to each horse individual requirements, transform him into a willing and enthusiastic partner that offers "less resistance and a predictable performance". These celebrated exercises have been historically developed since the Baroque Period, the 15th and 16th century when horsemanship emerged as an art. They are grouped under the terms "Low School" and "High School". TM Manege is based on the Classic Principles of Horsemanship and addresses both its technical and artistic requirements. TM Manege is all about the quality of the training of the horses presented in its venue, not their breed, nor the degree of suspension in their gaits or their innate genetic ability. We believe that well-prepared, ordinary horses can show excellence in their presentations if their riders follow suitable, well thought-out and well applied, training progressions. TM Manege is a celebration of the many fine traditions which have preserved their versions of horsemanship during the previous centuries both in Europe and the Americas. As example of those, we can mention Dressage riders, Spanish Vaqueros. American Cowboys, Portuguese bullfighters, Charros, Ladies Riding Aside, etc.

At each level of TM Manegeâ„¢, there are a number of tests (Compulsory tests) offered (usually 5), requiring a constant progression in the technical difficulty. The highest test is the "Championship Test". When entering this test (and only this test at each level) the rider must also perform a Freestyle of the appropriate level. At the regional, national and international championship level, the `C' "Championship Test" of each level is the one to be performed.
The Compulsory tests (`C' Test) demonstrate the correct training of the horse. Its ultimate goal is to develop collection. Each rider may freely choose the test best suited to their horse's training level, until the horse performs the entire program required in the Championship test.
The Freestyle test (`F' Test) is performed to music. It allows competitors to express their artistic talent and show their horses to their best advantage. Each level requires the performance of certain compulsory movements. Exercises of difficulty higher than the level entered cannot be included.


1. TM Introductory. For the riders who are new to riding arena tests, or are riding young horses at the beginning of their education, TM Manege offers a series of tests with simple movements performed at the ordinary walk, trot & canter. Those classes will test the horses' willingness and riders' control technique. Horses will be presented in their "natural balance" ("on the bit" is not yet necessary). Horses can be ridden in a snaffle, a "Tom Thumb" with a broken mouthpiece or a bit-less bridle. This level does not offer a Freestyle test.
2. TM Preliminary: This level serves as a transition between straight forward riding and gymnastics, introducing lateral work on the easiest level. This is the first level offering a freestyle test.
3. TM Low School: both `C'. and `F'. Tests are limited to circles in walk, trot and canter, shoulder-in and half- passes at walk and trot on a straight line. Gaits variations go from working to medium gaits.
4. TM Intermediate School: for the `C' & `F' tests, new movements to be added are: half-passes on curves, flying changes to four tempi, half-canter pirouettes, beginning of Piaffe, Spanish Walk (optional in the `F' test) and Reverence. Gait variations go from collected to extended gaits.
5. TM High School: for the `C'. & `F' tests, new movements to be added are: half-passes in canter, counter-changes of hand in half pass, (trot and canter), Flying Changes up to 2 tempi, full Canter Pirouettes, Piaffe 50 strides (not all at once) and Passage for 50 yards. Optional movements added to the Freestyle of this level: Spanish Trot, multiple Canter Pirouettes, One Tempi Changes, Airs-Above-the-Ground, Canter-in-Place.

Four options for the top 4 levels, riders can enter the freestyle as: "TM Manege Solo" (1 rider), "TM Manege Pas de Deux" (2 riders), "TM Manege Pas de Trois" (3 riders), and "TM Manege Quadrille" (4 riders). In each Championship class entered, the riders compete alone in `C' test, but ride in a group of 2, 3 or 4 riders in `F' test. For instance, in the case of the Quadrille, the scores of the 4 riders in the C test are added to their joint Freestyle test to determine the placing of the class. At a given show, a rider can enter all four options (with 3 other riders), as long as it is at the same level and that the Championship is performed as the Compulsory test.

Equipment: all `C' tests will be performed in *Working* tack. What this means is that, in the case of western tack for instance, the rider must use a saddle and bridle unadorned with silver. Same goes for a Portuguese saddle in which the rider will not use the very decorated saddle pads, bridles enhanced with bronze inserts etc. The `C' test at the Low School levels must be performed on a snaffle. The `C' test at the Intermediate and High School level may be performed on either a snaffle, a single curb or a double bridle. (A bonus of 2% of the `Horsemanship marks' will be given to the riders who choose the snaffle).
`F' tests: bits are free choice at all levels above Introductory (within the restrictions of the rulebooks for shank length and smoothness of mouthpiece). Riders may choose to ride astride or sidesaddle. Style of bridles and saddles are free choice. In the Presentation mark, riders will be judged for the good taste, fit and consistency of their tack. "Consistent tack" means that a rider in Portuguese dress for instance must use a Portuguese saddle, not a Spanish or English one.

Dress code: all `C' tests must be performed in *Working* dress, meaning a simple dress without special adornments. For instance for a Western rider. "working dress"` means a single color shirt and blue jeans, just as the reiners do. An English rider will wear a plain shirt and plain colored pants, tall boots or paddock boots with plain leggins. F' tests can be performed in traditional dress such as uniforms (military or civilian), correct regional or national dress, historical costumes, easily recognized and documented, are encouraged. The dress must match the equipment used for the horse: appropriateness and correction will be judged in the Presentation mark. If the rider chooses to invent his/her costume using a fantasy theme, the only limitation is common decency. Tradition or Originality & Drama is considered in the presentation mark. Inappropriate dress will be for instance: dress revealing too much of the body of the rider or hiding too much of the body of the horse

Schedule: C & F Tests are run on two consecutive days & the points will be added to determine the placement. Any horse/rider combo are allowed to compete at only one level per show in any of the 4 options ("Manege Solo", - Pas de Deux, -Pas de Trois or -Quadrille"â„¢). However, a rider can compete at other levels on a different horse(s). For the `C' test at each level, the riders entered in different options compete jointly. If entered in different options they only need to perform the compulsory test once. Their points from the C test will be added to their individual freestyle marks for each division they have entered. The total scores will determine the final placing.

TM Manege is striving towards Accuracy, Fairness and Transparency of judging, applying concepts that belong to the Classic Standard guided by the soon-to-be-published TM Judging Manual and guaranteed by the accountability of judges, all of them chosen for their experience in training/judging Dressage and for their lack of prejudice when looking at different breeds. THA is developing a custom show management/scoring software package so judges can have their scribe enter the scores directly into a computer and later onto the Association website for record keeping
Accuracy: This is a fundamental aspect of judging. To make this possible, the score sheet must ask the right questions to the judge in a clear, detailed formulation free from vague and multiple concepts that end up being misleading to both judge and rider. When the rider read the score sheet, s/he needs to know in some detail what needs to be improved in the work presented.
Fairness: This detailed approach also facilitates fairness, because the judge has to really think trough all the aspects of the presentations. The judge's score and comments must reflect the attention given to the judging and the consideration of the work as a whole. THA will create and implement judging educational programs, provide a judging manual available to both judges and competitors and hold judges accountable for their decisions through the work of a review committee.
Transparency: Thanks to THA scoring/management software, score sheets will be available electronically to all competitors and to TM management for review as soon as a class is over.
The Classic Standard: It is used for the judging of Manege Classes and is derived from the collective wisdom of past and present equestrian masters. A judging manual is in preparation that will outline the definition of each and every movement, as well as their positive and negative characteristics. All the programs described above will be available to judges and competitors everywhere and the judging committee will travel for the purpose of educational clinics as much as possible to present, promote and enforce a judging standard of classic quality that reflects the true and tried principles of classic horsemanship.

The Ideals of TM Manege are first about the quality of TRAINING rather than MOVEMENT (gaits), so all riders can participate knowing that their horses have a chance of success regardless of their natural talent and all riders can expect recognition if they work hard, regardless of their pocket book. The judging is based on the idea of "relative perfection" rather than "absolute perfection", meaning that the judges look at the range of gaits a particular horse can produce rather than a "one model fits all" concept. We know that horses are happiest when they do what they are best at and move within a range that suits them individually (yet still show the marked differences of stride length better explained in the next paragraph). The optional movements in the freestyle (particularly at the higher level) are also varied and permit both horses and riders to express their individual talents.
The gaits: One of the fundamental issues of judging Horsemanship when applied to many different breeds competing in the same venue is for the judge to separate in the performance presented what part is "innate" or genetic in the horse and what part is due to training. Gaits are the most confusing issue because, on one hand, breeders have strived to produce horses moving the way judges wish to see and trainers are educating horses towards the same goals, while selecting animals already endowed with the close-to-ideal qualities specific to the competition. Even though it is possible (and extremely desirable) through training to develop the cadence, range of motion, extension and elevation of the gaits of any horse, it is also well understood that this potential improvement has its limits and the full range of the gaits will never be the same between a 14'2" pony breed and a 16'3" sporthorse. Because THA wishes to attract to TM Manege competitors riding a variety of breeds (and therefore horses presenting a variety of biomechanics models), each horse should be required to present only what is physically possible for him to do without being forced. One particular characteristic of the gait that has been in the limelight in recent years is Suspension. It has regrettably become equaled to Correctness in training. More than any other aspect of the gaits, suspension is certainly 80% genetic and 20% training. Certain breeds have next to no suspension, other cannot move without it. For this reason, the judging rules of TM Manege put emphasis on the "Correctness/Purity of Footfall" and the "Regularity of Tempo" that every horse can present under the guidance of a dedicated rider, rather than the degree of suspension that is mostly due to his racial origin.

Another important point is the "range of Gaits". The "working gait" is the basis for judging the locomotion of each animal. It is based on a length of stride that makes it possible to perform all the movements that belong to the "gymnastic catalogue" (turns, corners, circles, lateral movement, etc.). Both rider and judge must be capable to determine what is the unique working gait suitable to each horse. From this basic length of stride, all other gait variation can be determined, as follow: The stride length for a Collected gait is ¾ of Working, Medium is 1.5 of Working, Extended is twice Working.

The Relative importance in the Scoring of the "Test Performance" versus the "Quality of Riding": Each class score-sheet has a section for Performance marks (relevant of the movements of the test) that represents 2/3 of the total and another section for Horsemanship marks (relevant to the quality of training and riding) that represents 1/3 of total. These fundamental proportions are kept constant for every test at every level by the use of coefficients. The technical requirements of the Horsemanship Scoring Sheet (Gaits/Biomechanics, Impulsion/Responsiveness, Compliance/Goodwill, Calmness/Relaxation, Straightness/Symmetry, Roundness/Collection, Aids/Communication, Presentation) increase with each new level of performance.

One of the great dilemmas of horsemanship happens between people who are geared toward performance (sometimes at all costs) and others who care only about riding the horse "perfectly" without a specific goal. The truth lies in the middle: to make any sense out of horsemanship, we have to do both: make the horse happy and comfortable while performing a specific task with some degree of success. Riders must be effective and "get it done", but they must also make the occasion enjoyable for the horse, themselves and even the spectators. The scoring of TM tests is designed to resolve this conundrum practically: "test riding" (performance) is worth 2/3 of the effort while "horse riding" (Horsemanship) is worth 1/3. In fact, it is even more balance than that because one cannot ride those tests effectively without a high level of collaboration from the horse and compassion from the rider. Nobody can win one of those without a clear demonstration of their in-depth understanding of the classic principles of horsemanship spelled out as the requirements of the TM Horsemanship Score.

TM Versatilityâ„¢ finds its inspiration in the history of aristocratic court games, cavalry and cattle work. Versatile riding horses must display their athletic ability, compliance and courage, proven through the history of cavalry or working with cattle. These ancient styles of riding included all the exercises required in the training for mounted combat, hunting over varied terrain and cattle work on the ranch. TM Versatilityâ„¢ is the modern adaptation of ancient court games used as war training exercises in all equestrian nations and cattle work requirements. Historical re-enactments of these games have been received with high acclaim by an enthusiastic public, opening the door for TM Versatilityâ„¢, a spectacular way to involve people who are young (at heart) with the exciting side of Equestrian tradition and help them develop a solid basis of horsemanship.

TM Versatility is a trail class performed in an arena against the clock (time limit at novice level and absolute speed at the higher levels). The horse-rider combination faces a series of obstacles that alternate between requirements of speed and control, such as bending poles followed by a gate to be open and shut for instance, as well as skills such as catching rings with a lance. Contrary to gymkhana, TM Versatility promotes the level headed horse that can regain its complete calm immediately after a fast run. TM Versatility demonstrates the qualities that pleasure horses of all breeds should be able to display in order to be both enjoyable and safe to ride. The class appeals to a very large number of English and Western riders at the entry level, (with easy obstacles). It will also offer professionals the opportunity to gain international prestige when we develop the World Cup Level because of a much increased level of difficulty and the large public it will attract.

TM Versatilityâ„¢ has 4 levels (Intro, Novice, Intermediate and Advanced). It consists of going through a series of obstacles & exercises, performed by the rider on a course against the clock (set time or absolute speed). It combines speed and skill and is judged both on faults and on time (like show-jumping). For each failed exercise, the competitor gets penalty points. Some exercises (like throwing the darts) will get bonus points as in target shooting. Another very exciting way to run the class is to have two riders competing against each other on two parallel courses. This class proceeds by successive elimination rounds.

¬The following obstacles/exercises may be included in the course, designed by each "course builder", following TM guidelines for each level of the competition. They will be enforced by a qualified steward at the show. Some exercises (or obstacles) may present alternative options, (like in 3 Day Eventing - to make the classes more interesting).
• Pick-up the lance from barrel, while cantering around it.
• Catch the Ring by passing the lance through it at a gallop.
• Slash "Infantryman's Heads", using a "sword" at a gallop.
• Drop the "sword/lance" in a barrel while cantering around it (size of the hole may vary with level).
• Strike the Shield of a pivoting mannequin.
• Throw a "Javelin" (actually a Velcro dart) to a target from a marked distance.
• Jump over a "gymnastic obstacle".
• Rescue a Dummy from the Castle and carry it to safety.

Examples of different "obstacles", destined to slow down the dashing riders, integrated in the course.
• Rein back through a L shaped corridor without stepping out.
• Riding through a Labyrinth of cones supporting unstable balls (as in speed driving)
• Opening and Closing a field Gate
• Riding over a Rocking Bridge or any other "trail" type obstacle.
• Carrying a water container between 2 marked points.

The difficulty of exercises can be graded with each level, for example:
• Narrowing the size of the rings, increasing the length of the lance.
• Adding more rings in a closer sequence.
• Lowering the height of the "heads" and/or placing them on a more sinuous path.
• Adding more "heads" to "cut off" and/or placing them on both sides of the riders'.
• Increasing the difficulty of the jumps' sequence.
• Increasing the distance from which to throw the javelin/dart, reducing the target's size. – etc.

This is the supreme test for the "Riding Warriors". They will have to master, in the same competition, the discipline of TM Manegeâ„¢ Compulsory Test (`C')", the artistic flair of the "TM Manege Freestyle Test (`F'), with the combination of speed and skill of TM Versatilityâ„¢. The 3 parts of the class will be performed on 2 different days. The scheduling can be combined with the running of a regular TM Manegeâ„¢ and TM Versatilityâ„¢ Competition. This competition promotes the solidity, effectiveness and daring of the riders, the agility, boldness, calm and goodwill of a well trained working/pleasure horse.
3 Levels:
Novice: Combination of TM Manege Intro Test 5 with Novice Versatility course
Intermediate: Combination of TM Manege Low School Test 3 and Freestyle with Intermediate Versatility course
Advanced: Combination of TM Manege Intermediate School Test 2 and Freestyle with Advanced Versatility course

THA will soon offer riders an opportunity to participate in a Certification program currently being developed that will use the TM Manege tests as the foundation for testing riders. This program can be performed at home, filmed in a standard procedure and send to a qualified judge through the mail. Riders will be required to perform 6 tests at each level. According to their scores, they will receive a Bronze, Silver or Gold Medal to reward their effort.


Traditional Horsemanshipâ„¢ represents a balance between tradition & scientific progress. It promotes training solutions that respect the horse's body & mind. Through its artistic presentations, it embodies the Versatile Ideal of the Classical Riding Tradition that began during the Baroque Period in the Manege (the classical riding arena) & on the Cattle Ranch. Traditional Horsemanshipâ„¢ requires correct training for horse & rider, while developing a mutually rewarding & educational rapport between them.
TM Traditional Horsemanshipâ„¢, TM Manegeâ„¢, TM Freestyleâ„¢, TM Soloâ„¢, TM Pas de Deuxâ„¢, TM Pas de Troisâ„¢, TM Quadrilleâ„¢, TM Versatilityâ„¢ are trademarked & copyrighted 1992-2007 by JP Giacomini. The TM tests and the relevant rules are licensed to Equus Academy, the Traditional Horsemanship Association and can be licensed to any national organization dedicated to the development and promotion of the Classic Principles of Horsemanship.

"Ride reverently, as if each step is the axis on which the earth revolves"

PostPosted: Wed Aug 12, 2009 4:55 pm 
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Joined: Tue Apr 29, 2008 2:32 am
Posts: 3270
Location: New York
Karen, I think this is genuinely exciting.

Watching horsemen and women of this kind of stature reaching past what is thought of as "tradition" in the dressage world to approaches that better reflect a deeper understanding of the horse's psyche is thrilling to me. Where they lead, others will follow.

Competition is a rich and compelling aspect of working and playing with horses for lots of people -- seeing these competitions that are emerging that aren't about having a $100,000 warmblood and every last bit of tough tack you can adorn him with so you can push him around in circles looking like a pretzel (gee, no judgment there! sorry! ;) ) is really cool.

The times, they are a'changin'!


"Ours is the portal of hope. Come as you are." -- Rumi

PostPosted: Thu Aug 13, 2009 2:13 am 

Joined: Fri Nov 07, 2008 2:02 pm
Posts: 1072
Location: UK Worcester/Hereford border
Great step forward. I like the idea that competitions can be video based so the horse does not have to travel.
I am useless when it comes to dressage terminology, I found out my lovely 2 year old Shire Horse boy, who pounces on the ground to see if he can create earthquakes if I run for trot, is doing Levade!
I only found out seeing Josepha's Inno playing with Gina. I call that an Arthur pounce.
Danny my little cob does perfect piaffe, but when the natural instinct demands, so if I had a row of in season fillies alongside an arena he could perform, but I would not know how to ask for this.
Dan has 5 foals, I only sadly have contact with 3, but I can see why the girl horses want his babies. (Bad luck mares, when there were no ladies in his field keeping him company, I did not want him to be hurt breaking fences, getting on the road or visiting ladies on his own, so I had the vet visit and he slept through, shhhh, no one has told him, no more children.)
All these dressage moves my clever boys make in their pasture or out on walks and I did not know how High School they were. I wonder how many fully feathered top class dressage horses there are?
Susie xx

Susie xx

PostPosted: Thu Aug 13, 2009 4:30 pm 
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Joined: Tue Apr 29, 2008 2:32 am
Posts: 3270
Location: New York
I found out my lovely 2 year old Shire Horse boy, who pounces on the ground to see if he can create earthquakes if I run for trot, is doing Levade!

:funny: :funny: :funny: :funny: :funny: :funny:

Susie, you totally cracked me up!



"Ours is the portal of hope. Come as you are." -- Rumi

PostPosted: Fri Aug 14, 2009 1:53 am 
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Joined: Sun May 20, 2007 5:52 am
Posts: 1852
Location: Taiwan, via NZ
Wonderful exciting news!
Lets spread it everywhere!

There is hope.

I have not sought the horse of bits, bridles, saddles and shackles,
But the horse of the wind, the horse of freedom, the horse of the dream. [Robert Vavra]

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