Interview with Broken or Beautiful co-author, Liz Conrod

The team at Barbier Farm enjoyed a conversation with the co-author of Dominique’s upcoming book, Liz Conrod, to find out more behind the motivation for researching and writing Broken or Beautiful: The Struggle of Modern Dressage.

Tell us about the title: Broken or Beautiful

Ironically we had completed the book before we chose the title. After finishing the manuscript, we wondered “What do we call it?” The entire premise of our book is that Dressage is supposed to bring out the beauty, balance, harmony, lightness and joy. 

It feels that what we see now in competition is mostly broken. Disconnected, unhappy horses and riders too for that matter. We are struggling now with what the future of dressage competition will be. We are seeing a tremendous divergence in the horse show world away from what dressage is meant to be, which is to allow the horse to be at his most beautiful, which we contend is relaxed and happy to dance with us.

Will modern competitive dressage be driven by financial success for a few or the pursuit and preservation of the Art of Dressage? Can we have competition and still preserve principles meant to protect horses?

What is the main point to convey to readers, the biggest takeaway?

The FEI rules were established by very knowledgeable horsemen, and they were written to protect horses. We are calling for those rules to be honored and enforced. Competitive Dressage and the Art of Dressage have become fractured, and are more and more worlds apart. 

The tense, rigid, unhappy horses we see winning so often in competition now, are in large part because we have ceased to understand and enforce the rules. There is even pressure to change the rules to accommodate competitors and judges that no longer have the knowledge of classical principles or even why they are important to horses’ well being. This trend is leading to very unhappy horses, often to the point of true abuse. This does not have to be the way competition is conducted. If we can simply return to enforcing the rules we have, then art and competition can be preserved together, as they should be.

I hope that this book will lead to critical thinking. It is a matter of education, and remembering what competition rules are and why they were put into place to begin with. 

In your research where did you find that the FEI stopped keeping the horses’ welfare in mind and in the rule book?

Well to start, the FEI is a governing body, made up of individuals, and I would not presume that individuals mean to hurt horses; I do not think that the FEI ever set out to intentionally hurt horses. The FEI is responding to pressure, indeed as is the entire horse industry, mostly financial. Trainers, riders, judges are not very educated anymore. Young riders and trainers are getting their education at horse shows, not schools.

I think that a few things have changed the focus. The first of which is the interjection of massive amounts of money that the horse industry is run by and with. If you are a 23 year old rider showing at Grand Prix, you will take the judge’s opinion as gospel, you will emulate the riding and attitudes of those you see “winning” at the shows.

Much of what is “winning” right now across international and national competition is riding that is not in the horses’ best interest, it is in the interest of owners and sponsors that want to see a return on their financial investment, and quickly. Few Grand Prix riders own or have even trained their horses from the ground up. Horses are commodities and a vehicle to financial and social gain. It is no wonder that they’re now often lost in the mix.

In large part the reason is that education takes TIME, and these days, time is money. We are steadily losing trainers throughout the world that have studied with knowledgeable trainers themselves. That is a process that takes time, years often. These days competitors study what will make them successful in the show arena, not how and why we train horses to be our partners. While not all older methods are good, we have squandered the rules in order to obtain seemingly quicker results which compromise the horses’ well-being.

What surprised you in your finding if anything?

The rules contain much of what we need to preserve Dressage in the competitive arena. Happy, light, round, sound, confident horses can be successfully competed if we honor the resource that is the FEI rulebook. In reading the original rules I realized that the authors knew, perhaps even predicted the pitfalls of riders with different values, and that we needed the rules to keep an even playing field amongst both horses of different breeding but also trainers with a different emphasis

Why is writing this book so important to you personally and in your view collectively for the equestrian world?

The culture of Competitive Dressage is more and more destructive to our horses, and to educating riders, judges, trainers and owners.If we don’t stop, think, assess and practice the knowledge that has existed for over 200 years we truly run the risk of losing the knowledge. I don’t believe that anyone (or very few anyway) mean to compromise horses’ well being. Pushing, forcing, and driving a horse into heavy contact, usually overbent with his spine compromised, has become the status quo. 

Dressage is meant to facilitate the communication and understanding between a horse and his rider, for the enjoyment of BOTH. We see very little of either in competition today.

Why should everyone read this book?

We do need to understand WHY what we see rewarded in competition today is so often wrong, and so often destructive to our horses.We already have this very valuable resource and yet it is being ignored, squandered. If we can understand and honor the rules, we can protect horses and help preserve the knowledge that led to the rules in the first place.

It is my sincere hope that reading this will encourage riders, trainers, judges, and the show organizers to just ask themselves, are the training methods and ideals really fair to our horses? Listen to the terminology you hear in your lessons, listen to yourself teach, listen to yourself as you ride. Then ask yourself, how does my horse FEEL when I am with him? Ask yourself if I were a horse, how would I like to be ridden? If you were trying to teach your best friend something new would you treat them as you do your horse? We need to remember our horse is our dearest friend and act accordingly.

Liz

Broken or Beautiful: The Struggle of Modern Dressage will be available to purchase in 2021. 

A New Way to Work with Dominique!

A Note from Barbier Farm…
Written by Kat Howard – Working Student at B. Farm

The greatest gift I received through shelter in place was time with my teacher. As many will already know, Dominique spends the majority of his time on the road teaching clinics. In April, when it became evident that he would be sheltering in place at the farm for an extended time, he came to me one day with an idea.

He told me that we were going to make a series of videos based on his Training Manual. We proceeded to film with a simple setup of a camera and a chair on the viewing deck of the arena. Each day he would sit down under the bell and I would ask him a question.

Due to the nature of his philosophy, more often than not the answers to my questions ended up speaking to the mental attitude and spirit in which the rider approaches each movement, expanding beyond the technical, or physical aspects of riding and training. They provided an accompaniment to the training manual, a deeper look at how to find the most from your ride. 

I found myself looking forward to the afternoons and racking my brain in an attempt to come up with a question that would demonstrate my deeper understanding of what he conveys to all of his students…and more often than not he would rephrase my question into a simpler one, a reminder that we look to complicate ourselves and that the solution lies in simplicity.

The Barbiers’ passion for horses is evident not only in the way they ride but in the way they articulate the equestrian art. I feel so incredibly fortunate to have the chance to work with horsemen who look beyond the technical components of good riding, who put feeling into their work, and are able to bring out the best in each horse (and rider) they come across.

These videos are the first segment in an upcoming three-level membership subscription, called Journey to Lightness. The subscription will include this most recent footage as well as past training videos that have not been published.

We will announce dates soon for the release of the first level. I cannot wait to share with you and hope that these videos inspire you as they did me to continue to do the work to be the best horsewoman I can be. 

If you would like to sign up for the Journey to Lightness, please email barbierfarm1@gmail.com. We will be sure to provide you with updates as we progress. 

Dominique with Larapio MAC, captured by Keron Psillas 

Lusitano – A Rising Star! Collection Now Available!



An extraordinary production from Dominique’s friend, Jose Nogueira Martin, and his company Tribuna Lusitana. The quality of this collection is remarkable, and available for purchase at Barbier Farm.

THIS IS A MUST FOR LUSITANO LOVERS.

Contact barbierfarm@aol.com to reserve your collection today for $140, shipping included!

VIRTUAL LESSONS WITH DOMINIQUE BARBIER

Continue your Classical Education from home! Dominique is available to teach from home, over the internet as travel is not possible at this time.

Packages and prices are available here:

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1Nfsj8g5eM4n6YK-1BdWWpcmFFEagTthBPNlmCuf71Kk/edit?usp=sharing

Email Debra at barbierfarm@aol.com to reserve your place today!

Be safe and well, everyone.

Voices for Change

*WARNING – VIDEO CONTAINS DISTURBING IMAGES*

More and more, voices are speaking out against the inhumane and dangerous practices in the modern Dressage world, namely that of Rolkur and RDL. While disturbing, it is important to face the facts in regards to how so many people force their horses and cause irreparable damage.

Dominique has been a voice against these cruel practices for years; it is a relief to see others finally begin to step forward. His next book, set to publish in the spring, speaks to the rules of the FEI and how modern competition blatantly goes against the rules in regards to horse safety and correct dressage principles.

The Classical Series – Symposium XX in March 2020

Make your plans for the spring, and join us in beautiful Dry Creek Valley for the 20th Classical Series, hosted by Dominique and Debra Barbier.

Symposiums are designed for auditors’ learning benefit, with the addition of twice daily lectures delivered by the Mestre himself. This is a fantastic introduction to the principles of French Classical Training, with the opportunity to have questions answered by Dominique personally.

If high hotel prices have you hesitating to book your trip, get in contact with Debra and she will help you find more economical options. Send your inquiries to barbierfarm@aol.com.

Space is limited, do not delay! We look forward to seeing you.