Training with cavalletti and with it the ‘light seat’, was developed in about 1930 in Italy. (To be precise a single raised pole is called a ‘cavalletto’, but this term has never been used in Germany. [Since this correct singular form is also unfamiliar to most English speakers, the German convention has been retained – ed.]). Graf Rothkirch, the commander of the German cavalry in Paderborn at this time, trained for a while in Pinerolo and Tor di Quinto at the Italian cavalry school. He soon realized the training possibilities for horse and rider of using both cavalletti and the light seat in basic schooling.

In the style of the Italian school, groups of riders used four cavalletti to help loosen up every day in walk and trot for about 10-15 minutes. Eight to ten young horses, at one or two horse’s lengths apart, were ridden quietly in rising trot over the cavalletti. The distance between the second and third cavalletti was doubled to allow for the different length of stride of each horse. Loosening the horses’ backs in this way was very beneficial and the benefits became particularly noticeable in later jumping and cross-country training.

After the war the basic principles of cavalletti training and the ‘light seat’ were upheld by a former Paderborn rider, Paul Stecken (the last active squadron leader of Riding Squadron 4 and successor to Baron von Nagel/Ittlingen) who later became manager of the Westphalian Riding and Driving School. The training possibilities were of great value in many lessons for both young and older horses alike. Nowadays, training of this type is not often done according to the old conventions, when eight to ten horses would work together. However, this does not affect the value of cavalletti work for the individual horse; the physical effort and strength required are substantial, but the work is highly beneficial and very rewarding.

Our own connection with this work is very strong. Reiner was introduced to cavalletti work as a student at the Westphalian Riding and Driving School and later incorporated it into the training of some of his horses.

One Response to “Cavaletti work – how it began”

  • Mary says:

    This article brought back great memories to me of my early days at New Town and Country Stable on Oahu, HI. My instructor was Amy Rich, fellow of the Brittish Horse Society. She always corrected us for saying one cavaletti. “It’s a cavaletto!” I remember the fun of riding in procession over the cavaletti. What a great time!

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