The Gift

Before Christmas one of my lovely Baroque competitors, Julie de Joncaire Narten, kindly  sent me a gift of Antonello Radicchi’s book Do You Speak Equis; the subtitle is Communicative Interactions Headcollar and Bit. The book has been translated from Italian by Julie.

In common with some other dressage works this book isn’t primarily a ‘how to’ of dogmatic methodology; it assumes a certain knowledge, posing a number of questions to the reader at the same time noting many observations. I was touched by Antonello Radicchi’s  honesty, he doesn’t portray himself as some guru who has always known the correct path to take but rather as a seeker of solutions.

With most books of this genre I find myself head nodding and shaking in equal measure but here I found myself nodding in appreciation pretty much all the read- just one exception.

It is a big exception but it in no way spoils the read- Antonello doesn’t believe that decontraction can be taught without the use of a bit. For this reason his route to bitless (headcollar) riding is via the bit with its use being gradually diminished until the horse is completely able to decontract and work in légèreté.

The  book focusses on doing the best thing for the horse- it is ethologically sound and feels very personal. The art of riding with double reins, one set to the headcollar and one to the bit, forms part of the route to légèreté; the links between the work of Philippe Karl are visible in the words on the page and in the photographs- certainly no obsessing with over-round horses and fixed positions- such a pleasure to see.

This quotation is typical of the writer, here he talks about the feel required for the double rein contact:

‘Therefore we need the ability to correctly interpret what we do, what we feel and what we see. I don’t wish to be a hypocrite in telling you this will be easy. It will be complex. Particularly until we manage to understand the correct associations. From that moment the work will take on an unexpected fluidity, with enormous gratitude on the part of the horse. It is a sacrifice, but if we love him that much, we should be willing to do it.’

I intend to read the book again (and probably again) so that I can absorb the nuances- so many appear, on first reading, to be akin to my own; as the book is marked as Volume 1 I am hoping there will be more to come!

I am no great traveller abroad these days but if I should venture towards Italy I know I will have to visit Umbria.

Thank you Julie and  Antonello for the gift.


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6 Replies to “The Gift”

  1. Another gem that you’ve uncovered, or should I say Julie uncovered. How clever to be able to translate so poetically. I love the photograph -it’s interesting to see how wide and high his hands are. When was the book written? is it current?

  2. Hi there,
    first of all I’m quite happy that an italian book made it outside the country.
    I’m an italian equine myofascial release practitioner and I’m very much interested in any additional resource that can prove the horse doesn’t need a bit to actually decontract.

    So I was glad to read that you have that specific exeption to make and it would very helpful if you could explain more and/or point me to any readings about how to decontract without the use of a bit.



    1. Chiara,
      I’m afraid I only have my own experiences and beliefs to draw on. I have found that teaching a release to the rein (similar to the release via the bit as per flexions) by positive reinforcement and stimulation of the neck to keep it soft results in a release (decontraction) in the jaw. For some it is simply a case of practising transitions and bending on the lunge or ridden so that they are ‘through’ completely and decontracted in the whole body- when this happens you see the horse release in its jaw with light chewing like action.

      Thanks for reading and commenting, Trudi

  3. Dear Trudy, putting aside modesty, I say sincerelly that Your words made me feel good inside and proud. First of all because they come from a competent person Who knows what writes; in second, perhaps more important, because those are sincere words. Otherwise, why would you lie? i sincerelly hope that one day our paths will meet, also for little time. I’m sure that we would enrich both, or, at least, it would do well to me!
    In the meantime, I offer my heartfelt thanks.
    Antonello Radicchi.

    1. Thank you for taking the time to write here Antonello- my words are most definitely sincere, to see horses not constrained by force from a human and allowed to develop their true personalities is an absolute pleasure and something that could be a much needed remedy in todays competition world!

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