I first saw Lancelot, a flashy leopard appaloosa miniature horse from Germany, on a video that was posted on the BC Miniature Horse Club website. I was impressed and inspired to see Lancelot performing advanced dressage movements. In searching, I found more videos and photos of Lancelot, including a video of him doing a “pas-de-deux” (a musical dressage freestyle) with an Olympic dressage horse.
When I heard a few weeks ago that Lancelot’s owner and trainer, Sabine Ellinger, had written a book called “Mini School” I immediately clicked over to Amazon to order it. Most everyone who’s ever talked horses with me knows my aversion to the term “mini” (okay for a car or a skirt, but not for a horse!), but I was certainly willing to overlook the terminology for the person who trained a miniature horse to do a canter pirouette!
“Mini School” is a beautiful book, with lots of photos that help to clarify everything the author addresses. Translated from German, “Mini School” begins with an introduction to the different types of Miniature Horses and Ponies, and gives an interesting perspective on small equines in Europe. There is information on what to look for when choosing a miniature horse (I especially enjoyed the section on evaluating the quality of a horse’s gaits), basic management and care, including concerns specific to miniature horses, ideal for a first time horse owner.
The discussion on training begins with the basics, important skills and manners that every horse should master. In addition to information on how to train your horse, there is also a section on structuring your training sessions, and how often your horse needs to be worked in order to show the optimal improvement and keep him from getting bored.
Ms. Ellinger covers lunging and long-lining, a very useful tool in training any driving horse, and then introduces lateral work, and basics of the dressage movements. These exercises in flexion and bending are very beneficial in helping a horse learn to use themselves to their best advantage. The chapter on trick training shows detailed photographs of how Lancelot learned his tricks, and information on teaching them to your horse. I know from teaching Hawk some tricks this past year that the benefits of trick training go far beyond the fun of showing them off!
Then comes the part I was excited to read about! Ms. Ellinger outlines her approach to teaching dressage movements. Flying changes, pirouettes, piaffe, passage and levade, all accompanied by excellent photographs of Lancelot performing the movements, often detailing what he is doing correctly and what could be improved. I’m really looking forward to continuing in this direction with Hawk, and the information in this book is going to be very helpful!
Throughout the book there are notes and anecdotes about how Lancelot reacted to each stage of his training. It’s great to see that even the pros have their good and bad days, and every horse has it’s bad moments, like the time Lancelot nipped at the belly of the Olympic medalist warmblood he was performing with!
While I would have loved more detailed instruction on training the higher level movements, “Mini School” has great information for anyone interested in miniature horses, from a beginner in search of their very first horse, to an experienced competitor looking for new ways to improve their horse’s performance.
“Mini School – Train Your Mini to Be All He Can Be” by Sabine Ellinger is available through Amazon.