Book Review: Reflections on Equestrian Art by Nuno Oliveira

I wrote this review by request–for HorseJunkiesUnited, a site that posts my blog, and the Producer of this audio book said thank you with a discount for my readers. (See bottom.) Beyond that, I was not paid, and this is the only time I will endorse a product. I get asked often, but I don’t accept sponsorships on my blog, because loving horses is free. I agreed to this book review because I yell these quotes at the top on my lungs in riding lessons, and they just sound so much better here. Thanks.


Maestro Nuno Oliverira spent his life in the study of classical dressage, which he defines as a conversation with a horse on a higher level, one of courtesy and finesse. Times change but classical principles remain: The horse should be a partner and not a slave. The goal of Equestrian Art is the perfect understanding with our horses, which requires freedom of mental and physical contraction.

The joy of the horse is the ultimate goal and the Maestro talks often of love where horses are concerned: he explains how to show love from the saddle, riding in classical terms of kindness and compassion.

In our world today, we see two approaches to training horses and they can easily be traced back through history. In societies that valued culture, like the Greeks, horses were seen as sensitive creatures to partner with and in cultures that were more interested in war and domination, like the Romans, horses were used as tools. Oliveira writes eloquently describing the virtues of gentle work in chapters that cover all aspects of training, start to finish. The final chapter is entitled “Brilliance,” and it’s an anthem to work done well.

I confess, I have been familiar with Oliveira and this book for over two decades. There is no one who explains horsemanship more clearly or who I quote more often in training. This book is a treasure of information that the serious rider will refer to again and again.

“Ask often, be content with little, and reward greatly,” is the Maestro’s most common reminder.

The teaching is not new, but the format–an audiobook–is new. Technology has brought the opportunity to have the Maestro in your ear. The reader’s voice is calm and meditative, reading with clarity, making the text very understandable. Most of the chapters are short, around four minutes, making it an easy aid to listen to in available spurts. It’s truly classical information, delivered in a form that is a contemporary, real-time aid.

The process of learning to ride effectively and kindly is complicated. It takes time and study to comprehend and becomes most complete when all of our senses have a chance to take it in. Meaning we need to see it, think it, feel it, hear it–to assimilate it fully. An audiobook is a valuable technique to experience the information, quietly in your ear while driving to the barn, or as you are warming up your horse. It offers the classic method both personal and assessable.

The confidence and respect that Oliveira had for horses, and working with them, settles into the listener slowly, without arrogance but with humility. It gives the student a template to begin work, or if this peaceful approach to training is your current method, it will renew your pride in doing correct work, for the love and respect of your horse.

But more than that, listened to in the whole, this audiobook affirms why a philosophy of kindness in training make the horse/rider bond stronger. It explains the reason harshness fails a horse, and how methods using love and respect will always lift a horse and rider above the mundane to a place of art without mental or physical contraction. Another term for that is Oneness.

“Riding is a school of humility and selflessness, its practice if it is done well, tends to make better Human Beings” Nuno Oliveira

Reflections on Equestrian Art by Nuno Olivera, Audiobook available to download or stream at Gold Leaf Farm’s Classical Horse Books ( Originally published in 1964, with translation and reprints in following years, voice work by Sara Morsey.

Watch a video of Oliveira riding (Here) and see the very definition of less is more, a perfect pairing with this book.

Anna Blake, Infinity Farm.

AND this isn’t my first blog about Nuno Oliverira –Read here.

PS!  Gold Leaf Farm has offered  free shipping for my readers. Coupon code will be: InfinityShip and it will be good till April 30th.

This blog is free, and it always will be. Free to read, but also free of ads because I turn away sponsorships and pay to keep ads off my site. I like to read a clean page and think you do too. If you appreciate the work I do, or if your horse does, consider making a donation.

Anna Blake

6 thoughts on “Book Review: Reflections on Equestrian Art by Nuno Oliveira”

  1. I purchased this book and have listened to most of it driving to work. One lesson I’ve gotten so far is that I am not a very proficient auditory learner. 🙂

    Don’t get me wrong, I think this is great stuff and I hope to be able to listen many times and actually read it while not driving (also bought the book) so I can contemplate the multiple processes.

    I’m not really well trained in dressage terminology or actually the art of dressage, so am not quite sure the specifics at this point. I know study will remove that confusion.

    But I am curious about one particular thing. In several of the maneuvers he is discussing, he states that the rider MUST FORCE the horse to do some particular thing, but he doesn’t say “how” that is accomplished. Most of these were for above ground maneuvers….

    My mare does flying lead changes easily….and I can’t wait to evaluate that particularly to see what we might do to become “correct”. As he states this is an ending thing to work on….and am hoping that since we do this easily it is not harmful to jump ahead.

    Thanks for introducing me to this.

      • Unfortunately have been unable to find the place in the book yet. I think it is on #2, but not sure, so will keep looking.

        Funny thing tho’, I thought I would see about getting the kindle version and then I could do a search….but alas, no kindle version (not surprised). So when I got to Amazon, there are only 2 books left and when I bought mine there were many more – think you might have influenced their sales? Probably!

        Anyway, my question arose because he has been so adamant about being kind and not kicking hard, and even not using your legs for prolonged periods thus tiring out – so I was having trouble imagining exactly what you do to “make” or “force” your horse to do something. I think I must have gotten tied up with semantics…..and when I understand more about obtaining natural impulsion maybe this won’t be such a mystery.

        My mare is 21 and has had a very nice career in reining. She is a very thoroughbred-like quarter horse who probably would have done even better with classical dressage. For the last year, have been slowly working on lifting the front end and getting her comfortable with slight contact. She’s in great shape, seems to enjoy this transition for the most part and takes my breath away when she does a piaffe or passage on her own – which is not that infrequent at liberty.

        Anyway – sorry for being so long winded. I’m going to keep looking…and appreciate your reply.

        • I can’t imagine Nuno talking force either, so I wanted the context. And my reining horse took well to dressage, too. I found the fundamentals needed a lot of work and the actual intention of upper level terminology is a bit different than the usual definition. (Collection in Dressage has a totally different meaning that the understanding most western riders think of.) Anyway, have fun with his words, he chose them carefully and the translation tried hard to remain true. Most of all, have fun with your mare, she sounds like a keeper.

  2. Have you read ‘Twisted Truths of Modern Dressage’ by Phillipe Karl? I haven’t read it but I have a copy and was wondering what your feedback was.


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