Arthur Kottas Dressage Clinic in Guildford

“What X r u back today? Need to talk to u.” When you get this kind of text from Tina Layton you have either done something very wrong or you are being given the opportunity to train with no one less than Arthur Kottas! (by any means you should act quickly!) I was meant to go home to Germany for the weekend for an Ingrid Klimke training symposium all around training the young horse up to grand prix. Typically the Arthur Kottas Clinic was meant to start Monday morning and travelling with a young horse for the first time shouldn’t be done last minute. But at Contessa we know how to make the impossible possible when it comes to training horse & rider! Flights were rebooked, pickups from the airport were arranged so that I was just on time to load the horses. Super Competition Groom Lucy Naish supported by the brilliant Contessa team had already organised our new lorry for a 3 day trip to Guildford. 4 year old Sir Sandokan (friends know him as Monty) slightly hesitated when he realised he was meant to go into this stable on 4 wheels, but his Lusitano friend convinced him to say Yes to an adventure and off we went. After a few teenager moments and Tina kindly saying “He better stops this Wanda..” the horses settled and Zak and I could focus on playing “Stadt-Land-Fluss” (I still need to find the English translation..).


Having arrived in Guildford reality hit us. We were meant to train with Arthur Kottas in less then 12 hours. Arthur is one of the world’s great authorities on dressage training. He was born in 1945 in Vienna, where his parents owned the oldest riding school in the city. In 1960, he joined the Spanish Riding School as a trainee. In 1981, he became the Chief Rider, and in 1983, Riding Master. From 1995 until he retired in 2002, Arthur Kottas was First Chief Rider. Since then, Arthur has been in great demand as a trainer and holds clinics regularly on an international basis. Not surprisingly, given his long involvement in the Spanish Riding School, he is a fervent advocate of Classical Horsemanship. He is also very well known for his in-hand work, a traditional part of classical equitation as carried out at the Spanish Riding School and other classical establishments.

Tina has known and trained with Arthur for a very long time and she has a beautiful relationship with him based on respect, knowledge and honesty. Our training/instruction at Contessa is based on the Spanish School of Vienna’s methods which has been passed on to Tina through Arthur and then to us, Tina’s team of instructors who teach at Contessa.

This time we had a very strong presence at the TTT (a charity which is aims to Train the Teachers of Tomorrow). Tina’s 15 year old son Zak took our Schoolmaster Unico, a stunning Lusitano stallion working at Grand Prix level. Tina’s long standing client Louise Clarke, who took her Westphalian gelding Pino working at Advanced Level, Joao Cavaco who took Lollipop, a client’s 6 year old mare working at Elementary and I took my own 4 year old Rheinlander Sir Sandokan (aka Monty) which we backed at Contessa.

The horses settled in well and in between feeding, mucking out, grooming, bandaging, tacking up, warming up, cooling down, un-tacking, sweeping, watering, feeding, rugging up and and and we also found some time to go for a fun pub dinner!

“Chill out! Breathe!” I remember Joao saying to me. And then he got a little nervous himself! Half an hour lesson per day seems simple but the intensity and the focus horse and rider work in this time are not to be underestimated. “Shoulder-in large, centre line, Half pass left, shoulder in right, but there is no bend. That’s not a shoulder-in. Half pass right. OK. Good.” Zak worked especially on the sideways with Unico and on the canter. Precision was the key. Everyone could see the riders deep concentration. Arthur was harder on Zak this time as Zak is only young and already riding on a very high level but Arthur can see his talent and want him to develop in the right way and be very correct in his aiding.  

“The seat is the key.” Arthur kept saying. When he would say “Lovely” or “That’s nice” you would smile inside but one second later there might be a “But what are you doing with your hands?”
Louise worked on Passage and Piaffe. “The feeling is one of slow but majestic steps, that springs up and forward.” Arthur describes the Passage.


Joao and Lolli did positioning work and more collected canter work and Arthur kept saying. It’s a beautiful horse. Canter! You can do it! Take your time, never waste your time.”
Monty and I worked on the correct roundness over the back and the consistency in the contact through the correct drive from behind. “When training a young horse we are not talking about collection” Arthur said. “You are the Pilot. You will form him. The contact to the riders hands to the horses’ mouth should be like an elastic side-rein. Whatever we do, we have to invite our partner horse.”

“We are the pilot. Not the passenger. We are the one having to take responsibility. The horse is our Partner. If we force him, it is not a partnership.”

Arthur is an inspiration and an incredible horseman with a lot of empathy for the horse.
We are all very much looking forward to the next clinic in February.
We would love you to come and watch and learn with us.