Award Winning:

“Like the classic deadly sins, the seven deadly sins of dressage presented in this innovative guide-ignorance, timidity, pride, fear, gluttony, impatience, and sloth-wreak havoc on both rider and equine development and training. Calling attention to common mistakes and offering new strategies for avoiding age-old pitfalls, this manual addresses the philosophical issues of incorrect dressage training by examining each vice in depth. Using a touch of humor and sound advice, this guide comes complete with practical exercises, enlightening photographs, and useful information for becoming a better rider and person”–

Book Reviews

The Seven Deadly Sins of Dressage was the most checked out book of our library atThe Florida Dressage Experience Program in 2014. Our trainers/riders found it articulate and thought provoking. In order to be successful trainers/riders must understand themselves as well as their mounts. Douglas Puterbaugh's practical training suggestions coupled with a deep understanding of human nature make this a “must read” for aspiring rider/trainers! Definitely in the “I couldn’t put it down category!"

-Ida Norris "S" Dressage Judge Founder of the Florida Dressage Experience Program

“The (Seven Deadly) sins, according to Puterbaugh, are: ignorance, timidity, pride, fear, impatience, anger, and immoderation. In The Seven Deadly Sins of Dressage, Puterbaugh shows us how not to repeat the trespasses of our past horsemanship mistakes.”

-USDF Connection July 2012

"Great book. Very insightful and really makes you reevaluate yourself. I highly recommend reading this book. I just wish the prong was a little darker for us older readers ;)"

-By Lyne -Amazon Verified Purchase January 3, 2014

”Bottom Line: While it is dressage-oriented, this book should be a requirement for anyone who owns a horse, no matter what discipline. Horses everywhere will be better off because of it. The quotes from influential trainers in years past are worth the price alone.”

-My Horse Daily

"THIS IS A WONDERFUL BOOK . A mirror into our souls as dressage riders . We are human and learning how destructive our human tendencies can be is oh so important before we can truly understand how to correctly build a horse mentally and also physically . If you want to purify your technique in dressage first you must understand how to filter out all the ways that human nature pollutes your ability to clearly communicate to the horse. This book is an eloquent way to get intersective on things that may affect you and subsequently your ability to develop harmony ."

-By luv4dressage -5.0 out of 5 stars A must read for dressage enthusiasts

“Most everyone riding a horse, has at one time or another committed at least one, if not more of these sins. Maybe, hopefully, by reading this book, more riders will see themselves here, try to curb their behavior, so we can see happier and less misunderstood horses throughout the US. On behalf of all the horses, I thank you.”

- Sonja Vracko Clinician ‘S” Judge , Dressage

I love this book. Read it to unlock your potential as a rider and trainer. So much food for thought. If you ride you will find yourself saying “Amen, brother.” Should go on the required reading list for USDF Instructor/Trainers. It also makes you want to go have a lesson with Douglas Puterbaugh, except that he lives and trains in Michigan! I just wanted to add that the news is spreading about this book. Chatter amongst trainers and USDF Instructors. If you train or teach you really MUST read this. If you don’t see some of your own errors, you won’t miss the ones you see your peers making! (:

-Karen McGoldrick Author of ”The Dressage Chronicles”

“The book is a blend of psychology, philosophy, and practical advice. It combines old knowledge with modern concepts of riding and horsemanship, but it is not a book on dressage technique per se. It is a book about human character traits as they relate to riding. Above all, it is a self improvement book, and as stated in the chapter on Immoderation, the overarching theme is: “Before trying to improve your horse, try to improve yourself.” Picture

-by Leigh Ballard Mid South Horse Review July 2012

One of the many reasons why I love bringing you Tack and Talk, is that when I do the research I learn something new. There are so many horsemen contributors that are passionate about horses with so much knowledge, willing to share this wealth of information, it amazes me. Such is the case with this current book review, The Seven Deadly Sins of Dressage. Now, I know many of you will disregard this read because you think it’s just another how-to-ride-dressage book. But it is much more than that…it is a guide to understanding first how a horse naturally interprets what you do and how it affects him and an introspective look at yourself! What are the deadly sins: Ignorance, Timidity, Pride, Fear, Impatience, Anger and Immoderation. This book shows how each cause riding problems. Even if you are not guilty of any of them, there is incredible wisdom presented within these pages, and each chapter is well worth the read. This book contains excellent, large photos of riders, horses at liberty and old-time masters. The photos are outstanding. Author Douglas Puterbaugh says he’s seen many riders who “think of dressage mainly in terms of technique.” Those students expect a specific how-to answer when they ask, “what am I doing wrong?” They don’t understand “it’s not so much a question of what one does, but the way one does it.” A quote from Waldemar Seunig within the book. The bottom line is that while this book is dressage oriented, it is a good book for anyone who owns a horse no matter the discipline who want to overcome the natural human emotions that get in the way of communicating with your horse. You won’t be disappointed.

- Tack and Talk -New Book review from Tack and Talk: March 29, 2013 2

Dear Douglas, Please recall that we met at the MI Grass Lakes Horse Show at the end of August. I am the mutual friend of Charles De Kunffy. First, thank you for taking the time and effort to write a book to address the vices of the human factor in Dressage. It was long overdue and hopefully, will raise awareness and attention to these barriers to true harmony. It was wonderful that you quoted Charles and included one of his many books in your Recommended Reading and Bibliography Section. I love your references to the Masters and encouragement and responsibility to educate ourselves through reading as well as riding! Although replete with messages, your focus upon lifelong learning and the importance of the solid trainer is an imperative and critical message of the book. Also, these magical creatures are often mistreated in subtle ways. I have personally witnessed misdirected emotion and anger in the Dressage world and pray that this manifestation which dwells in "the bosom of fools" (Einstein) is lessened. Certainly, I am not exempt from manifestations of the Seven Deadly Sins. "Let she who is sinless cast the first stone!" Your book does provide ample encouragement for personal honesty and reflection. I have learned in recent years that it is the joy of the journey and not the destination of dressage that is the worthy pursuit. Thank you for validating that learning for me. Also, I love the dedication to Tamara and many of the wonderful pictures you did include. My favorite of you is on page 145 where you are rewarding your horse on the buckle! A picture of true happiness and relaxation! Thank you again for this lovely book. I plan to include it on my suggested dressage reading list for dressage minds along with Charles, Zettl and Podhajsky! Quite grand company you keep! I trust our paths shall cross again in the future. I will keep posted on the events at your Howell facility as well. My best to lovely Tamara and of course, lil Solli. P.S., The picture below is of my dog, Rexton and the lovely and talented Arabella. She is the Grand Prix Schoolmaster (from Heather Blitz) who is humbling me each day as I earn the right to ride her in Harmony. You will also note the name of my dressage LLC is Harmony Horsing! Blessings!

Regina M. Sacha-Ujczo (USDF Bronze & Silver Medalist) Harmony Horsing, LLC "Pursuing Dressage Excellence"

Interviews & Articles

The Seven Deadly Sins of Dressage

What made you write this book?

I wanted to give the important things to the student before they begin the learning process, but still be relevant throughout the entirety of it. Something to inspire in the student a passion for what dressage is: a very old and fascinating subject. And also to remind the rider that the horse bears every mark of it’s previous handling, to temper our force, and not just ambitiously romp around on him. The book is there to remind people that most of the responsibility of learning is placed on the student who wishes to learn, and not the teacher to grind knowledge in. Also, to remind students that we must look back, and not forget the classical body of knowledge.

The Seven Deadly Sins of Dressage

You write riders should also focus on mental aspects instead of focusing on their technique alone. Can you elaborate a bit on that?

​There is all this argument over technique. The criticism is always About the technique. The technique is not to be criticized, but the bad use or interpretation of it. The technique gets the blame, but the rider has to do the technique. I want people to engrain in their mind that there is nothing new in dressage. When you take  the master away from his method, he takes the  better part of his technique with him. What’s left behind is for the student to sort out. Try to copy one’s violin technique, or an actor’s manner of speaking, and you will know what I mean. The most difficult thing to attempt is to become someone else, so we must as of necessity find ourselves. Technique is key, but If a person has a propensity to anger, he must discover this block and  work on that, because the same technique applied by one person who is filled with patience and serenity in their riding, reaps a different effect, than the same technique delivered with ambition and impatience. 

The Seven Deadly Sins of Dressage

Would it be possible to add a practical exercise for some of the sins? Timidity, Fear, Impatience and possibly Immoderation may seem most suitable for that? Would be great if that would be possible.

Never shrink from study. By studying we find everything. Study is the practical exercise. All of these exercises require effort.  A practical exercise for Timidity is to watch good riders, a good exercise for fear is to try to understand the taming process of the horse. A good exercise for immoderation is to try to be consistent in all your interactions with the horse, and never think that study can replace a good teacher.

The Seven Deadly Sins of Dressage

Which sins do you see occur most often?

Pride and Impatience.  I think it’s been popular to raise people’s self-esteem way above their ability. We are all familiar with telling children: “you can do anything you set your mind to”. It might be better to ask: “Do you think you can set your mind to that?” . Then you would find the real answer. It is like the person that loses interest in their work, the moment they realize the pay is in direct proportion to their worth. Many Americans gravitate toward that which requires very little effort on their part, but expect a very glamorous outcome. This leads very often to the sin of immoderation. 
In America, we think the louder we say it, the truer it becomes, and that a 2 week course in anything, makes you an expert. In Europe,  there is still more respect for the apprenticeship system. 


July 15, 2013

“THE SEVEN DEADLY SINS OF DRESSAGE is a unique and special book,” says FEI dressage trainer/rider Yvonne Barteau. “I have been a collector of equine literature for many years, and this book has earned a spot on the ‘top shelf’ in my library. I have recommended it to all of my students as a ‘must read’ and will continue to do so. Author Douglas Puterbaugh covers vital and important rider information in an entertaining, engaging, and compelling manner.”

What kind of “vital rider information” will you find in THE SEVEN DEADLY SINS OF DRESSAGE? Check out the attributes Douglas lists as the 10 qualities of a good instructor/trainer—something every one of us should keep in mind as we spend our lives striving to improve our horsemanship and become better partners to our horses.

“Find a good trainer is like finding a good mechanic,” says Douglas. “When you do, embrace him/her because he/she’s the difference between your satisfaction and disappointment.”
A good instructor/trainer should:

1 Treat you as an individual and recognize that different personality types require different approaches. He/she should tailor teaching style accordingly.
2 Evaluate your training goals.
3 Be well-rounded him/herself. A good trainer is constantly trying to improve in his/her own right—studying, practicing, learning from others.
4 Help you improve. A committed student taught by a good trainer should experience skills that improve steadily over time—that is, if the trainer is given enough time and the student is giving enough effort.
5 Work well with you. A comfortable relationship will yield more results than a difficult one. Better to look forward to your lessons than to dread them.
6 Be able to improve diminished gaits or correct spoiled horses. This is a skill, beyond the abilities of many otherwise capable trainers.
7 Not be a bully. A trainer should encourage your potential, not discourage your efforts.
8 Display infinite patience with both horse and pupil.
9 Never grow tired of repeating things that need to be repeated.
10 Be inspiring and kind, for even the most talented trainer will find it difficult to instill confidence in his/her students when prickly or unapproachable.

Bit Magazine - Holland : Horses are like kids: they need discipline with a purpose.

January 10, 2014

As I’ve learned to be a parent over the last five years, I have often noted—admittedly, not always with joy—the parallels between being “mom” to a son and “mom” to a horse. The constant need for food and poop removal, for example, stands out rather vividly in my mind…

But it of course takes far more than basic physical care to raise a child or train a horse:

We must constantly deconstruct our requests—both the simple and the complex—and translate them into a language our pupil can understand.
We must recognize a “try” and reward quickly and accordingly, even if it isn’t exactly right…yet.
We must constantly monitor behavior in the hopes that a gentle correction early can prevent an uncomfortable confrontation later.
And we must be prepared to be firm when necessary, because the establishment of boundaries and respect for you as leader/teacher/parent is ultimately integral to the safety of the child or the horse, as well as necessary for either one’s success when venturing forth into the world without you.
“Just as good parents find within themselves the strength to correct their child, you have to find within yourself the strength to keep your horse under your authority,” writes trainer and dressage rider Douglas Puterbaugh in his book THE SEVEN DEADLY SINS OF DRESSAGE. “In both cases, the intent is entirely proper. For his own good, a child must learn to distinguish between behaviors that are acceptable and those that won’t be tolerated. Horses are similar…Like a child, they look to your leadership to show them the right way to do things.”

Douglas says that horses require “discipline with a purpose.” This phrase stands out in that it doesn’t advocate being a teddy bear or a nag or a tyrant. As parents and as horse owners, we must cultivate the ability to correct at the appropriate moment, to sometimes leave our pupil alone and give him time to “figure it out,” and we must always be in control of our temper.

“When your horse misbehaves you have to act quickly,” writes Douglas. “You must get your horse’s attention and immediately give him direction. This should be done firmly but gently because unwanted behavior does not necessarily mean a horse is deliberately misbehaving. It just means he’s doing something you don’t want him to do.

“You must always rule in favor of the horse. You must always be clear about what you want him to do. You must always be clear with your aids, and you must always carefully measure your response. Any reprimand must be proportional to the offense. Furthermore, a reprimand is deserved only when the horse knows better and is willfully disobeying….Never reprimand a horse that doesn’t understand something. You want to teach your horse, not bully him. A docile horse will tolerate being bullied, but a noble horse won’t. A noble horse will bully you back. Either way, you lose. You lose the trust and confidence of one that’s sweet, and awaken the doubt and defiance of one that’s a king.”

Again, Douglas’ last point rings true to the parent in me as well as the rider! How often I’ve seen children cower in fear beneath a sharp reprimand, while I’ve witnessed others volley screams until it was the parent who retreated in defeat.

In truth, wielding discipline in the barn or arena is a delicate balance, like so much else we do with horses. It has a necessary place in good training, just as it does in good parenting, but it must always be conscientiously applied, and it must always have a purpose.