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Alta Escuela Riding School

You can learn everything there is to know about the Spanish Walk and Military Equitation at the Alta Escuela Riding School in Meerbeke. Anyone with an interest in those areas can take lessons. Please contact the Ardanwen Falconry for more information.

Alta Escuela

Alta Escuela is a method for training horses. It originated in the military and was introduced to utilize horsepower in battle. Most people know about the Alta Escuela (or “high school”) from the Real Escuela in Jerez, which is based on traditional Spanish riding styles such as the Doma Vaquera and the work of the Rejoneador. The school was founded by Alvaro Domecq, a well-known bullfighter.

Functions in the military

The Spanish Walk was used to create space for troops whilst other movements were designed to oust the enemy. These exercises are also reflected in the Rejoneador riding style, which features the bullfighter on horseback. The Alta Escuela in Spain shouldn’t be mistaken for the Spanish Riding School in Vienna, which is based on the classical dressage that led to the Doma Classica. However, there aren’t many differences between the two and they’re often confused. The Alta Escuela is primarily ridden from the saddle. That’s because the rider uses weapons when riding. Alta Escuela also requires plenty of groundwork. High jumps such as the capriole are normally taught from ground level.

Ideal for equestrian sportsValkerij Ardanwen - Alta Escuela

The benefit of the Alta Escuela is that its riding style gives you a particularly solid foundation for multiple disciplines in equestrian sports. Think classical dressage, working equitation or freedom dressage. A number of dressage styles, such as those adopted by the Spanish Riding School in Vienna, use the Alta Escuela as the foundation for training horses.

Discipline from horse and rider

The style is a real pleasure to watch. Alta Escuela requires a huge amount of discipline from both horse and rider. Most of the horses used for Alta Escuela have been bred from the baroque horse, although the pure Spanish horse is the Andalusian. Those horses are perfect for Alta Escuela because of their build and temperament. However, a number of basic exercises can also be done by other breeds.

Lessons at the Ardanwen Falconry

The Ardanwen Falconry provides all types of riding lessons based on its many years of experience in Alta Escuela. You can learn to ride one of the Ardanwen horses (Spanish or Lusitano stallions) or bring your own horse along. It doesn’t have to be any breed of baroque horse whatsoever. The lessons are primarily geared towards getting a feel for your horse: working from the back and still getting that quality from both horse and rider in a relaxed and enjoyable way. It’s fun for everyone involved. The big plus at Ardanwen is that we have a large number of classical horses on which you can easily learn a new exercise yourself. You can then try them out using your own horse. That gives you a feel for the movement the horse makes during a certain exercise and for sitting on your own horse.

Fear training

We don’t stop there at the Ardanwen Falconry. You can complete fear training along with the horses. Ride your horse across an agility course with swords, spears, bows (horse bows), birds of prey, fire and much, much more. You can allow your own horse to get used to the exercises alongside the Ardanwen horses because horses are herd animals. Our horses are well trained and remain calm during the exercises, meaning that your own horse will normally respond well.

Military EquitationValkerij Ardanwen - Alta Escuela

The riding school is organizing a one-off Military Equitation competition for the first time. As the name suggests, this is a sport with its military roots. It was a way for knights to demonstrate their riding skills. You will learn how to ride your horse while handling weapons. The foundation of every riding sport is, of course, dressage. Military Equitation lets people really feel how important the saddle is and that whilst not all the reins control the steering, the saddle and legs most certainly do. It’s a really fun and challenging way to improve your seating and riding.

All types of fun exercises

One of the exercises is to push three to four small plates. The plates are 10 to 15 metres apart and a maximum 20 cm in height. The aim is to push them over with a stick measuring around 2½ metres whilst galloping. If you place the stick either too high or too low, you will be stuck in the ground and possibly pushed out of the saddle.

Another fun exercise is collecting rings. These are also positioned 10 to 15 metres apart and the aim is to take them with you. Another component is the javelin throw, which involves throwing two javelins into a goal. Or how about splitting baby apples? Try to halve three apples using a sword. There’s an added bonus when you push a doll over with your horse using the Spanish Walk.

The Alta Escuela Riding School in Meerbeke includes various types of Mongol bows and a number of arrows specially made for archery on horseback. The exercise is standard if it can be incorporated safely and is also part of Military Equitation. You can all try to master those techniques when you visit us.

One final test is the quintain, also known as the Saracen. Participants are given a spear of around 2½ metres and challenged to strike a shield as firmly as possible. The shield is spinning around, however, and a solid object is hanging on a chain on the other side. There’s a danger that you might be struck by that object and knocked off your horse.

Dual tests

The full tests are done twice. One focuses on style, with the aim being to complete the exercise as neatly and accurately as possible, all while galloping. There’s a reasonable break before you begin each exercise. You can stop at the end of each one. The aim is to demonstrate that you have good control of your horse and can handle the weapons effectively. The second time around it’s all about speed. The course has been calculated in such a way that you can end up with a score of zero if you subtract the points scored from the time taken.


Equine Trigger Point Therapy is one name for the Jack Meagher sports massage. Thalya decided to change the name slightly to ETT as people found it snappier.
JM sports massage or ETT as it’s now known is the only sports massage to take a scientific approach. In a study, the horses took larger strides after treatment and so covered the same distance with fewer strides than before. It delves deeper than routine massage because we target the muscle’s stress points.
A muscle is formed so that it can either contract or relax. But the muscle will cramp when under too much strain and trapped in a tension phase (due to a fall, incorrect training or poorly fitted saddle). The small fibres inside the muscle then become thicker and shorter. One tightened/cramped fibre will have little impact but will soon affect the others and form a knot (trigger/stress point).
A stress point means that the muscle has reduced mobility, blood circulation and performance levels.
Thalya also uses other techniques during courses of treatment, such as the Masterson method, Craniosacral, acupressure and Holistic HorseWorks methods. We also look at the horse’s hooves.


You will need a saddle whenever you decide to ride your horse. The saddle must be a good fit for both horse and rider.
Thalya is an MSFC® saddle fitter and can also top up/refill saddles.


Training your horse is so relaxing. Or it should be. But you might not have time to train your horse, you can get sidetracked during training or your horse may show signs of ‘problematic’ behaviour.
Are you taking a break but still want your horse to be trained? Do you have any physical issues preventing you from training?
Is your horse developing patterns of behaviour that you know nothing about? Distress? Your horse is carrying an injury, runs erratically and needs time to recover?
We’ve seen it all! We work together with a team of osteopaths, vets, homeopaths, groomers... to find a solution. Thalya herself is a trigger point therapist, MSFC saddle adjuster and instructor in straightening and academic horsemanship. We also specialize in stallions and distressed horses.
You can bring your horse in for training/rehabilitation every week or month.

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