The perfect horse (or rider!) has not been born yet, as they saying goes, and this book offers tips to help the rider work with their horse as an individual despite any shortcomings.
The same end result can be achieved by horses of vastly different type - go to any competition and you will see a variety of shapes and sizes in action.
All are different - even within breeds. A Spanish horse may have a powerful, high neck, while a thoroughbred may have a thin, low-set neck. But it is impossible to categorise a breed into a single conformation type. It is the same with temperament.
In terms of conformation, some physical features need special attention from the rider or trainer. For example, says the author, a short-backed horse may need more warming up with lateral movements to become supple. Conversely, a long-backed horse might tend to be "strung-out" and thus the frame must be shortened from the back to the front. Lots of half-halts are a good way to achieve this, the author says.
While long, short, ewe, knife and swan necks can be worked with to a degree, the author advises against poorly conformed legs and overall poor conformation when considering a competition horse: "attempting to turn a horse with very bad conformation into a competition athlete will only end in frustration for horse and rider."
Schöffmann, a well-known trainer and author, also gives advice on coping with different equine personality types, both natural and man-made. This includes, for example, horses who are hyper, hot, slow horses, sensitive, fearful, lazy, resistant and so on.
Gender is discussed, with the merits of riding a gelding, stallion or mare considered, and the final chapter looks at various breeds - warmbloods, haflingers, and friesian and PRE (Spanish) horses. Each has their strengths and are illustrated in action while their characteristics are discussed..
Finally, friesian guru Günther Föohlich shares some insights into the breed, and Belgian born German trainer Jean Bemelmans discusses Spanish horses and dressage.
Throughout the book well-known riders talk about their horses and their "issues" - Nadine Capellmann and Farbenfroh (who had a problem with "looking" at objects), Monica Theodorescu and Arak (a grand prix dressage performer who was an ex-racehorse), Isabell Werth and Satchmo (always eager and a great trail riding horse) and Warum Nicht (an 18hh gentle giant who fears anything 'under him'), Klaus Balkenhol and Gracioso and Goldstern (poles apart in personality), Karin Rehbein and Donnerhall, Jan Brink and Briar, and George Williams and Rocher.
This certainly offers food for though - and will perhaps help some riders be more forgiving of their mounts and to learn to school their horses in a more sympathetic manner.
Britta Schöffmann is a journalist, the recipient of a gold German riding badge, a Grand Prix rider, a competition judge, and an instructor. She is the author of Klaus Balkenhol: The Man and His Training Methods and Dressage School: A Sourcebook of Movements and Tips Demonstrated by Olympian Isabell Werth, as well as several German-language books that focus on the value of a strong mutual bond of trust between rider and horse.