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James Fillis

James Fillis (1834-1913) was a well-known English born French riding master. A student of Francois Baucher, he introduced his instructor's methods to his home country as he trained horses for 12 years as Ecuyer en chef of the St. Petersburg Cavalry Riding School. He then went on to train in a German circus in 1892, during which time he performed for the Grand Duke Nicholas in Russia, and was subsequently offered a position to train the Russian Cavalry.

Fillis is credited with teaching his horses to canter on three legs and to canter backward, neither of which are trained to classical dressage horses today, as they are considered "unnatural" movements. He also taught the spanish walk, a movement still seen today, despite the fact that it is not considered to be "classical." Fillis was also the developer of the fillis-style stirrup iron commonly used riders today. He was also attributed with the "Fillis Hold" of the reins of a double bridle, whereby the snaffle rein passes over the index finger and the curb rein under the little finger - although this most probably originates from the works of the great French masters (indeed, even he himself referred to this as the "French" way in is works).

Fillis is featured in Alexander Nevzorov's book and movie The Horse: Crucified and Risen.


  • Podhajsky, Alois (1967). The Complete Training of Horse and Rider. Doubleday and Company. 
  • Karl, Philippe (2008). Twisted Truths of Modern Dressage. Cadmos. 


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