Goodness, frankness and trustworthy dressage

Goodness, frankness and trustworthy dressage

Goodness comes from both your mind and the horse’s. The mind relates with your body, and the body relates internally with your posture and externally to the horse. Try to combine all those aspects together. Try to have a very good, solid daily practice. Of course there are other points of orientation with the horse. This is a matter of consciousness. Where you focus your attention and where the horse does determine the manner in which you communicate. Learn first how to direct your own mind and then find how to gently bring the horse’s mind to you. Good dressage is in how to co-intensify space so that you and the horse take the same point of orientation. When done without aggression or fear, the horse seeks out the places of common touch and comes to enjoy the intensification of space which provides the locus for communication. Space vibrates and is regular in good dressage. The vibration has cadence and is predictable. When this is so confidence comes. The aids are regular and predictable.A properly trained horse then becomes both trustworthy and frank. The point of dressage is to bring the horse to demonstrate both of these qualities. To be able to achieve this result means that we must also be able to find those qualities in ourselves.To be trustworthy is to be reliable but also to be above suspicion. To be frank is to be free from bondage or restraint from the aids. To trust ourselves is to be able to properly dwell in who and what we are. This is about how we take our seat. From the horse’s view,...
Proper dressage

Proper dressage

Correctness is not an excuse to torment the horse nor is a reason to punish yourself.There is no equitation police who will come and arrest you when you make a mistake with your horse. While good dressage is “correct” dressage, it is not about aggressively enforcing yours or any other belief system on the horse. Correctness in dressage is gentle and quiet. It is not hard nor aggressive. It is in fact a cradle of loving kindness which consists of the aids which surround the horse. The aids know the cadence. They touch and let go. They hold without holding. This is called “self carriage.” The only choice which the horse can make is to stay in that cradle because training and experience has led the horse to believe that the aids are the door to all that is kind and easy. So the aids are learned by the mind and they manifest through the body. If this was all there was to it then a few books and some practice would make us all excellent riders but there is more. What makes the aids correct is neither body nor mind and that is the tricky part. What makes the aids correct is the heart. All great riders have a heart connection with the horse. This is the invisibility of the aids. Correct aids are invisible because the gentle heart meets the gentle heart. Only the open heart of the rider can open the heart of the horse and this is the key. There is no force which can make any horse obey other than the force of affection...
Contemplating motivation

Contemplating motivation

There are always two points of view in dressage. One is the view of the horse and the other, our view. In good dressage these views merge and/or harmonize with each other. The horse finds just as much value in its view as we do in ours. So it is important for both that there is a feeling of compassion and caring for each other. When this is not done in either direction aggressions may arise and eventually motivation diminishes as fears build. Contemplating the motivation in either case requires the willingness to slow down, open up, and tune in to the physical and psychological environment. An honest vision of what is occurring in the moment is important to maintain confidence and diminish fear. Coming to  advanced work is not about movements. The movements are the effect of skillful means, an open heart and freedom from fear. When this is not true, any movement produced in the horse is corrupted and the rider’s affect is one of stiffness. Can we hide discord and poor motivation? Perhaps with the improvements in modern breeding, we have produced many horses of such superior movement that to the uneducated eye, contractions may not be obvious and with riders who are gifted and athletic it may be possible to conceal much of problem.  However when motivation is lacking, stress arises and overtime the burden of movements done under stress brings its toll and eventually mind or body break down. In most cases, few of us have access to such well bred and talented horses and so defects are more obvious. In modern riding, how many horses have we...
Getting it

Getting it

How does one get it?  Where does great dressage come from? We could say, practice, practice and practice and there is some truth to that but there are many very dedicated people who practice a lot and do not seem to get anywhere.  Of course there is, purchase, purchase and purchase and there are people who do buy level after level but without an amazing bank account and the selection of an equally amazing horse this does not always succeed either. The there is lesson, lesson and lesson but does not do it either. We all know people who invest in lessons with the best instructors and still do not seem to get anywhere. So then, how is it done? A simple strategy of all of the above seems to work best, but does it really? Being rich and a bit insane may seem to work but it really is not about that either. It is really about being able to go deeper rather than to do more. All horses are capable of upper level works (assuming a certain level of soundness) and it is my personal belief that all riders are also able to do upper level work. The best plan for us mere mortals is in practice, awareness and study. The tricky part of this trio is that two of the three parts presents unique difficulties. Practice is some ways is the easiest part. In the end, it is a matter of showing up but what you practice (your education) and how you practice (your awareness) are the two difficulties which present themselves. The education of a rider...
Very kind and very natural

Very kind and very natural

Dignity in dressage arises by having consideration for the horse and being gentle with both yourself and the horse. With gentleness, you go forward without recklessness, and the result is that you avoid any accidents. Taking the time it takes is far more important that training on a fixed schedule. Good dressage has its own timeline. Too often our ambitions try and set the time. Certainly one can sit on a young horse in a matter of a few hours but that is just a parlor trick and not good training. Working bitless or liberty work is similar. It is not that such things cannot be done. They do have entertainment value but both avoid the issue of safety for both human and the horse. The fact is that we have an intelligence which sees beyond what the horse can see and so the natural hierarchy is for our mind to be dominate but that does not imply aggression. To ignore this hierarchy is to bring danger to both horse and human. The problem from our side is that we must learn to use simple tools to exert our intelligence without discomfort to the horse. The bit (simple snaffle), stick and rope used intelligently is the interface which allows us to extend our kindness by asserting an authority based in compassion and not aggression. The saddle, well made and fitted is a matter of comfort for the horse and is a device which adds an intelligence to our aids which is not possible without one. No primitive culture which was horse dependant failed to adopt a saddle when they...