Better

Better

Goodness in dressage is to guide our actions so that we are in service to the horse. Can a dressage based on meekness be effective? or perhaps a better question might be is aggression in dressage ever of any value. Meek is quiet, gentle, and always ready to do what the horse wants without expressing your own opinion. Training sessions always start in meek. This is how we check in with the horse. The first part of training is always a matter of locating/discerning how the horse is on any given day.  We are concerned not only with the body but in coming to a compassionate understanding of the mental state. Our purpose is not to train the horse but to guide the horse in exploring its connections with the present moment. Goal or object driven riding has its place but not in warm up. At this stage, communication is the central focus. We expand from here into a cadenced discipline based on loving kindness. Discipline in this context is always an expression of joy. When the work is set-up with joy and gentleness as its foundation, in the next phase of the work, the horse is ready to expand into the “new” territory.  It is here we play with the language which has bee established through the preliminaries and basics. This is the time of the poetry of the language of dressage and a time where pauses in the work allow the horse to “collect” its thoughts. We are generous in giving the horse peaceful moments and in that time we can reflect on our clarity. This is a...
Simply said

Simply said

A brief guide to the use of the aids 1. Act slowly 2. Be gentle 3. Be clear; avoid complex, compound aids. They are hard to understand and tend to create confusion. 4. Be brief in your actions; prolonged action creates resistance 5. Try to listen to your own aids by imagining yourself on the horse’s side 6. Listen to the horse 7. Use silence as part of the communication; because you are not being active does not mean you are not communicating. Presence alone is one of the strongest statements you can make with a horse. 8. Every aid is timed and blends into the natural cadence of the horse’s movement; find the cadence. 9. Above all be simple and precise 10. Understand that disobedience is extremely rare in the horse and human confusion is very common. If you have to make the horse obey, you have not asked correctly. Obtaining this or that movement from the horse is never as important as how you ask. A properly prepared request totally avoids force and the escalation of force are only a proof that you lack clarity in your request. The aids are the HAND, the seat and the legs which learn to follow the contours and movement of the horse’s body. This is the teaching of the old masters. Horses tolerate aggression from the LEGS; this is the foundation of military equitation. The SEAT’s only power is in striking a balance in the combining of the aids. This appears to be an opinion; it is not. Learning dressage is not easy but it is simple because the horse...
Approaching the horse; Be close

Approaching the horse; Be close

On the surface, superficial and fast suffice and so it is in the world of dressage. There is the sport. Centered on appearance and speed, it gives satisfaction to a human population that is in need of both entertainment and distractions. Competition creates it own special world. Creating a world of gods and demi-gods is not an easy job. It takes great resources and a lot of effort to maintain, but it also needs a certain distance for with any genuine connection to the horse, a sense of dissatisfaction and something being amiss arises. In contrast, the world of art cannot survive in this world. Art requires and intimacy with its medium; the horse. There must be no distance between the art and the artist. Art vanishes with gods and demi-gods for them there needs to be a distance from the art and arts for they risk exposure when measured by authenticity. The drama unfolds in this world of pseudo-gods and the public catches glimpses of horses and riders that they never will know. The distance is set. A standard is fixed and with it the excuses for why it is not quite right. As long as enough excitement through extreme movements with costumes called elegant the public can be pleased. A noble history surrounds the sport and the allure of wealth and power bring these public displays into a pretense justified by technical jargon and just enough difficulty in execution to seal the deal and propel the deception to a level beyond reproach. The public lines up to testify to the reality of a view which is as...
Understanding?

Understanding?

It’s good these things; compassion, gentleness, lightness. The problem is not in the presence of goodness but in how to skillfully turn these good things into something which is practical and useful. Understanding harmony is a simple enough matter. Finding it in the middle of chaos is another thing altogether. It is neither about being passive nor about being active in a situation but about being what the moment itself requires. There is no rule. There is no formula which provides the magic answer. Seeing the mind and feeling for the heart are both attempts to grasp a simple single moment in time with a horse. From that precious moment the daydream beings. The mind, heart and body engage in a touching which fades to non-touching. This the firefly of our being. We glow in a sensation. We are mindful and then the experience fades. We find cadence to maintain awareness, as does the horse. Is this clear? This is not poetic though the understanding has a certain beauty to it. Like the firefly, neither the human or the horse glows with a continued awareness. The mental/emotional construct does diminish its glow. We, in essence, blink in our awareness but in our common experience, no such vision exists. We maintain the illusion of continuous awareness and we create mental models support a permanence which, in fact, does not exist. Finding the dance in one moment is one way and another is to grasp a moment and go on with it. Cadence is the way to martial the gap between a string of moments. Always two beats, one of contraction...
The minds of joining

The minds of joining

Dressage is the natural process of becoming familiar with the horse by repeatedly placing our minds upon it. Whatever we’re doing with the horse, we always have a view. A view is the result of mental placement. Its clarity or lack of clarity speaks to the nature of the mental placement. We’re always placing our mind on some aspect of the equestrian experience. This placement is unavoidable as is the ensuing view. We conceptualize that experience in certain ways which in turn filters our experience. We limit, ignore, block aspects of our experience with these filters which in turn distorts the view. To be open or expansive in our view is to simplify and return to the basic mental placement. A mind skilled in its placement does so slowly and does not jump beyond the basic experience and stays in the moment to moment shifts in time. It returns again and again to the experience until with practice the mind learns to remain present and stable. The view thus as seen by the stable mind is clear and simple. In the proper placement of the mind, we are grounded in the present moment. Free from intentions and goals, we see what is present and harmonize with the motion and that moment. We seek to place our mind with the horse and practice keeping it there, allowing our intentions to naturally follow from the cadenced flow of energies that arise within the movement itself. As this process deepens and matures, the training becomes advanced. Resistance diminishes and our dressage is found to be natural and good. We demonstrate, through this psychological...