The Living Art of Dressage

The Living Art of Dressage

Dressage should not be a dead thing. It is not a matter of worshiping at the mausoleum of dressage. Correctness should not a be grave you dig and throw the horse in and yet… Dressage means training. And all over the world, in every training discipline, the horse and the rider both are sacrificed to what is believed to be correct. Why is correctness seen as being so important? One reason is that it is a very human way to hold people to a dressage which controls not just the horse but the student. Always there is a fear that without dressage rules and dressage instructors you and the horse are doomed. That fear of ruining your horse is a sword hanging over your head. Yet, the seeking and forcing of correctness is the path to doing exactly that; ruining the horse. And destroying the instinctive, feeling brilliance of the rider as well. But there is a correctness that is kind, forgiving, curious, and alive. Correct dressage is not the imposition of an outside force to “make” the horse take on an appearance. Rather, correctness is a guideline to gently lead a horse to find mechanical efficiency and comfort in its work. Correctness is the awakening of an inner force which leads to happiness and comfort. The result of correctness is increased sanity and durability made over whatever time a horse needs to take to find its own best position. The point of educated riding is to gently lead the horse and trainer in the discovery of the joy of the relationship. Correctness is not a visual appearance though...

Simple, but not Easy

Sometimes working as co-director of the school here along with Craig Stevens can be a bit daunting. I’m not blind to my own attributes, I don’t need reassurance. I’m a skilled rider. I’m a talented and inspired teacher.  I’m smart, fascinated, and well-informed on our subject, and I make a difference for every student I work with.  It’s not that I’m worried that I’m not good at what I do, truly. But, oh the sheer poetry of Craig Stevens at work. The never ending improvements, the mind that delights in learning, the daily joy he feels now fifty years and more into this life in the continuing work he’s privileged to do with these remarkable animals, and the stunning changes in horse after horse and rider after rider as he works with them, more and more gently, year after year. I’m good at what I do, truly, I do know this. And often people who find him intimidating, or can’t follow his metaphors, or just need a different approach find my work even more useful. But he’s a serious master, and I’m not Craig, I’m just…you know… me. And it’s hard not to feel shaky sometimes. Now, of course, he’s my husband! So I know all the down side. It may surprise you that I want him to be more diplomatic, and he COULD make an effort to dress like George Clooney and throw away “that one shirt.” He doesn’t do things around the house as I wish, and he rarely answers the phone, his jokes are appalling and he rarely does his lunch dishes, and can’t be counted on to fix the sink or take out...

Ideas for the website

We are inventing ways to make the site more user friendly and more interesting. I have all sorts of ideas as to what that might mean and I’m setting aside writing time to fill in the pages. But it occurs to me that our readers might have even better ideas than I… What information about classical riding would you like to be able to find on the Foundation’s website? If you have an idea, email me by using the form below. Riding and teaching and building websites– they’re always better as a collaboration. Thanks in advance for your help! ~Mary Anne   Name(required) State or province and country where I live Email(required)...

A Brief Discussion of Classical and Academic Equitation

We had a discussion of “classical” riding with some people writing in, and I thought the interchange was worth repeating. The photo is a composite. On the right is Monsieur Nestier, who was roughly contemporaneous with La Guérinière. Famous for his seat, apparently he rode so beautifully that women swooned when he rode past. On the left is Commandant Xavier Lesage astride “Taine”, a thoroughbred, having taken double Olympic gold in Los Angeles in 1932. A reader says… “I prefer the horse on the right, the Iberian type is more classical.” Classical riding can be about re-enactment, a replication of the etchings and lithographs left behind showing baroque era men on baroque era horses. The tradition is beautiful and re-enactment is fun.  However, the way we use the term is to mean a way of training that transcends the era in which it was first recorded. For instance, if one is limited to the appearance of the familiar old masters,  I would not be considered classical, as women at that time were not trained to ride at this level. But this doesn’t mean I’m not classical in my training and outlook. The choice not to include women was a cultural loss for the time, it wasn’t “right.” It is just “what was.” In our barn, we have very “classical” Iberian horses – andalusians, lusitanos, lipizanners: very “typey” horses– we also do the same high level work with appaloosas, thoroughbreds, Akhal Tekes and dyed in the wool back yard bred what-si-whose-its. We are engaged in the puzzle of working with just about any horse that comes in the door, given that it...

Auspicious beginnings

Today we launch the website for the Foundation …and with this launch the Foundation really takes its first step into the wider world. While the Foundation for the Equestrian Arts is very much Craig Stevens’ inspiration, it is not “his” or any other person’s– it truly belongs to the horses, and to any rider who is reaching out for a better way to interact with them. SO many questions arise when we talk about horse training! Let’s just look at one… “With all our understanding of biomechanics and ethics, isn’t modern riding more evolved than earlier forms? There were people, once, who depended on horses for their lives. They did not “mess about” with training that didn’t work. Stressed, ulcer ridden, arthritic and short-lived horses by definition were not a workable partner. Horses are and were expensive– even if a person didn’t have a heart connection that had them want the horse to live a long and healthy life, resources were scarce and they certainly had a financial one. Consider this…”Wonder Bread” is modern bread, “Velveeta” is modern cheese…. and they certainly have all the benefits of science behind them! And they use all that science to answer only one question… “let’s consider shelf life“. Modern disciplines are asking a very limited question, “what wins in competition?” It is fairly easy to see, when you begin to know the alternatives, that not all modernization is an improvement. The team that put this together includes Craig Stevens and Mary Anne Campbell, we’re married and more or less joined at the hip in this endeavor. But as the vision began to...