The divergent paths of art and sport

I write often about the parallels I see between art and classical Dressage.  It was a sensibility that began to take root while I was studying art, but was truly entrenched during my years of training Dani.  As we grew together in skill, and I watched her change her whole form through the work, I realized that this was as much as act of creation as any art.  She was at once partner and artist’s material to be molded.  So, when I ran across the passage below, I knew that I had to share – along with the interesting contrast that follows it.

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Coffee has a bad day … or three

It has been an interesting week with Coffee – but it provides a very good illustration of the challenges we have when working with horses, and the decisions we have to make in how we react to those challenges.  The wrong reaction can easily escalate an otherwise innocent situation into one that degenerates into fear, anger, stress, or a host of other negative emotions.  It is for you to judge whether my reaction was the right one.

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Don’t scribble on the billboard!

Below is a quote that I find somewhat unique in its approach to the subject.  It is from Erik Herbermann’s A Horseman’s Notes.  In it he addresses one of my favorite topics – that allowing the horse a voice, then listening to what he tells us, gives us the best path to becoming better horsemen and women.  Enjoy.

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Parlor games

My Dressage mentors were very good at creating exercises for humans that helped to illustrate the physical or mental challenges the horse goes through in their training and development.  I recall many hours in the study room, with people struggling to perform – getting some small sense of what it’s like for their horses.  I can’t testify for the others, but I always found these exercises enlightening, and I have used them with my students throughout the years.  Today I shared one in a Facebook post, and that inspired me to share a couple of them here, where I have a bit more space to explain.

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What is a master?

There has been a recent debate, in a Facebook group, on what qualifies someone as a “master” in the realm of Dressage.  It has been triggered by several “Master Classes” conducted by people whose only qualification has to do with winning competitions.  Is that enough to be a true “master”?  If there are other qualifying factors, what are they?  And who makes the determination that someone qualifies to be called master?

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Where is your line?

We all have a line.  It is invisible.  You may not be aware of your line, or think much about it.  But, you know when someone has crossed that line.  Everyone’s line is in a different place.  Take the recent scandals of sexual misconduct.  Harvey Weinstein’s behavior crossed nearly everyone’s line.  Al Franken’s crossed some people’s lines, but not others.

Not everyone’s line is constructed the same, either.  For some, their line is narrow, neatly drawn, and very black.  Everything on the one side of the line is good, and everything that crosses that line is bad – full stop.  For others (myself among them), their line is rather wide and contains all of the gray areas.  On one side is good, and on the other bad – but there is considerable space within the line for those things that are less clear.  Using my example above, it is in my line’s gray space where Al Franken falls.  Distasteful behavior, yes.  Clearly not good, but not really in the class of “bad” into which Harvey Weinstein and others fit.

But, this post is not about the #metoo movement.  My question to you is – where is your line when it comes to horses and riding?

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Scary smart!

You can just see the wheels turning …

The day that I purchased Coffee, his breeder and I had a chat about horses that fit her label of “scary smart”.  For her, these are horses who are always thinking, seem to be a step ahead of you, and that learn things (good or bad) at a speed that makes your head spin.  We compared notes of scary smart horses.  Ben was one of those horses – and she was warning me that Coffee was, too.  It wasn’t long before I knew she was absolutely right!

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