“Striving for total harmony …”

I’m laying on my back fighting a cold.  This is to be the weekend of a conference at my old trainer’s place, and I only hope that I am well enough to make the three hour drive tomorrow.  I’ve been looking forward to this for a while – a return to my old stomping grounds, as well as a refresher on in-hand training techniques.  So, of course that would be when I get sick!

Herbermann-Atlantis-piaffeWhile laying around, I am reading Erik Herbermann’s Dressage Formula.  He is rapidly becoming my favorite author on the art of horsemanship.  His books are more philosophical and theoretical than practical – but his regard for the horse is clear in every word.  One particular passage so struck me that I wanted to share.  It is the conclusion of a chapter on aids:

“In concluding, our communication with the horse would be sadly incomplete if we were only to ensure the austere technical perfection of our signalling [sic] system.  In order to bring the full potential of our influence on the horse to bear, the aids should be transmitted on a wave-length of sound equestrian philosophy; a foundation of attitudes nurtured by lengthy steeping in an environment where the rider is exposed to examples of excellence in all phases of horsemanship, whereby these can gradually permeate the rider’s very core – absorbed through his pores, as it were.

If we are genuinely dedicated to achieving classical work, that is, striving for total harmony with the horse’s nature, we must learn to appeal to the horse’s psyche, and come to understand it as fully as possible.  Thus we raise our work from a strictly physical, technical manipulation, to a dignified plane of intelligent communication which engages our whole being.  We succeed not because we have thwarted the horse at its own game, but because we have unified with it in a greater goal of understanding and co-operation; a triumph in which the horse is respected, and in which it both willingly and fully takes part.”

With any luck, I will spend the weekend exposed to examples of excellence in horsemanship, and return with more tools to develop that greater goal of understanding and co-operation.

Respect your horses!


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