In my equestrian library are a handful of books that I return to repeatedly – either for reference or just for the pleasure of rereading. One of these cherished books, A Horseman’s Notes by Erik Herbermann, was a suggestion by a used book seller when she did not have the book I was after. She said this out of print gem was one of her favorites, so I bought it on faith. It has turned out to be one of my all time favorites!
Somewhat unique in equestrian literature, it is more philosophical than practical – appealing to someone like me, who sees Dressage as an intellectual exercise as much as a physical activity. I shared several quotes from it, when I first received it (search for Herbermann to see some of those posts) – but it has been a couple of years.
When I recently dug it out in search of a specific reference, I stumbled upon this gem.
“What is an expert in any field, but one who has come to understand the natural laws on which the materials with which they work are based. The deeper the understanding of those laws and the closer one cooperates with them, the better the product. The fascinating thing is that the variety of end products is virtually infinite, while still remaining purely within natural law. So too the personalization of our riding, with the horse as our living canvas, is limitless. Our personality, our character, our general desires and emanations are all faithfully reflected in the horse. However, it is critical not to misconstrue the perfectly acceptable aspect of our individual stamp, which inevitably flavours our work, as being a green light for ignoring or violating the horses’ fundamental make-up.
Surely then, the power of observation of the laws of nature as they are expressed in the horse, and working in closest cooperation with them are essential qualities for the making of fine horsemen and women. It is the narrow path that must be followed by those who seek to become one with those intangible principles concealed within the tangible surrounding us. Yet, ironically, I believe that the degree of perfection achieved in this regard is not actually what matters most. That will be different for each individual depending on the degree of talent and a host of underlying factors. What does matter, however, is not only the effort we expend, and the heart with which we approach this subject but, above all, that we develop our understanding and skills in such a way that we cause minimal adverse effects on the creatures while our education is in process. Because, regardless of our level of ability, only when we hold the horses in the highest esteem and cherish their childlike enthusiasm will our interaction with them be free of shame, and thus remain ever justifiably joyful and rewarding.”
Be good to your horses!