One of the aspects of classically based Dressage training is the way in which it changes the horse’s physique. It is true that any equine activity that involves a level of conditioning will tone muscles, and should make the horse more attractive. I say “should” because there are definitely activities that condition a horse but can actually make them less attractive (more on that later). However, I have yet to find an activity that has as positive an aesthetic affect on the horse’s physique as classically based, correct Dressage training. There are bio-mechanical reasons for these changes – and it’s an excellent barometer for how good the riding and training actually are.
I have a creative little herd. They like to rearrange and reconstruct things just for fun. Often that includes the ‘clothing’ they wear. This tendency is not limited to just one – no, it has become a trend within the group. So, just for fun, while I work to finish some other posts, I thought I would share some of their best fashion statements.
In riding, as in life, we require confidence in order to succeed. Most of us have encountered those horses that have helped us in that journey. Perhaps it was the horse who knew his job so well that you could leave him to it while you sorted out the mechanics of what you were doing. For me, that horse was Wicki. Or, perhaps it was the first training project, who survived all of your mistakes, and still somehow came out okay on the other side. For me, that was Ben. I have encountered many horses, in my journey, who have added to my confidence as a rider and trainer. But, sometimes confidence wanes or is lost, and we need that horse who has the ability to help us find it again. For my mother and me, Coffee has been that special horse.
“Good luck with keeping the place up and finding any time to do anything with your horses!” Those were the parting words of the previous tenant of the first little barn that we rented. We’d been boarding our horses at the same stable for ten years. When a little barn became available, and the boarding stable owners said we could use the facilities for all if we kept one horse there, it seemed the perfect way to save costs with our growing herd. Fortunately, the former tenant was proven wrong, as we kept that barn going for a few years while I also competed, had students and horses in training, and went to university full time. But I have to admit that her words have been on my mind far more in recent years.
From a young age, I was fascinated by why some teachers were easy to learn from, while others made things seem even more confusing. I was particularly fascinated with riding instructors, and exactly why I preferred some to others. I have been teaching, in one capacity or another, for nearly forty years. I have hired and mentored other teachers. Through all of that, I have formed some pretty strong opinions about teaching – what works, what doesn’t, and how context matters. But there is one conclusion I came to long ago – teaching is a talent, rather than a learned skill.
“Then comes a revelation, finally feeling that a horse behaves gymnastically correctly, and the new convert displays a fervor the likeness of which has not been known since the conversion of Paul of Tarsus on the road to Damascus.”
Charles De Kunffy, The Ethics and Passions of Dressage (pg. 36)
Have you had that moment? Have you suddenly felt all of the things you’d dreamed and read about becoming reality in the flash of an instant? Or are you still striving? It is not something that comes overnight; and if you lack the luxury of a very well trained horse with a masterful teacher to guide you, it can take a very long time indeed. You will never forget that moment, when it happens – but it is possible to believe that moment will never come again.
As I navigate through the real and virtual horseworlds, I am finding that new ‘breeds’ of horsemen have been created since I first started riding. Whether it’s the changing times, or the advent of social media, any differences in aspect or approach to horses seems amplified from what I encountered in the past. Perhaps they existed all the time, but something has brought the differences to the forefront – but differences there definitely are. So, in a fun and very non-scientific way, let me introduce you to these types. Which one are you?