It is so easy at times to lose control slightly and ask too much of your horse...or possibly worst, to intentionally ask too much in a deliberate and continual way in the belief that 'stretching' the horse in this way will yield greater progress. Education is the key, but to develop the experience, feel, and sensitivity to judge with some accuracy how much a horse can be asked is not a short journey. However what a hugely rewarding destination it can be. The picture above suggests the attitude required to make this journey successfully.
JEAN PHILIPPE GIACOMINI
By chance I came across an interview with the Dressage trainer Jean Philippe Giacomini that I believe offers the fuel for this journey . He describes how as a young student in Nuno Oliveira's Classical Dressage School in Lisbon, he remembered an episode when the master stopped everybody in the class and dramatically asked why we all rode horses. After each student had fumbled some unsatisfactory answers, Nuno Olivereira stated: "I ride horses because I love them".
Jean Phillipe went on to say "To this day, that powerful affirmation remains vivid in my memory, particularly in a horse world that has increasingly become a 'straight business' environment. A horse loving his trainer learns the fastest and performs reliably. After all these years, this fact is undeniably clear to me and the only way I know to achieve that desirable success is to love the horse first, because what goes around comes around! Every rider has his or her own level of proficiency, ambition and every horse his own level of God given talent. This results in presentations that can vary greatly in technical quality, yet the most endearing and noticeable aspect of any enjoyable equestrian spectacle, at whatever level, is a look of happiness on BOTH faces of the rider and the horse!"
What a very appropriate thought for Valentines Day! Love is the answer with both horses and people and is a major driver for both greater empathy and effectiveness as a trainer and coach.
Another student of Nuno Oliveira, for over 17 years, was Bettina Drummond. She relates how he use to say that the only judge he was concerned about was his horse. This is why he said to her, "When you get off your horse it is not the people who looked at you or the judge that are important. It is the horse that turns around and by his supple body and kind eye that is seeing the riding I gave it, as the one tribute I take as a student." A mutual admiration society I think and a rider in mental harmony with his horses.
Bettina also talks about Nuno Oliveira's use of the back. "Mr Oliveira's back was never braced. The one thing he said to me was 'never brace your back.' He would go into the motion of the horse and redirect it." 'He would go into the motion of the horse'...what a superb description of a rider in physical harmony with the horse.
It is not surprising that so many of his horses went so well. Bettina describes these times with these words. "In the moments he had the right feel, the joy radiated from him and the horses loved it." That love thing again...something worth striving for is it not? Happy Valentine's day...William
PS Yes I know this is a week early but it gives you a chance to arrange something special for someone you love.
NEXT TIME....a new blog...WE ARE PART OF SOMETHING VERY SPECIAL