I have been preparing for a clinic this weekend at Infinity Farm. It’s the my favorite clinic every year: Fundamentals of Dressage. One of my clients asked if it was going to be the same as last year. (Eye roll -is this a trick question?)
Nope, the fundamentals of dressage have not changed in the last year, or the last century for that matter. Dressage is the art of riding with balance and responsiveness to produce harmony between horse and rider. Same old Dressage.
Riding fads come and go but Dressage principles remain constant. We might debate our perceptions about how to express certain concepts as training methods but dressage still rests on the same foundation.
Have you looked at the dressage training pyramid lately? The words are deceptively simple, but reading has always been easier than riding. It’s a case of learning to walk (ride) our talk. What does change is the experience of dressage as the understanding of our horses and ourselves evolves.
“Dressage does not consist of demonstrating difficult movements, but of making the horse more trainable, more supple, and of giving him a better balance.”(Nuno Oliveira)
Oliveira makes dressage sound simple; just a smart way to ride. He’s right.
The best advice I know for helping a horse/rider in trouble is to return to the basics. Dressage fundamentals are a home base of relaxed, forward movement. It is our default safe-place to go to find our partnership again. It works every time.
Sometimes a horse/rider have settled into an angle of repose -a complacency that bores both sides into being static and settled. That’s a good time to go back to the fundamentals and delve deeper. The Dressage tradition is to keep questioning how training can be better for the horse, so he can be better for his rider.
The truth is that there really isn’t much new under the sun. And if we keep doing the things we have always done, we will keep getting the same results. Learning to approach classical concepts with new eyes and creative enthusiasm is the journey of Dressage. Maybe life, too.
“All the old arts are new when discovered by each individual for the first time.” (from Workbooks from the Spanish Riding School.)
Anna Blake, Infinity Farm.
(Photo: Clara Raccoon Eyes.)