The who, what, when, where and why of an equestrian

Posts tagged ‘Dressage’

Why do we ride?

“We ride horses for the pleasure of `creating beauty’ as the Master Ecuyer (La Guérinière) said. We ride for the pleasure of feeling ourselves transported into different attitudes, drowned into the fluidity of a supple and tranquil back, rocked by the cadence of ample and harmonious gaits. It is a long-haul work, requiring much patience. It takes years for making a dancer or a pianist. It takes as much to make an Ecuyer. But, this work with its disappointments, its discoveries, its successes, is so enthralling that, in the ordinary life nothing matters any longer when one sits on the back of a horse. Classical dressage, when it is well understood, allows getting progressively to the highest summits of this Art.”

– Excerpt from `Equitation-La Tradition Classique by Cdt de Padirac
(Translation by Bruno Celard)


Xenophon, 4th Century B.C.

“For what the horse does under compulsion, as Simon also observes, is done without understanding; and there is no beauty in it either, any more than if one should whip and spur a dancer. There would be a great deal more ungracefulness than beauty in either a horse or a man that was so treated. No, he should show off all his finest and most brilliant performances willingly and at a mere sign.”


I now feed horses at 7AM. This has helped me get me sleep back on track as well as get up to do things before the heat. Last night, I went to bed thinking, “I’m going to get up, feed, and ride Tiki.” After a cup of coffee this morning, I got changed into pants and boots. It felt good! I haven’t worn them in a while.
This was the point when I noticed my heart had sped up. It wasn’t racing but I think I was a little anxious. I decided to try something I’ve never really done before and meditate. I picked out a few verses from Genesis to memorize and then focus on. “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was void and without form and darkness was hovering over the face of the deep. The Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” (Hey! That was from memory. It’s a start.)

So down I sat – my tall boots surprising not uncomfortable to sit indian-style in. I tried to clear my mind, breath consciously, and recited the verse to myself. I only sat for maybe ten minutes. But I was much steadier and more “centered.” When I say centered, I mean I felt like my mind was not all over the place, as it tends to be.

I sat out my tack and equipment and retrieved the beast. He was a little reluctant to leave his hay but followed me otherwise willingly to the indoor arena. We brushed, picked, and fly sprayed – all the while checking my games and doing a little approach and retreat. The latter is so different for Tiki compared to Sara. Sara needs you to turn and walk away with what she’s unsure about then she exhales. Tiki wants to be the one putting his nose on it; he only gets more curious if you walk away. Hmm, how interesting!

I mounted up. As usual, Tiki wanted to stay by the gate. When I asked him to leave, he would circle sharply and come back to his corner. This time, I had my stick. When he tried to veer back to the gate, I applied rhythmic pressure to the air around his eyes/cheek. What do you know! The lightbulb went on and after a couple of experiments we licked and chewed. He realized that if he moved forward – and I didn’t care where as long as we were moving – I left him alone and he was happy to explore and sniff. When he got corner-focused, I made it uncomfortable to not keep moving by using the stick. It sounds so simple but it was a big breakthrough for Tiki.

We sniffed (and trampled) cones. We weaved. We halted. We trotted!
The best part: we did trot poles.

Insert close-minded human moment. Tiki start to wonder toward the above grid of poles. I said out loud, “I don’t think you want to go there,” and guided him away. He’d wonder that direction, look, and then mosey away.
I wasn’t concentrating on avoiding the poles during one pass. And what do you know, he walked straight down the middle, nice rhythm, happy expression! I couldn’t help but laugh. I was the one who didn’t think I wanted to go there! We played around the grid, used the whole arena, trotted, and walked through some more times. I was tickled pink. And I was having fun!

With a neutral stick, Tiki trotted a pass through the grid of his own volition. I rubbed and rubbed and itched his booty and everything! I decided that was a great note to stop mentally on. What a cool ride.

With the help of Sonney the barn dog, Tiki got to graze and I hosed down his sweat spots. After some scratches, we were happy to be back in our stall (Sara was relieved, too). He hadn’t forgotten his hay, either. Wouldn’t even look up for the camera. Not that I’m complaining; he needs the groceries! Get fat, Tiki!!

A happy camper munches away.

Balancing Act

This is a testing post as I get things going. I will post about riding theory including but not limited to biomechanics and classical horsemanship. I’ll discuss natural horsemanship and the training of my two horses. I will promote the Shagya Arabian. And I will attempt to balance dressage with natural techniques and a Christian worldview.