There are always two points of view in dressage. One is the view of the horse and the other, our view. In good dressage these views merge and/or harmonize with each other. The horse finds just as much value in its view as we do in ours. So it is important for both that there is a feeling of compassion and caring for each other. When this is not done in either direction aggressions may arise and eventually motivation diminishes as fears build.
Contemplating the motivation in either case requires the willingness to slow down, open up, and tune in to the physical and psychological environment. An honest vision of what is occurring in the moment is important to maintain confidence and diminish fear. Coming to advanced work is not about movements. The movements are the effect of skillful means, an open heart and freedom from fear. When this is not true, any movement produced in the horse is corrupted and the rider’s affect is one of stiffness.
Can we hide discord and poor motivation? Perhaps with the improvements in modern breeding, we have produced many horses of such superior movement that to the uneducated eye, contractions may not be obvious and with riders who are gifted and athletic it may be possible to conceal much of problem. However when motivation is lacking, stress arises and overtime the burden of movements done under stress brings its toll and eventually mind or body break down.
In most cases, few of us have access to such well bred and talented horses and so defects are more obvious. In modern riding, how many horses have we see perform year after year at the top? Few if any stay in the public eye for long.
With most of us, in truth, dressage is much more about the daily work and if this is not true for you, it maybe a good idea to examine your own motivations more closely. The point is not to deprive you from showing but more about opening yourself up to the delight and pleasure which you can have in every moment of every day.
Learning to be light, kind and gentle and putting the horse first is not just about being idealistic. It is discovering that putting the horse first brings a unique pleasure and personal reward that you just miss if you limit yourself to chasing tin or for the approval of others.
A good life and good dressage are the very best thing one can have. It is truly a gift of great value. Yes, there is effort involved but the rewards are amazing.
Let the horse soften your heart this season and in the coming year, let the horse into your life through kindness. This is the dressage which is beyond all expectations. This dressage is like finding the sunrise after a dark night. This you can do no matter how modest you means or no matter how “common” the horse.