What is important in this work we do with the horse is to stick to the preliminaries. We hear all the time about the basic and how they are important, but preliminaries are what happen before the basics.
The basics are a cliché. I doubt that there is a trainer/instructor on the planet that would argue against the importance of basics. It is one of the few things that every dressage trainer would agree. The problem, like almost everything with dressage, is that the definition of the basics remains undefined.
Not completely of course, but pretty much, one generality is replaced by another and then another and so on until somewhere along the chains of clichés the thoughtful student realizes that what is the “basics” real definition is simply just a reflection of the degree of confusion which exists in an industry built on fear, double talk, aggressive control and useless complexities.
What then are the preliminaries? Are they just a marketing ploy and a door for more confusion? What are we talking about as preliminary to what?
There are two levels of preliminaries; physical and psychological. The psychological starts first and leads to the physical, but both are invisible. Preliminaries arise from stillness and could be termed, first, feeling, thought and then finally first touch and or the passing to non-touch.
We pass in the preliminaries from the subject universe to an objective one and in that objective universe we find/invent the basics. It is the preliminary experience which discovered/invented the aids and so when we fail to grasp the cosmic silence of the first encounter with the horse, we are unable to even talk about what basics are.
It is that in every day and every moment we have the chance to find that state of mind of a human meeting the first horse. Here we are then able to lay to rest what we know or think we know of the horse and ourselves, or for that matter, how we think we should or need to be with the horse.
Preliminaries start slow and first purpose is to lay to rest fear. Trying to find a ground of common goodness, gentleness extends to bravely extend itself, free of goals and with no other purpose than to say, “are you there?”
The state of mind and feeling is a willingness to extend loving-kindness motivated by a desire to find happiness, safety, and ease. There is a feeling of nurture and care like a mother with a newborn.
Preliminaries are both the extension and acceptance of which steps from a peaceful silence. So, be still in the mind, and from a sense of calm and peaceful feeling meet the horse and abide in this manner until the horse answers, reflecting back its nature.
From this mirror created with and by two beings (horse and human) from which arises those harmonious actions which eventually create the basics of dressage. We, together with the horse, produce a tactile musical connection. We learn to sing a simple song together, radiating confidence, peaceful and full of joy.
Is this your dressage? It can be, but to find this place is to forget about what are termed basic and step back into a newborn beginners mind every day and every time.
This is advanced dressage; simple, free of complicated stories. It is a world without words, full of such lightness as to remove all the shadows that the spoken language creates. In this, we can clearly see what is without distortion.
What I dislike and fear the most in what I am saying, is that anyone should think what I am creating is another fanciful dream; removed from any practical consideration or a world in which only the blessed can find.
This is a dressage of ordinary people working with ordinary horses. Are you willing to start again? Welcome to my world, I am a beginner every day and every day there is magic. It is hard for me to understand why you would choose something else.