In a general sense, what dressage is commonly missing is a genuine sense of humor. There is a seriousness to the whole thing which becomes problematic for the horse.
Correctness and biomechanics are overrated. Modern breeding has produced something which I call, horse+. What I mean by this term is that it may look like a horse in every way but the horse+ is really a genetic freak. The movement of these horses exceeds anything that occurs in natural horses.
The uneducated public sees these horse+ horses as an over the top WOW in their movements and presence. They cannot separate the horse from its training and so the elite rider (very wealthy or supported by the very wealthy) are considered as spectacular trainers when in fact working very ordinary and common horses are by far much more difficult, take more skill and knowledge.
This has created a distortion in the practice of dressage which has produced the “rolurkur phenomena” and many other issues in riding and training while promoting an aggressiveness in riding which is unhealthy for all concerned and especially for the horse.
What is missing from the big money dressage show world is a sense of humor, but it is hard to keep a smile when the value of your million dollar horse and your hundred thousand dollar show budget are always challenged. Showing horse+ horses is very serious business and everything must be correct or else you may find you horse+ to be just a horse.
The sense of humor I am talking about is not the result of beating reality into the ground but appreciating reality with a light touch. This light touch is the foundation of a gentle vision in dressage and in a rediscovering that perfection and a real sense of humor is in an appreciation that we can find in the ancient art done with ordinary horses by ordinary people; no judge or instructor required.
Of course a good instructor who has their head screwed on “correctly” is a tremendous asset in working ordinary horses but such an instructor does not see your horse or you as a career move, but rather accepts both for who and what they are. Such an instructor has a light touch not just with the aids but in their being.
Dressage is not about making the horse and rider correct, but in finding harmony which leads to an individual sense of correctness. Horses and people who are not built correctly, and that is most of us and our horses, need to find a mental and physical balance to compensate for our less than perfect structures. To accept or find relative perfection is to have a sense of humor about the whole process and to find today’s perfection with a gentle touch and not use the sledgehammer of correctness.
This world with its imperfect horses is a world which enables real and substantial inner growth if we can overcome the fear of ourselves and realize that we are not in the horse+ world. Even if we are horse+ people or aspire to the horse+ world remember that relationships are about the joy of being with each other and not the ladder one climbs to fame.
My dressage and my world are not outwardly perfect but overflow with the joy of being with the horse. Horse+ horses may never darken my door, but being+ is the way we live our life. It is cheaper by far and a lot more fun. Kindness is always first and a light touch enables one to find real magic. Funny? Yep…