The centaur effect is not a mythological concept, but a real moment to moment experience. It occurs when the rider’s body is in complete synchronization with the horse’s body and the mind is conscious of it.
At first it is only a moment in time, but as the mind grasps what is happening, one learns how to prolong the moment. The whole point of instruction in dressage is in how to create and “own” these moments. What occurs when you are able to do this is that you then also find that you have perfect control.
There is a feeling of floating with the horse and you understand what “correct” is. What is most unfortunate is that the popular teachings of modern dressage absolutely kills the possibility of this happening while at the same time acknowledging this experience as one of the goals of dressage.
Many of us who rode as children have “accidentally” had moments of this feeling. This experience totally sidesteps discussions about what is correct because you do not need an expert to know that “this is it” and even if it was not from the view of some expert, you would just not care about their opinion.
This whole effect is a simple state of mind. It is a sense of harmony that has found the body and a body which has found a proper relationship to the mind. The horse offers the proof of this event and rider mirrors the horse while the horse mirror the rider. This way of riding and working with the horse is totally addictive.
Once you learn how this can be done, you are ready to show horses if you like, but in the modern world, somehow we seem to get it backwards. Without ever learning how to ride, we start showing horses.
This is of course a good business model because not only do you change the subject and make showing the horse the whole point of riding, but you remove any question of instructor competence. As you are not ever taught how to really harmonize and only to show, the ribbon become the proof of competence rather than the feeling of connection.
The whole issue in equestrian instruction is sidestepped then and harmony is exchanged for aggression for the control of the horse. Control and harmony are put on opposite sides when, if fact, the best control and the only real control is first found through the experience of harmony.
The use of aggression becomes the default setting and is considered the only way to achieve control, when in fact it is the worst possible way to control the horse, but we cannot say that aggression does not work. It does. It is however the easiest way to proceed because the rider only has learn how to be a bigger bully than the horse. This is usually easily achieved because we can prolong our aggression longer than the horse can because our “intelligence” allows us to pay attention longer than the horse can. We also can use an array of gadgets to give us mechanical and psychological advantage over the horse.
How to reverse this insanity of aggression is something that we try to do in our intensives and clinics. It is simple really, but never easy, only because a rider who has learn to use aggression finds it very difficult to give up their aggressions. It is easier to change the horse than the rider because the simple mind of the horse finds aggression exhausting and the complicated mind of the rider finds it stimulating and safe.
For you to find good dressage, you must lay down aggression and find harmony. In harmony, kindness, lightness and gentleness are automatic and are the proof. The centaur effect is the reward. Goodness in dressage is found in a confidence which is beyond judgment because it is the centaur effect made real.