The 14th century, Dom Duarte, King of Portugal’s work, “Livro da ensinanca de bem cavalagar toda sela” is the first detailed treatise on equitation since Xenophon’s books. It was summarized by a 19th century Portuguese scholar in one sentence, “no one can be a good rider without mental and spiritual preparation. The young rider cannot reach the upper spheres of the equestrian art without “spiritualizing” his apprenticeship.”
This has been a consistent theme in so many of my posts and in this dark age for equitation we find a materialization of the horse to be at the core of the problem presented in what is termed, “dressage” in our modern world. This materialization is demonstrated in the modern vision of the upper level horse.
It is useful to understand that what we call “upper level” would have been considered the preparation for a horse to begin high school work. So it is, in the proper training of the horse, we would consider the Olympic level as being really medium level. Modern horse people find such statement hard to understand because we consider, in our vanity, everything produced today as superior to the past, but is it?
What we have lost is the ground level connection to life itself. In our hunger for bigger and better gadgets we have sadly lost our connection with what makes us good human beings. We have lost kindness and compassion and exchanged them for self interests. We can only find joy in our lives through what we can give to others and not what we can take for ourselves.
This is so abstract and philosophical that it is easier to dismiss such ideas than to try to find such a place in ourselves in our day-to-day life and to connect such thinking to dressage seems sacrilegious to some. Yet, how can we in our day-to-day work with the horse find perfect harmony when we do not even know or connect in a healthy way with our own emotions.
Ignorance of equitation and the horse at best leads to mediocre equitation. Kindness and a gentle approach is the most fundamental principle in any dressage worthy of the name. The time it takes with the horse is the time it takes. There is no timeline. Each horse and each trainer progresses in their own way and because we do not “need” the horse for either transport or battle, we have the luxury of being able to learn to enjoy our journey.
Spiritualizing has not a thing to do with religion. It is more an attitude which concerns itself with finding the goodness of life itself and establishing a subjective value which bring us peace and joy in all that we do. It is about becoming a friend to ourselves and our horses.
This is the dressage that I am honored to teach and a difficult legacy to pass on because, it is authentic without the slightest deception. As modern riders and students of dressage, we have been deceived so often and in so many ways that most of us have given up any hope of getting beyond the maze. We have lost our trust in ourselves and our horses and we desperately need to find our way back from a world gone insane with materialism.
This is the goal of the foundation and it is my sincere hope and the hope of our members and supporters to find a way back from the edge of the cliff that dressage as it is practiced today has led us. Join us, help us, and find the vision and courage it takes to give birth to the living art of riding.