The path in dressage is in the actual work that we do with the horse. It is not a theory nor is it a method. What appears in a given moment with a horse simply is. What arises simple arises. The reason or reasons do not matter. What does matter is simply what appears.
What appears is not a thing, it is an energy. It is neither good nor is it bad. The repression of appearance into “correctness” is destructive. Attempts to repress what is, or attempts to conceal what is, do not change the underlying energy.
Energy cannot be destroyed. It can only be directed and directing what “is” (the energy) properly furthers the training. Improper direction of energy (repressed or concealed energy) is destructive to the horse, human or both.
Too frequently, we deal with the effects and do not consider the cause. When we can work with the cause we can transform the energy and take even the most negative energy and turn it into a transformative thing.
We see it, touch it, smell it, hear it and then we transform it. This is how we work with energy. We do not block it but we leap into it and fully experience it. Energy arises in feeling and so when we touch it we feel it.
The touch (feeling) is not about the object of the feeling but its texture. The smell of it finds within the energy a cadence. It is the wave of its odor. Hearing it is to know its direction and its source. We do not have to name any of this. Feeling is beyond words so when we transform the energy which arises, we free the horse and ourselves by directing the energy into suppleness.
In the the cultivation of suppleness of the horse and human, what energy arises is allowed to circulate without damage. Once free the energy is transformed by skillful means into a positive direction.
This is working with what “is”. This is letting appearance appear and what arises to arise. This is the substance of good dressage. Under the movements, under the training, suppleness is the way. We circulate the energy.
In this, the “why” does not matter; only what “is” matters. In this, the “what” does not even matter; only what “is” matters. Can you see this?
Seeing this is to learn how to look at at the questions and answers properly. We need to look beyond them and instead look to the impulse from which the questions and answers arise.
Take for example a simple movement, such the shoulder in. How to do it and how it is defined, what its purpose is and where it should be used or placed in the process of training is not what is important. What is important however is the feeling which arose in the one who was the originator of the shoulder in. In other words, the shoulder in solved a problem, it arose as the answer to a certain set of circumstances. That is what we need to know.
Understanding that primordial energy, the cause of that thing we call the shoulder in, enables us to correctly see the other questions and use or not use them as needed. We start to understand the context of that energy pattern which we call the shoulder in.
Dressage, when properly practiced is a way of relating to the energy of the horse and how to blend the complexities of our humanity into and with the simplicity of the horse. We learn how to use both energies (horse and human) in a healthy way and so both beings, horse and human benefit.
In this is the art and in this, we find the history of dressage, not as a thing of the past but as something which is alive right now, right in this moment and in this way the old masters are alive today. In finding this, we pass beyond time and are touched by the basic goodness found in the horse/human energies. This is the nobility of dressage, the horse and us but it is just a feeling, but oh, what a feeling it is.