The process of working with the horse centers on compassion, for it is only when the mind, heart and body are joined two-fold (horse and human) that a third possibility arises. This third possibility we term the “centaur effect.” It is really about a sort of enlighten state of the two minds that both realize that working together is a better thing than working against each other. This is a harmony which occurs when a psychological atmosphere is created which allows common reference.
So it is that we as horse lovers prepare ourselves for the wedding which occurs when we have unified our heart, mind, and body. We call this dressage, but we do not allow ourselves to be distracted by the sport by the same name. This dressage, which we frequently term as authentic or genuine, is not of human invention but is discovered by a closeness with the horse. Most obviously this dressage must be simple because the horse is not capable of human complexity.
It is important from the start to understand that simplicity does not mean that something is neither brilliant nor profound. To the contrary, this work presents a great difficulty because it is simple. Finding these connections in our self also enables us to assist the horse in finding these connections with its own body, but equally finding these connections creates an almost spiritual experience of sorts in the human.
This way of working the horse is sublime and very addictive and the joy found in the manifestation of an intelligent, gentle, kindness seem to be something which is shared between the horse and human. To attempt the centaur state without first having common reference and harmony between the two beings is not possible. Dressage is a process of creating and testing for common alignment and in this process the envisioning gives us clear glimpses of the greater unity. The third state, one of greater unity, manifests without effort from the alignment the two individual beings when fears disappear.
The myth of the centaur is common throughout the horse world and all of the best trainer and instructors know how to spin the story but the words seem right, there are few that actually even glimpse the experience. Dressage has risen to its current stature largely by holding the promise of something good for the horse and good for the rider which is founded in harmony, but, in fact, has perfected the illusion of harmony through breeding and tricks.
I am using the term “tricks” because what is behind every brilliant performance is the disaster of the warm-up area and the all too frequent brutality at home or “behind the barn.” Yet the public is fooled and fooled again and many horse people have come to accept aggression as necessary for high-level performance and judges routinely ignore major faults while propping up scores at FEI level and warm up areas are hidden from the public’s view.
What would dressage be without all this self-deception and slight of hand? Genuine, real, kind, compassionate, noble and authentic? Whatever it would be, what is most obvious is that this is not what we see and that to go in another direction is to be willing to turn away from what is common and popular today.
What does this genuine dressage look like? I could invite you to one of my clinic or better still to my barn, but then maybe I am just another word trickster. We have all been taught to see the horse in a certain way and unless you are willing to give up all that you know or think you know and come as a clean slate, nothing may be gained. It is my view that the words are not enough, but that one must be shown or find the feeling from which the words are born. The intellect must shape the model from correct feeling which can only be taught to you by a horse that has been handled/approached correctly. All too often, the intellect dominates the experience of working with the horse and this is problematic.
Can you see the problem? Harmony is something which is connected with a sense of the whole and when the mind has lost its way, the body is not connected and feeling are discounted or ignored, we can find no alignment and create chaos for the horse and ourselves. We seek to impose harmony by our aggressions and prejudices and so we get the horse world today which cries out for an enlightenment without the bruising of the collective ego and so the tricksters live on.
The centaur effect is real and right there for all to experience, but it is simple, profound and brilliant. Too simple to be seen and beyond clever words, dressage is an art which we are ready to share with those who are brave enough to come while leaving luggage behind.