Let your mind be one with the horse. Let that united mind reveal the path. Let the path clarify confusion and let your confusion be transformed into wisdom. This is a summary of the ancient wisdom of dressage.
The joining of the two minds in dressage creates its own path which brings the horse and human into the highest realms of training. It is not a linear path, but that is not to say that it may not proceed in a linear way at times. Dressage is a practice of mind and body for both the horse and rider. Awareness is what fills the gaps between the highest aspirations and the physical realities. Knowing that we are aware is to be mindful. Mindfulness in the horse and the human is not a constant state, but something that demonstrates a tremendous mobility. The shift that naturally occur in mindfulness/awareness develop through the process of training a regular cadence. When the horse and human mind synchronizes through common cadence, we find what is called the centaur effect. This is the state in which the mind and the body of the human and horse function as one.
Knowing that we are aware is to be mindful. Mindfulness in the horse and the human is not a constant state, but something that demonstrates a tremendous mobility. The shift that naturally occur in mindfulness/awareness develop through the process of training; Training produces a regular cadence and symmetrical deportment. When the horse and human mind synchronizes through common cadence, we find what is called the centaur effect. This is the state in which the mind and the body of the human and horse function as one. This symmetrical and harmonious
When the horse and human mind synchronizes through common cadence, we find what is called the centaur effect. This is the state in which the mind and the body of the human and horse function as one. This symmetrical and harmonious activity of the centaur corrects the asymmetrical issues in the horse and brings great peace to the human mind. Awareness and mindfulness bloom and great joy follows.
Awareness is what fills the gaps between the highest aspirations and the physical realities. Knowing that we are aware is to be mindful. Mindfulness in the horse and the human is not a constant state, but something that demonstrates a tremendous mobility. The shift that naturally occur in mindfulness/awareness develops through the process of training and practice a regular cadence. When the horse and human mind synchronizes through common cadence, we find what is called the centaur effect. This is the state in which the mind and the body of the human and horse function as one.
The path to such linking with the horse involves an eight-fold path. Here is a list of those eight principles. For most horse people trained in modern dressage, which arose out of military riding, there are many paradigm shifts. Military equitation is the application of a method. Dressage which is both genuine and noble is free of any methods and relies only on principles. This is the highest form of training. Military dressage is always limited by whatever method it chooses, but noble dressage is free from any limitation and hence elevates those who practice it to a sublime state.
1. Many trainers start the work with a training plan which blocks us from seeing what is present. Training when well done is not about a progression in the work but rather a conversation which, by the way, brings about progress.
This is the defect in training trees and shrubs. They limit and block the conversation and while the conversation may follow the progression in the diagram, it also may not. Be open with the horse if you expect the horse to be open to you.
The first point in working with the horse has to do with having a “right view.” The wrong view occurs when we conceptualize the situation with the horse.
The horse starts to move forward. Not only do we stiffen ourselves when the motion is not what we want, but we also freeze the space in which the horse is moving in mentally. We judge the movement through the space as good, bad or we ignore the motion.
Thus, the horse is automatically moving in a frozen situation of our fixed ideas. This is this or that, which is the wrong view. It is a view based in conceptualization which is imperfect because we do not see the situation as it is.
2. We cannot have goodness in dressage without understanding intention. Intention always has the quality of either invitation or attack. It is the point where emotion and thought meet. There is, however, an intention which rises above this. This is “right intention.”
“Right intention” stands beyond the conflict and duality normally present, but in order to see or find the goodness in intention, we first must understand what is meant by “right.” This is not a matter of the critical mind or a certain outcome. It is not right as opposed to wrong at all.
In this case, “right” means relating to “what is.” This is being right or true without a concept of what is right. It is about harmony and finding completeness in the moment. Completeness is the simple harmony in a step and so there is no relative action needed and no support through any comparison; it is self-sufficient.
This is the linking; the centaur effect. We are freed from goals or outcome and our intent unfolds without an effort because it simply arises from being with the horse. It is a kind of willingness to simply be. We can enrich and magnetize in any moment because our intention is always carried in harmony.
3. The aids are how we communicate with the horse. Their use is the foundation of “correct aids.” This implies perfect communication. When we work with the horse our communication says, “this is the aid,” rather than, “I think this is the aid.”
The aids are not a matter of opinion. There is no doubt. They are automatic and are a direct approach. Such communication is true expression. Their truth is found, in the way the horse and human body which moves in harmony.
The aids were therefore never invented. They were discovered.. When the horse and human interact and are grounded properly and relaxed, the movement itself creates the aid. Nobody could disagree with such communication. Nobody would have to say, “I think I am asking” or, “You must believe in this or that aid.” You would just say, ” here are the aids.”
It is just the simple minimum of action we could use. They are true because the aids follow the horse and the horse follows the aids.
4.The fourth aspect of the path of training is “correct discipline.” If our actions are correct this is no need to impose discipline and no one to impose discipline on because the view, intent and aids are always in complete harmony.
So then there is no need for discipline in the ordinary sense at all. The horse creates its own path which creates our path in training. This leads to the understanding of correct discipline which is complete discipline, which does not exist relative to any form of rules.
Ordinary discipline exists only at the level of relative decisions. We become stuck in a box of rules which only apply in limited situations. Likewise, if there are no rules, a whole range of projections and procedures becomes unnecessary. Right discipline is that kind of giving-up process; it brings us into complete simplicity.
This is a difficult one for people to get because it is counter to the culture we are in, but it is an expression of a mother’s discipline with a baby. Tender and open love find a natural expression of discipline. There is a lot of fear in letting the rules go.
5. For dressage to flourish in a healthy way there has to be “right exchange of energy.” A healthy exchange of energy simply means to find/create and use a scale. This is a threefold process of too much, too little and just right. The balance is what we call the “goldilocks principle.”
This is not an imposition on us or the horse. It is a natural situation. We need not be disturbed by creating such values nor resent having to work in such a manner with the horse. The more energy you put out, the more you get in. The horse mirrors our actions. This is what training and the linking with the horse is.
The flow of energy involves dressage in every way. It is relating to increasing and decreasing this flow that permeates all training. Avoiding proper increase and decrease of energy usually creates distortions in all other aspects of the work. All transition are preceded by a decrease and are followed by an increasing in the flow.
What makes such change correct or incorrect is based on avoiding interruptions in the cadence which distorts or blocks the harmony. We enrich, magnetize and harmonize with the horse’s motion.
6.The sixth point in the path of dressage is “right effort.” This means not just energy, endurance, and exertion at any moment, but also correct forwardness. There is no need to be continually pushing or dragging along. Both partners want to be there.
If you are both awake and open in situations, it is possible for the horse and you to be creative, beautiful and delightful. This natural openness is right effort. Right effort is seeing a situation precisely as it is at that very moment, being present fully while finding a mutual delight.
There are occasions when we know that we are both present, but there is no real desire to commit, but right effort involves full heartfelt participation. This is a true forward which is not based on speed but genuine intent.
7.The next one is “right mindfulness.” Right mindfulness does not simply mean being aware; it is like creating a work of art. There is more spaciousness In right mindfulness than in right effort. If you are working with the horse anywhere, you are aware of the whole environment as well as the horse. You can therefore, trust what you are doing, you are not threatened by anything. You have room to dance in the space, and this makes it a creative situation. The space is open to you.
8.The eighth aspect of training is “right absorption.” All the work has the sense of being as it is, which means relating with the space in the situation. This pertains to the psychological situation as well as practice itself.
“Right absorption” is being completely involved, thoroughly and fully, as a centaur who knows the human/horse body inside and out. In practice, the technical and feeling are one; in such situations the world, horse, and your humanness are also part of the flow.
Therefore, you do not have to theorize as such, as though you were a person distinct from the act of riding and the horse. If you are one with the living situation as it is, your dressage just automatically happens.
If there is an advance stage, this is it, but some achieve this and literally do not know how it is done or get glimpses of this without any understanding of the process. This last aspect includes all the others, but it totally without effort.
This is an attempt to sketch of the eight parts of the path, but the real path is beyond words. Language is only an attempt to represent experience with symbols. It is not experience itself, hence the old masters recognize that the reduction of dressage into words is a fool’s errand which will forever corrupt itself. To rise above such corruption is to undertake a training of the mind which learn to rest in a state of inner peace. When the mind is agitated, it causes conflicts to arise through its own projections. There are no systems possible for dressage, for all systems are found to be projections of a confused mind. It takes a great amount of practice to find the path and to rest the mind properly. It is hoped that this small article on the path of dressage may help clarify the path and remove confusion.