Dressage should not be a dead thing. It is not a matter of worshiping at the mausoleum of dressage. Correctness should not a be grave you dig and throw the horse in and yet…
Dressage means training. And all over the world, in every training discipline, the horse and the rider both are sacrificed to what is believed to be correct.
Why is correctness seen as being so important? One reason is that it is a very human way to hold people to a dressage which controls not just the horse but the student. Always there is a fear that without dressage rules and dressage instructors you and the horse are doomed. That fear of ruining your horse is a sword hanging over your head. Yet, the seeking and forcing of correctness is the path to doing exactly that; ruining the horse. And destroying the instinctive, feeling brilliance of the rider as well.
But there is a correctness that is kind, forgiving, curious, and alive.
Correct dressage is not the imposition of an outside force to “make” the horse take on an appearance. Rather, correctness is a guideline to gently lead a horse to find mechanical efficiency and comfort in its work. Correctness is the awakening of an inner force which leads to happiness and comfort. The result of correctness is increased sanity and durability made over whatever time a horse needs to take to find its own best position.
The point of educated riding is to gently lead the horse and trainer in the discovery of the joy of the relationship. Correctness is not a visual appearance though it may lead to a certain look. It is about the cultivation of a willing and joyful inner state.
Do not lose yourself in a sea of ribbons, rigid rules and superficial appearances. The only rule worth following is kindness. The only method is set in lightness and the only appearance is the appearance of joy. The only ribbon is the one which the horse awards to those who take the time and make the effort to listen and learn from the horse.
Dressage is not a religion. One does not close one’s eyes and pray to the god of the rule book and human conventions. It is the art of loving the horse as it would choose to be loved.
Its only value, the only time it is truly “correct” is in the extension of the tender and sacred moment we get to spend with our horses.
Craig Stevens and Mary Anne Campbell