Good dressage is not about making the horse do anything but instead it is about getting the horse to want to do what we intend. Each time we see any sign of not getting our way, it makes us more aggressive. This is the default setting we learn in the horse world.
We just push ourselves into the horse’s territory, like a tank going to war or a spoiled child. We not only show our disrespect, but we invade the horse’s territory and disrupt the delicate balance the horse needs to move. Our mental and physical balance is destroyed as well.
We create resistance and then resist the resistance we create. We are trapped in the cycle of our own aggressions. The horse has no choice; flight, fight or shut down.
Flight is excused as going forward and praised, but it is a distorted neurotic running forward. It does agree with our storyline for dressage though. Shutting down is deemed lazy and a fight is assumed to be just crazy hypersensitivity. So it is that two out of the three results are covered up with our storylines and are made workable by aggression and our passion for the “system” which we are educated to accept.
The last, just crazy, lands the horse who is hyper vigilant or deemed overly sensitive in a place where there is a real danger to the rider or those who handle the horse. Such horses suffer an unhappy life simply because the equestrian culture refuses to listen to the horse.
Calm is always first and forward natural arises from it in any dressage which is of value. It is the harmony which is found without aggression that produces straightness and that only come from calm and true forward.
Real forward is the horse’s desire to connect with us and has nothing to do with fear-based control. It is a curiosity of the intelligent mind which wants to join with our intelligence.
All of this is kind and gentle. It is not on some calendar or clock. There is no training tree or bush for this. The only system is kindness and respect for another. It is as slow as slow can be when it needs to be. It is more about a mutual respect for the territory and a natural hierarchy which is never imposed. This is a dressage of kindness and respect which must start in us first.