Certainly it must be obvious that effort is required in working with the horse. It is not the effort alone that brings a result, but how we undertake the effort that makes our dressage effective or not.
One kind of effort is purely oriented toward the achievement of a result. when dressage is practiced in this way there is a sense of struggle and pushing, which is prompted by the sense of a goal. A sense of momentum occurs and the work begins to thrive on its own speed, like water running downhill.
Another approach to the effort in our work is fraught with a sense of the tremendous meaningfulness of dressage. There is not a lack of a sense of uplift or inspiration in the work. Instead, there is a feeling of being dutiful and correctness. One just does the work, slowly and surely, trying to perform through an obligation to the order of the dressage tests, the litany of a particular school or a sense of correctness. Whatever comes in front of us, just continue on through; we are on a linear treadmill of dressage.
Neither of these kinds of effort has a sense of openness and what precision may be present is frozen space being eaten up; compassion is hard to find in such work. There is inflexibility present and the horse is a simple part of process which engineers a result.
When the effort we make is proper, we move along with confidence, making constant progress, with a sense of great dignity. We have a panoramic view of the ground we are working on; we have a clear view of what is happening. Though it is serious and slow, because of the ability to survey the ground there is a sense of playfulness and intelligence in the movements. The work has a sense of compassion and space and the horse never feels restriction, but a gentle presence appears and everything is workable. The work is a conversation and discussion which the horse feels it can have with us and after serious deliberations by the horse, it is decided that what we intended was the best course of action.
There is never an argument about what is being done. This is of course obedience, but the horse’s view is not that it obeys. The horse simply joins with our intelligence because, as usual, we are right. This is skillful means and as the horse becomes trained the discussion part is less and the time it takes is shorter. We earn the respect of the horse.
Thus in, the proper way, good dressage cultivates the power of harmony and obeying is the only logical choice for the horse to make. For our part, the only logical choice is the cultivation of harmony and a habitualization to gentleness. Both the horse and human has a sense of goodness manifesting in the work. Good dressage is always kind.