Before my clinics I like to do a theory lecture. That lecture is intended to accomplish two things; it introduces the spectators to the work and outlines the details for a “new” rider. Occasionally, we have no new riders or spectators, in which case, we launch into anything the group is curious about.

I have done over a thousand theory lectures (as near as I can guess over the past 20 or so years), but no two have been exactly the same. This time in Colorado was no exception. What was unique about it is that I talked about a dressage of kindness.

Over the years my work has at times been anything but kind, but I find that as I continue to learn and grow, the idea of kindness presses itself more and more into my awareness. Lightness has always been something that I have focused on but the ideas of kind and gentle seem to make a trinity which is the base of any worthwhile effort in dressage.

In general, I find myself surprised at how little interest there seems to be in these three ideas; kind, gentle and light. Isn’t this what is required of one who loves the horse?

Light, gentle and kind does not mean that one becomes the victim of the horse’s aggressions, it only means that the horse does not suffer from ours. It is not kindness to permit the horse dominate the relationship by aggression. It is only dangerous for such to be the case for both horse and human.

The sensitivity of the horse far exceeds our expectation (in my experience) and the lack of sensitivity in the human is a source of constant disappointment for horse (I would hazard to guess). Regardless, to bridge this gap is become fearless in our gentleness and present in lightness.

Learning to cultivate the mind, the coordination and the emotional sensitivity of a horse person is a profound undertaking. Dressage is a personal discipline which requires a practical awareness which few seemed willing to undertake. Most would rather do dressage tricks and tests which displays their vanity rather than to simplify and clarify their practice so as to be in harmony with the horse’s nature.

To come into lightness, kindness and gentleness is the enrichment of not only the horse’s life but ours as well. Dressage of this kind makes us better humans which very much seems something the world could use. I am curious why not? What is the excuse? I have not been able to dismiss any of these three ideas from my work, as difficult or inconvenient as they may be.