What does it mean to develop a horse to highest levels? What does it mean to develop, as a rider, to highest levels? What does it mean to help a rider to reach for the most out of themselves and their horses?

It means time, it means listening, and it means loving the process all the way through.

Teaching is something playful and joyful that I take very seriously. I want not only the rider but the horse to appreciate the work, to develop each session, to feel a sense of progression and joy. As a teacher at NSAE I know all the horses intimately as I am often schooling the ones in training with Craig when he’s traveling.  Teaching is not just talking to the person, but also being in conversation with the horse, trying various different metaphors and exercises and explanations to reach towards an emotional and intellectual and tactile connection between horse and rider. I care deeply about both beings when I teach. And while every lesson is interesting, I truly love those break-through days.

Today was one of those days.

I was working with an owner on her little horse, both of them intense, bright, intelligent beings who can get into a bit of a scrappiness contest if the rider doesn’t notice she’s being drawn that way. We were working on ideas about balance and flow that we’ve touched on often from different angles, but today we hit the right combination of ideas and something leaped the void from left brain (rational, verbal, linear, memorized words) to right brain (gestalt, intuition, wordless feel), and tah-dah! The feel became evident, and the weight became intuitive, and the flow became simple, and the whole arena brightened with the sudden opening in the connection between the horse and her rider.

What had been hard became suddenly intuitively easy. Not only were these two remarkable females happily doing canter departs easily in sync, but they flowed right into flying changes on the figure eight, and then moving down the rail from canter to counter canter and back effortlessly. The horse listens, because she’s been in conversation with Craig Stevens. The rider because she’s been in conversation with me. And both horse and rider find their way to haute ecole through curiosity, time and the recurring call to look for what makes emotional and intuitive sense in a physical world.

As a teacher, I love days like today. So much slow, attentive, respectful work comes to fruition in movements that take your breath away with their effortless beauty. I’m proud of the rider for her work and her courage and her aliveness to the process, and proud of the horse for recognizing the change and joyfully saying “Yes” to the opening as it arrived.

I’m very happy. So is the rider. So is the horse. And that’s good dressage.

So I’m marking the day with a post, why? Because. I love teaching almost always, but especially I love teaching on days like this.

~Mary Anne