“Lightness does not have limits other than the tact of the rider.” Salins
Most dressage trainers who consider the concept of working lightly today will tell you that you train a horse for years to develop into the upper level kind of horse that will be worked in lightness.
In the older French classical method, lightness is there at the beginning and all the way through the work with our horses, it is not something to aspire to. The only limit, as Salins says, is the tact of the rider. This is not because it’s cool (although Good Gawd, it is cool) it is because the whole question is balance, and balance is only possible if the horse is balanced and the rider as well. If you are both balanced, then there is no weight on the rider’s hand, no pressure between the legs and seat. The rider must disappear into the horse as a welcome part of him, not as an unshakeable excretience.
In the older French classical method, the bit communicates to the rider the horse’s mind, and the rider’s balance is so exquisitely tuned that the bit becomes an extension of their shared expression. It’s where the fingers meet the strings and the melody begins.
You don’t wait for some day in the future when the horse is sufficiently cowed by years of aggressive handling to let you work lightly.
You work with such lightness and connection from the start that curiosity becomes your most powerful ally, and joy becomes the medium within which you dance.
It’s an older paradigm. It is not modern riding done with less touch. the old way takes learning to balance, and learning to listen, and the horse becomes your teacher as you learn to tune into the dance. You don’t put the moves on him, you follow him into a world neither one could find alone.
The older way of working is a different language entirely.
In a world that is crying out for a little kindness, the tact of the master horseman is a powerful thing to aspire to learn.