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Enjoy the Joy

Decent, from the Latin decus to honor, dignus to be worthy, is a word rarely considered in working with horses but it is a very important ideas. Most of us have some sense of what it means to be a decent human being but to apply the term to how we are in relation to another species is, to say the least, an interesting and worthy idea.

So how do we honor or become worthy of our horses? We recognize a sense of underlying value in their existence. Is this any different than the impulse to find such value in ourselves? I think when we learn to honor or respect life in all of its forms we form the foundation of all healthy communication.

Whatever the aids we use with our horses, whether it is the legs, seat or the hand, that aid must honor the horse's physical and psychological balance. When we do not do this, the horse resists our every effort.

Communication through the aids from the common view is an attempt to impose our will but if those aids are not based on honor and do not come from a sense of the horse's worth, they will be false. This is what equestrian tact is about; It is about learning to use aids that honor and dignify both ourselves and our horse.

High level dressage is about learning to be decent, honorable and worthy of the horse's obedience and not mindlessly imposing our will through mechanical devices. It is also so not about rules imposed from external authority but finding the rules of the horses heart and encouraging and enriching the horse's quality of life.

This is an evolution we share with the horse. We communicate to teach each other (horse and rider) how to be decent.. The best effort is to try to be as worthy of our horse's respect as we wish the horse to respect us. This is good dressage. It is descended from human kindness and our own nobility.

Finding that goodness in our self is how we find it in others. Goodness is never resisted, it is enjoyed. Find good dressage and enjoy the joy.

I hope this is useful. I think that most of us are so distracted by our thoughts and worries about dressage that we fail to properly do dressage. While synchronising with the horse is ultimately simple, it's ineffable: finding words for it makes it complex. So instruction in dressage can become so technical that we lose our basic feeling of kindness for the horse. If your feeling of love and connection has disappeared in your ambition to succeed at a movement, or to 'do what you're instructed to do' it becomes hopeless

So, when you're riding with me, please let me know that you need a moment to reconnect.

That link is all there is. That unity is never resisted, it is enjoyed. Find good dressage, don't impose it on the horse but find it together-- and enjoy the joy.

Craig Stevens

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