When I started my journey with The Waterhole Rituals, I was looking for a ‘way in’ to what seemed like an untrainable horse. I had no idea how much she would teach me about relationship and connection. Relationship with her, other people and also myself.
My relationship with her is the most precious gift, it has been life enhancing. So how do I reconcile the question of riding her? Surely the moments of deep connection she offers, the joining of our spirits and energies are enough? Well yes they are, those moments continue into our physical connection through riding, the many different ways we connect remain. When we are connected in movement at liberty the only physical connection is body language and breath, there is no touch apart from when she greets me with a soft touch of her muzzle and a blow of her breath. We share a vibration, a magnetic connection.
Mainstream horse training mainly involves riding, while there has to be a physical connection, too often it is not a harmonious one. When you see a ridden partnership where it is truly connected in every way, emotionally, spiritually, energetically, telepathically, and physically the vibration is alive, you see beauty. It feels beautiful, I have been known to just sit on my horse and feel connection, to shut my eyes even and just be, feeling grateful for the joining of our souls.
I also ask her to make a great effort for me sometimes, my intention is always that we do this together, not that I tell her and she should obey. Horses know the difference! If you get frustrated either with yourself or even worse with your horse, it will make her fearful, it will confuse her and the connection and harmony is lost.Our horses are ready to offer us so much. When riding becomes an art we hold our horse in high esteem. We cherish the relationship and beauty of riding WITH them not just on them. We care how it feels for them and when we enter into some aspect of riding which requires effort, they offer this with trust and willingness. My horse and I feel good when we know we have done something that required this effort, that together we were trying our very best. She looks at me and I know she feels proud to be the horse she is, proud of the beauty she has displayed.
The Grand Masters and writers about classical dressage knew a horse enjoyed feeling proud. They also cared about the horse’s opinion of them.
A painting of the Spanish riding school.
De La Guérinière gave exercises to increase suppleness and balance of the horse, and a progressive schooling system to reach an overall goal: a light, obedient, calm horse that was a pleasure to ride. His methods were employed by The Spanish Riding School.
In this picture of him he is riding with a cordeo or neck strap. In harmony and with mutual trust. For me there is no dressage without the things the Waterhole Rituals have helped me to embrace. They have been my ‘way in’ with noo noo and now we can enjoy it all. I have seen they are a link to things the old masters understood.
These grand masters dedicated themselves to the development of equestrian art. They knew they had to consider, the horse. They considered building bonds, trust, respect, willingness, focus. Along with the gymnastic training of the horse. They also set high standards for their own conduct.
Before De La Guérinière. Pluvinel ( born in 1555) embraced a more humane training method than his predecessors . In 1594, Pluvinel founded the “Academie d’Equitation” Here are some of his words.
“Because, as a rule, the horse must take pleasure in his work. Otherwise, he and his rider will not be able to accomplish anything graceful.”
“I concentrate mainly on exercising his mind and his memory, in such a way that I achieve what I want: so that it is the horse’s mind which I work the most: the mind of the rider must work perpetually as well, in order to detect all kinds of opportunities to arrive at his goal, without letting any movement pass unnoticed, nor any opportunity unused.”
Today’s equitation has lost much of the ideals of the past. Riders are not always horsemen and trainers or masters. However if we consider the relationship and connection with our horse it will enhance the performance and training.
However you live with your horse, don’t miss the chance to create more beauty, grace and harmony together.