Learning from the Masters
Kjersos is… about education that applies to all riders, all horses, all disciplines...
The more advanced you intend to become, the better qualified you would want your instructor to be. This is why we have institutions such as universities. This is why we have master programs and PhD diplomas. These are the people we reach out to for knowledge.
So why is it that we don't do the same with our horsemanship?
Why is it that we don't expect our instructors to have studied from other teachers, other masters, not just living but those who passed on their knowledge through their own words from our common equestrian history. Your instructor should be able to talk knowledgeably about Seunig and Baucher, Nuno and Decarpentry, Wynmalen and others. They should be able to discuss and debate about their riding, how they are different, how they are the same, how each contributed to the wealth of knowledge on horsemanship.
It should not matter which discipline that you ride. Knowledge of the horse is ubiquitous. It applies to all horses, of all breeds, of all disciplines.
We can call it Dressage for the Western Rider or we could just as easily call it Gaucho (the Spanish Cowboy) Riding for the Dressage Rider, or Trail Riding for the English Rider.
"The foundation of what some refer to as dressage is the study through history by thousands of riding masters exposed to hundreds if not thousands of horses in their lifetime for centuries. I use the word dressage, but dressage in the sense that many of the available writings, many of these advanced movements are often referred to as dressage. One of the key elements, one of the established goals of dressage was about the physical aspects of the horse. It was and is about creating the very best athlete, with a healthy body, that can last for years. The discipline might change, but the horse's body doesn't. What is true for his body is true no matter how we ride or how we might use the horse. What is healthy, doesn't change."
Western riders think they that there is nothing more disparate, more different than the western rider and the fancy, stuffy, rigid riding that they see that is called Dressage. The reality is that the saddles and riding of the western rider are based in the history and the riding of the cattlemen of the Spanish and Portuguese plains and mountains. What might be a little different, is their emphasis on working with the bulls, influencing their search for a lightning quick, powerful striking, an ability to swivel and dance instantly away from gorging horns. Which resonates through the centuries as one of the basics of dressage. Whether we realize it or not dressage and western riding come from the same stock.
There are those that dismiss the concept of dressage as being too fancy, too rigid. That dismiss dressage as not giving themselves and their horses the freedom to just enjoy themselves. And that is not an unfair criticism.
As you advance, the more knowledgeable you want your instructor to be. This is why we have institutions such as universities. This is why we have Master and PhD programs. So why is it that we don't do the same with our horses? The depth of material studied is important. Click to Tweet
Somewhere along the way, we have forgotten what dressage is supposed to be. Dressage is 'Training.' That is what the word actually means. Whether you gather the reins to dance together or release them while you enjoy the swing of the horse's barrel as you enjoy the morning air moving a herd of cows, both are dressage.
There are those who dismiss dressage because of this rigidity thinking they will have to ride in a certain stuffy manner, never relaxing. Stiff is not riding. Stuffy is not riding. Joy should always be a part of your lexicon. A part of your language with the horse. Stiff just means stiff, which is never to the benefit of the horse. The horse is a moving creature, our job is to merge into his movements so completely that we become one, that every aid cannot be seen, because it is always within the movement of the horse, not because we don't move. We need to feel the glide of every footfall, the empowerment of muscle bunching, feel the slide of back muscles as each leg continues on its own movement, the very breath of the horse against our own legs. This is dressage in my world.
When we turn to instructors who no matter how well intended have not taken the opportunity to study the words of the masters of horsemanship, not aware of those who spent their entire lives with horses, we disservice ourselves and our horses. If we would study any other subject we go to those most qualified, those who have not only the experience but the knowledge. The more advanced you intend to become, the better qualified you would want your instructor to be. Welcome the opportunity to learn from the best.
Once we realize that dressage and western riding come from the same stock. Once we realize that what is healthy for the horse is healthy no matter what he is doing, we can see there are no real differences, if we want to work with our horses in a way that ensures their athletic abilities while preserving the health of their bodies. Knowledge, educating ourselves is important. We don't have to agree with all training methods but we do need to spend time trying to understand what makes each one work and why. Find an instructor who can speak knowledgeably about different schools, different masters of the past, who clearly has spent the time getting the kind of education that you would want from someone who you are trusting your horse with.