Riding as an Art. Literally.

I am hooked on the writings of classical trainers. It isn’t that I am an elitist; they use an inspiring word that I like and don’t hear so much these days: ART.

“Theory instructs us that we should work from a foundation of sound principles, and these principles, rather than going against nature, must serve to perfect it with the aid of art.”(François R. de la Guérinière, 1733.)   

Being an artist doesn’t mean you’re nuts and about to cut your ear off. We sometimes define art as unusual or extreme in our culture and usually with a combination of deference and separation. Artists wear black and stand apart from the crowd.

I have been a professional artist most of my life, and see it much more inclusively.  Art is the most central, normal part of each of our lives- it is how we dress or eat or drive. It’s something everyone participates in constantly- at work and play, innately or with awareness. Art is simply our natural expression of who we are.  It is pretty easy to stay inspired if art is as natural as love or breath.

An artist/rider needs a knowledge of the science of horses and a fundamental understanding of the classic principles of horsemanship. But like that opening quote says- book learning doesn’t make a rider. It’s creativity that transforms information into a physical partnership with a particular horse. The art of riding can be as simple as the rhythm of hoof beats on a trail or as involved as a sequence of jumps or an upper level dressage test.

Most kinds of art are the result of expressing a technical knowledge with some creative individuality- true of finger painting, cancer research or riding.

Art and science are not adversaries. Separating right brain and left brain function might help us understand how learning happens, but it should not serve to separate our assets. Maybe the best scientists are artists, and vice versa. We can start by making a whole of our various parts.

Producing art isn’t easy. A masterpiece is a complex undertaking; classical study builds a stage for contemporary art but the artist still has discover their own finesse of expression. Horse and rider have to accept each others’ gifts and limitations and learn collaboration. Chaos happens, and the laws of nature can’t be ignored.  At some point every student of the art of riding might consider cutting off an ear in a fit of frustration, but stay the course.

Freedom of expression is the magic ingredient. Horses are masters of freedom and teach it well. Art doesn’t flourish in a place of control and restriction but rather is the result of release and happy exploration. Art is inspiration in reality.

“Those who are bored in the arena, whether they are riding or teaching, cannot claim to have entered the temple of art, because if they had, they would forget everything else in their enthusiasm.” (Otto von Monteton, 1877)

Collaborate with your horse, and ride like Da Vinci.  You are creating a masterpiece of heart and beauty.

Anna Blake, Infinity Farm.

Anna Blake

2 thoughts on “Riding as an Art. Literally.”

  1. I like this one! I’m a big “learner by reading” but also recognize and give my creativity many outlets. For the first time since I began riding dressage, I have begun to explore the art of the dance with my horse. Not following the rules, and painting outside the lines!


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