A few weeks ago it was cold and dark; winter is miserable horse weather. It was impossible to ride some days and the best we could do was plan our summer riding goals. Now it’s almost the middle of summer. How are those plans coming along?
Maybe every ride is perfect, and you and your horse are experiencing a sense of oneness and peace like never before. Maybe things have gotten a bit sticky, there’s disagreement, or one of you has lost confidence. A seed of resistance started to grow so passively that it is almost unnoticeable. Until now.
Either way, if you want more or different from your horse, it’s time to freshen your perspective. If you keep doing things the same way, you will get the same results, no mystery there. Go back to the basics and hear them with newborn ears.
The basics, the fundamentals of dressage, never change. They are as timeless as the dream to ride. It’s the rider that has to change and find a deeper meaning and embodiment of the fundamental principles. In order for our horses to progress, we have to grow our skills and perception.
Here is what they don’t tell you: “The basic techniques, or what they call basics, are more difficult than what comes later, this is the Trap of Dressage. Correct basics are more difficult than the piaffe and passage.” Conrad Schumacher. Oh, no wonder.
So, I’m a stickler for the basics. Fundamentals are my very favorite thing. You wouldn’t think it of me; I tend to ridiculously open minded, I have a decent sense of humor for being a Dressage Queen, and dogs like me. But there you have it; I am a Dressage Fundamentalist. I am flat out giddy about the bottom step of the Dressage Training Pyramid. It’s Rhythm, the miracle cure.
The words that best define rhythm for me are relaxed and forward. It gets me out of my head and brings me back to my horse. Rhythm is how my horse finds his center again, too. It’s how every ride starts and ends, it makes us consistent and strong. Rhythm is the best tool a rider can own.
What I like most about rhythm is how much horses like it. All things good to a horse happen with a cadence, a rhythm: relaxed gaits, grazing, chewing, and the pulse of their own heart. Anything bad for a horse, starts with a break of rhythm: head tossing, stumbling, spooking, bolting.
So step one is to restore your horse’s rhythm, his relaxed forward movement. The quickest way to do that, is so do the same thing for yourself, in your over-thinking head. Let It Be. Sing it if you need to, but breathe and just go forward, training should be a jovial as a trail ride.
Some riders think a return to the basics is a stint in detention, but nothing could be farther from the truth. Riding in rhythm is a simple concept, deceptively challenging to maintain in training, and the absolute path to advanced work.
I repeat: “Correct basics are more difficult than the piaffe and passage.”
Be patient and consistent. Find your rhythm, it’s the horse version of One Day at a Time. It works on humans as well as it works on horses. Relaxed and forward is a resistance-free place, all things are possible.
Anna Blake, Infinity Farm.