Classical Training with a Competitive Edge
Hello my beautiful friends,
We had a wonderfully inspiring clinic with Charles de Kunffy in the middle of April. Charles is a mentor to both Martin and I and has been the biggest influence on our riding. I think it's really because of Charles that we feel passionate about our mission to carry on the art of classical riding. It is a dying art and the art will only survive if we stay true to the traditions that have been in place for centuries. In this day and age and in this society in particular, we crave instant gratification. We literally have all the knowledge in the world at our fingertips. We waste countless hours on social media "connecting" to other people but in fact we are more disconnected than ever.
I feel so honored to be a part of an artistic and athletic endeavor that has such an incredibly rich history. Classical dressage riding can be dated back as far as 400BC when the Greek general, Xenophon, wrote The Art of Horsemanship. Obviously during the time of Xenophon all the way up through World War One, horses were trained for warfare. It has really been over the last 70 years or so that they have been exclusively trained for sport and for art.
In Charles de Kunffy's book, The Ethics and Passions of Dressage, he describes "The art of riding is a Baroque art. The ideology is based on the Baroque view that the potential of random nature remains unfulfilled until man elevates it by cultivated design to the level of art. The ultimate equestrian goal of developing every horse's genetic potential to the fullest extent is in absolute agreement with the Baroque commitment to elevate nature's creatures to be living monuments of art. Therefore, the "modern rebirth" of the equestrian arts, as well as its last major innovations, rest in the Baroque Age.". He goes on to explain that "We remember that the "finished horse" is born of daily attention to minutia in schooling. Careful consistency, repetition and elaboration are part of that daily work which produce the supple horse....The rider, the "human genius" that refines random nature into an edifice, is the ultimate beneficiary of this art. Provided he understands his horses well, the rider will have created beauty that is the physical aesthetic manifestation of his intellectual understanding and spiritual depth. So can man be elevated by the taming of his horse, through a partnership with him, to become himself the object and subject of his art."
I just love how Charles speaks of the rider becoming the primary beneficiary of his art. By one's communion with the horse, we can grow in character and spirit. Horses become our greatest teachers by allowing us to grow in wisdom, in patience, in empathy and compassion and in perseverance. I believe as spiritual beings, we all have the innate desire to create. Whether you create paintings, poems, sculptures or if your horse is your canvas in which you express yourself, I believe that it is through these creative endeavors that we can connect most to Source/Universe/God. Through love and understanding of the horse, we elevate him to art but during that process we ourselves become the object of edification.
Next time you go out to ride your horse, take a moment and think of all the riders that have come before you over thousands of years. As a rider you have the privilege to participate in this wondrous and majestic art form. It is our responsibility to be custodians to our art. In order for it to survive, we must not be tempted by shortcuts that gain us the instant gratification we desire. We must not sacrifice our compassion and empathy for the horse in order to succeed in competition. We must allow our riding and training to be guided by a deep love of the horse and stay rooted in our classical foundations. This is the only way that riding, as an art, will survive.
Enjoy the ride,