Damn. I like to ride around. Absorbed in my own little world. Staring at my horses ears. Focused on what I’m feeling and on the feeling I’m giving the horse. Sliding like molasses from one movement into the next… This is, of course, not what I teach others to do. It is not what I know to be correct. And yet, it is what riding alone a lot tends to afflict some of us with. Molten mayhem is what it is. The reins are too long. The corners are useless to the horse. The center of balance is too far forward and the expectations too ambiguous. “Respect The Figures” Martime says. Well crap. If that isn’t what I need to hear a million times over.
Here’s the thing. We talk a lot about precision for the sake of precision. We talk about accuracy for the sake of the show and even for the sake of the training. But one of my lightbulb moments this week is that we need to respect the figures for the sake of The Horse AND for the sake of artistry and expression.
In order to achieve harmony, we need more than “obedience” from the horse. We need to be reliable for them. We need to create a degree of predictability in terms of direction that then allows us to have creativity in terms of quality. We can only shape energy if we first learn to contain it. As riders, We can only become artists once we learn to color between the lines.
When I was in grade school, I was a poet. I was a free spirit poet. I did not believe in rules or punctuation. I wasn’t into iambic pentameter and I didn’t use stanzas. My poetry did not, in general, rhyme. When I was given the assignment to write a haiku in fourth grade, I was very annoyed. How dare anyone tell me how many syllables to put in how many lines? I felt stifled by the assignment but I resentfully sat down to write the haiku. This is kind of like I felt when I was struggling to do a zig to a zag in half pass on poor Îcaro yesterday. Can’t I focus on the QUALITY of the half pass before worrying about the lines? Shouldn’t I make sure I’m getting all I want from my aids before I try to draw accurate lines with them? No. Martime: “You must learn the lines and then you can become an artist later.” Ding! Ding! Lights, whistles and bells go off in my brain. Yes. I know this to be true. When I sat down to write that haiku, I realized that having to write within the confines of a structure actually inspired me to be more creative. This is a thing I have come here to remember.
Probably the clearest manifestation of this comes while I am riding Mexicano inside small rectangles, delineated by cones. In a smaller court, corners and lines come up faster. A higher degree of accuracy, attention and collection is required in order to ride well in a small space. This is the lesson about coloring between the lines. As I become more accurate with my lines, my aids become more refined. More expression becomes possible. I still feel a bit muddled but now I am not frustrated. I am excited by the challenge that accurate lines present and by the creativity possible on the other side of that challenge. “Now you must respect the lines in the big court as much as you respect them in the tiny rectangle.” Respect The Figures. This, I carry home with me in my pack.