(© Andy Marcoux 2017. Photographs Courtesy Andy Marcoux.)
A well-executed halt must start with the ability for the horse to remain still in a given spot, for a given period of time. [In a dressage test] You will first be judged on your horse’s immobility. Only when that’s in place can we look at all of the cool other things that go into a great halt. You can add balance, engagement, and energy only after you’ve convinced the horse that remaining still in place is a priority of yours.
Recently I was reading an article here on Kip Mistral’s site written by Sherry Ackerman, PhD, titled Sacred Geometry and the Figures of the Manège, when a single sentence hit me like a nuclear dope-slap …”All movement begins with its antithesis, immobility.” The paragraph in the article referring to the halt is some of the best writing I’ve seen on the subject.
The article also got me thinking about the training that I use to teach a horse how to achieve immobility. In my article The Origin of Movement (link provided below) I describe how I use my training techniques to essentially capture the horse’s energy, rather than diffuse or dull it until the horse is so deathly bored that standing seems like the only reasonable thing to do.
(© by Kim Walnes 2017. Photograph by Elizabeth Preznikoff.)
I have always loved this photo. It speaks to something in the heart…that dream all us horse girls have had of the winged white horse who comes to us, invites us to mount, and carries us off through the air to the fulfillment of all our wishes.
The Gray Goose might as well have had wings…I’ve never sat on such immense yet smooth power. His long back made the ride comfortable, and he didn’t have any trouble jumping over pretty much anything that came in his path. When he left out strides, which we both loved to do, it truly was like flying.
(© Manolo Mendez and Caroline Larrouilh. First published Baroque Horse Magazine, July 31, 2013. Image Courtesy Manolo Mendez Dressage.)
A correctly executed pirouette is a thing of beauty, a perfect storm of collection, impulsion, suppleness, strength and balance. At canter, it is one of the most physically demanding movements we can ask of our horse. It is a test of a trainer’s ability to develop self-carriage and a horse that is completely attentive and responsive to the aids…a horse filled with power and expression, yet focused and tension-free.
(© 2017 Kip Mistral. Featured image, The Clark Sisters, by Alfred Munnings. All images copyright estate of Sir Alfred Munnings, All rights reserved, DACS.)
Having recently discovered the prolific British Romantic art of Sir Alfred James Munnings (1878-1959) which ironically focuses on the kind of sunlit and backlit Edwardian idyllic pastoral countryside equestrian activities that I wish I could enjoy myself, out of curiosity I began to look into his long and interesting life. As a young man Munnings roamed his native countryside painting gypsies, horse fairs and races and hunt scenes with riders and packs of hounds. He later served Britain as a WWI war artist and thereafter roved the world documenting the mostly equestrian lifestyles of aristocratic and wealthy patrons. Munnings was lionized on both sides of the Atlantic as the finest equestrian artist, his friends including Sir Winston Churchill and any number of the highest-ranking persons in society and industry of the time. Today his paintings sell in the $7-8M range. But this is a man who made his way to a knighthood by his passion for horses and the outdoors, and a whole lot of hard work.
[NOTES FROM KM: Western master of lightness Roy Allen Yates (1930-2010) rode into my awareness on his QH stallion Tidys Chirp in San Juan Capistrano almost 20 years ago. He was giving a weekend clinic and it was an eye opener for certain. Trained by Roy, Tidys Chirp happened to be an AQHA Performance Champion with Superior Awards in Reining, Western Riding and Western Pleasure as well as a Register of Merit in Trail. At that time, Tidys Chirp held (and still may hold) the world record for the longest sliding stop of 66 feet. In a western saddle and western curb bridle, first Roy did a demonstration of reining and then he put Tidys Chirp to the sliding stop. They kept sliding and sliding until I thought they might go out the arena on the other end. Roy then excused himself for a 10-minute break, and to our amazement re-entered the arena on a proudly prancing Tidy’s Chirp tacked up in a dressage saddle, double bridle and dressage whip, and together they treated us to a demonstration of classical dressage, although I didn’t know what that was at the time. The horse was in perfect self-carriage, which I also didn’t know anything about at the time.]