(© Kip Mistral. First published in Equine Journal, August 2009. This article won a Second Place for Personality Profile in the 2010 American Horse Publication Annual Awards Program. Photographs courtesy of Sheila McLevedge.)
No man can reveal to you aught but that which already lies half asleep in the dawning of our knowledge…If he is indeed wise he does not bid you enter the house of wisdom, but rather leads you to the threshold of your own mind.
~ Kahlil Gibran
An elegant silver-haired man and his silver horse proudly advance across still-green autumn grass, rusty-golden fall foliage rimming a field in the background. Rein gently slackened, the powerful horse in beautiful balance and collection, together they present the image of the quintessential ride… a moment of grace, of union between man and horse. The picture draws us in, symbolizing the quest so seductive to equestrians through time who have sought to share a moment of grace and union with their horses.
[© Sherry Ackerman, excerpt from “Dressage in the Fourth Dimension”, New World Library, 2008. Used with permission of the author.]
Philosophy is written in this grand book—I mean the universe—which stands continually open to our gaze, but it cannot be understood unless one first learns to comprehend the language and interpret the characters in which it is written. It is written in the language of mathematics, and its characters are triangles, circles and other geometrical figures, without which it is humanly impossible to understand a single word of it; without these, one is wandering about in a dark labyrinth.
~Galileo Galilei, Il Saggiatore (The Assayer), 1623
The earliest reference to dressage is found in the writings of the Greek historian and philosophical essayist Xenophon. Born in Athens around 430 BCE, Xenophon belonged to an equestrian family in the deme of Erchia. Early in his life, he had come under the influence of Socrates and had received schooling in classical geometry. Xenophon’s education led him to view geometry and numbers as components of the simplest and most essential philosophical language.
(© By Kip Mistral. Articles originally published in California Riding Magazine, October 2003 and November 2003, as “Opening to Transformation: Discussions with Dr. Sherry Ackerman, Parts I and II.”)
“I remember one day after several years of study, during which I thought I was progressing quite nicely, my teacher said, ‘Riding dressage is not like playing tennis. You can make your body learn the techniques and make your head learn the movements, but the dressage comes from inside of you. You really need to develop your inner life.’ This was a turning point in my life, a quantum leap in my conscious process. I began to understand that people rode the way they were, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and that was why horses performed differently for different riders. As we open ourselves up to transformation, our riding improves.” (“Dressage in the Fourth Dimension” by Sherry Ackerman, PhD, Second Edition, published by New World Library, Novato, California)
(© By Kip Mistral. First published in Equine Journal July, 2007. Photograph Courtesy of Premier Equestrian.)
“Now…we take up the reins very carefully,” Walter Zettl speaks softly into the microphone. “The mouth is the most sensitive part. Softer…softer.” Here at one of Zettl’s winter clinics in Tucson, Arizona, the rider has been walking her horse on the buckle during one of the frequent breaks for the horse. We are all comrades in escaping the desert sun, and those of us observing have joined Zettl under the canopy where he sits to instruct.
(© By Kip Mistral. First printed in Equine Journal May 2007. Photographs by Frédéric Chéhu unless otherwise noted.)
It is a beautiful fall morning at Le Fief de la Panetière, the 16th century estate and equestrian facility near Versailles that Michel Henriquet shares with his wife, Catherine Durand Henriquet. My Dutch friend, Ellen Schuthof, and I are spending a couple of days watching lessons given by Michel and Catherine in both the lovely outdoor court and the indoor manège. This is my second visit to the Henriquets and as in the year before, I am struck by the collection, balance and suppleness of the horses trained by Michel and Catherine.