(Reprinted from ‘La Revue des Amis du Cadre Noir’ (Issue No. 89, 2016) with the permission of author Frédéric Magnin and the permission of M. Ludovic de Villèle, President of the Association Les Amis du Cadre Noir de Saumur. My deep gratitude for the opportunity to share this wonderful piece.)
Today it would seem that the history of French equitation can be written without mentioning Dupaty de Clam. Yet such an omission was unthinkable a short time ago, so great an influence did this “Ecuyer of the Enlightenment” have on equitation in parts of Europe right up to the 20th century. At times accused of being “a chamber écuyer”, at others considered to be one of our best equestrian writers, recognized in any event as “the first to write about Equitation, according to the principles of Physics”; put simply, he was “a thinking écuyer.”
(© 2019 Kip Mistral. Short film by Michel Kaplan, Beau Geste S.O.A.R. & On Tape Productions, 1994. With permission by the Kaplan family and Catherine Durand Henriquet. Photograph by Frédéric Chéhu.)
One day in France, long ago, a little film was made in a big hurry. Plans had been made to do the shooting for the film at the gardens of the nearby Château de Maisons-Lafitte, between Versailles and Paris, but before that could be scheduled, one of the two equine stars of the show (the Lusitano stallions Spartacus and Orphée) was being called away. Since Orphée had regained his status of 2nd French Dressage Horse and Free Style Champion, his breeders were claiming him to return to Portugal to do his job as a sire.
(© Kip Mistral 2003. Two part interview article first published in California Riding Magazine. Detail from “The Prince Riding in the Moonlight” by John Bauer, 1914.)
“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
Sherry Ackerman is a Mount Shasta, California based, European-trained classical rider and trainer who, incidentally, holds a PhD in Philosophy. Her fascinating book Dressage in the Fourth Dimension explores her ultimate ideal for riding and the horse/human relationship. She calls it the Fourth Dimension, essentially the merging of two entities in a higher plane of spirit that moves outside their individual existences.
(Peter Paul Rubens – Detail from Equestrian Portrait of the Duke of Lerma – The Collection – Museo Nacional del Prado)
“Now for your Cherishings, they are those which I formerly spake of;
Only they must be used at no time but when your Horse doth well,
In 1731, François Robichon de La Guérinière was complaining in his book “School of Horsemanship”, Chapter I “Why There Are So Few Horsemen & the Qualities Necessary to Become One”. Nearly 300 years later, we are asking the same questions! Here, his initial comments:
“All arts and sciences have principles and rules governing the methods resulting in those discoveries that lead to their perfection. The Cavalry [School of Horsemanship] is the only art for which it seems there is only need of practice; however, the practice, stripped of sound principles, is nothing more than routine that only results in a forced and uncertain performance and a false brilliance that fascinates the demi-connoisseurs, who are often amazed by the horse’s kindness, rather than by the rider’s skill. This is the reason for the small number of well-trained horses and the lack of ability presently seen in the majority of those people who call themselves horsemen.”