(© Kip Mistral 2007. Photo credits unknown.)
[NOTE from KM: Sometimes when I interview subjects, they can be more direct than the publication’s audience at the time might be ready for, so in the past I have erred on the side of caution and eliminated certain content from the final article. However, those honest remarks are the parts I like the best. I asked the charming and gracious Walter Zettl if he wanted to censor any part of our interviews and he said, “No, I’m old…they can think what they want.” So in that spirit, I publish here for your enjoyment the uncut transcription of my recorded interviews, over a weekend clinic here in Tucson years ago. I leave undisturbed the syntax of his speech.]
(© 2020 Kip Mistral. Images and excerpts used with permission of the publisher Xenophon Press.)
“The horse must always feel comfortable in all equestrian activities. This is how we show him our love and respect.”
I read books about classical training and riding techniques all the time (and have even co-authored one), but I find “Dressage Principles and Techniques” by renowned Portuguese classical dressage trainer Major Miguel Tavora, published by Xenophon Press in 2018, to be extraordinary.
It is extraordinary because this author is able to teach a complete, well-illustrated program of basic classical equitation and training in great detail, and combine high seriousness about the importance of classical method and technique with repeated reminders to treat the horse with understanding, kindness, love and respect…all this written in simple and easy-to-follow language, in only 158 pages. Those 158 pages will take you from terminology and theory to first longeing to work in-hand to canter pirouette, piaffe and passage. Finally, here is the thought-provoking yet very useful book you really can take to the barn.
(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.