(Copyright © 2008 Sherry Ackerman. Published by New World Library. Used with permission of the author. Image by Anthony van Dyck, detail of Equestrian Portrait of Prince Tommaso Francesco of Savoy-Carignano.)
Any path is only a path, and there is no affront, to oneself or to others, in dropping it if that is what your heart tells you…Look at every path closely and deliberately. Try it as many times as you think necessary. Then ask yourself, and yourself alone, one question…Does this path have a heart? If it does, the path is good; if it doesn’t, it is of no use. ~ Carlos Castaneda, The Teachings of Don Juan
Western social norms, so strongly influenced by the Puritan ethic, have traditionally offered a distorted view of sensuality and body communication. Nudity is regarded with suspicion, touching is associated with lust, and sharing sensual experience is considered inappropriate. In general, appreciation for the body has been considered pornographic. I recently entered some of my artwork in a gallery show. In an attempt to decide which pieces might find favor with the jury, I called the show organizer and asked some questions. I told her that I had a couple of “risky” new works that I would like to enter but was uncertain how the jury would receive them. She asked me what I meant by “risky,” and I told her they were abstracts with extremely bold colors and lines. “Oh,” she replied, “as long as they’re not nudes, I don’t think there will be any problems.”
(© Kim Walnes 2018. Photographs are captured from the documentary film Riding for America: The Olympic Equestrian Team, directed by David Hoffman. NOTE FROM KIP MISTRAL: Please see details about the proposed new documentary film project about Kim’s remarkable career “The Mother Goose Project” on its Kickstarter campaign page. Only 15 days to go to successfully fund the campaign by Monday February 12, 2018! https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/932529734/the-mother-goose-project-wrkg-title-for-film-stage)
Whenever I sit down to watch David Hoffman’s brilliant and still applicable documentary Riding for America: The Olympic Equestrian Team with other folks, I always have them pause the DVD at the point where we are beginning Phase A. In the YouTube clip (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IgPuXg75ISk&feature=youtu.be ), it is the opening scene. I feel it’s essential for people watching to understand what is taking place when The Gray Goose dances during the countdown and I begin to talk to him as we cross the Start Line upon the word “Go!”.
(© 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.
(© 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.