(“The Two Horse Act,” color lithograph originally published in 1874 by Gibson & Co, Cincinnati)
I had to laugh when I wanted a feature image for this post and this amusing Victorian circus act image that I saved some time ago floated up to the top of my extensive gallery of artwork.
Everything about this image is fascinating. The audience as a group oddly seems to be either looking in front of the “two horse act” or behind it. Yet each person’s individualistic face and his or her details from headwear to clothing is drawn carefully. The mustachioed rider understandably has a preoccupied expression, balanced atop two horses as he is, guiding them (on loose reins, I might add!) as they run at frenetic speed in a small ring, and at the same time holding out a perky lass with golden ringlets who stands with her right foot on his manly thigh…with her left ankle extended out of sight.
(© 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.
(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,
(© Kim Walnes 2018. Photograph by Bo Reich.)
To me instructing is a sacred trust. I feel it is my responsibility to create a safe space where neither human nor horse are judged. It is my job to understand where there may be mental, emotional, or physical blocks in both…to bring these to the awareness of the person while addressing these blocks with kindness, competence, and a feel for what each person/horse can handle in the moment. I always make it clear that I well know that everyone, both horse and human, are doing their very best in any moment.
(© John Richard Young, “The One-Sided Horse” first published in Arabian Horse Express, January 1992.)
A reader of this column writes: “How come you have never mentioned horses that have one-sided mouths, horses that just won’t take an even feel of the bit on both reins? They give easily to the rein on one side, but stiffly resist the opposite rein. They move forward with their necks more or less curved to one side, always the same side, and their heads slightly tilted so that their ears are not on the same level. What makes a horse move this way? What can be done to correct such a horse, beyond riding with the reins completely slack?”