Response to Frances Carbonnel's Blog
Posted by Irina Yastrebova on Thursday, December 10, 2009 11:23 PM
This blog is answer to Frances Carbonnel's last blog "Digression" where she asks the question at the end . Please read it first to understand what I'm talking about. Click here
I want to say that modern dressage with it's laid down tests and prescribed movements and war or bullfighting have absolutely different objectives. It is like comparing hockey or soccer with ballroom dancing or classical ballet. Hockey requires speed, agility, ability to quickly move any direction and make decisions at lightning speeds just like war horse or bullfighting horse must do. Nobody cares of cadence or regularity in hockey :) Dance on the other hand requires control, precision, grace and cadence! So I think it is no surprise that classical masters of 18th century were not paying much attention to cadence. As you point out yourself except when talking about passage. However, passage was invented for parades, plaza, showing off in front of the crowd not for war or bullfighting ring. The more cadenced and regular trot is the more it is spectacular to watch. I personally never found western reining very impressive even with all their sliding stops and spins because their lack of cadence and grace.
War horses or bullfighting horses were taught to think for themselves. There were many situations where rider had to completely abandon control in order to use his horse's lighting reactions to safe their lives. I saw it very clearly in bullfighting ring. And the best bullfighting horses I'm more than sure are those who can make very good decisions without much help from the rider. We do not have that in modern dressage. We do have that in western cutting and they too choose a horse with cow sense which exactly means the horse that makes good decisions while herding cows without rider's help. This astonishing development in relationship where man gave his horse freedom to choose actions to safe his life is something we do not have now at all. Can you imagine the quality of emotion and deep admiration and respect that man feels toward his horse who saved his life from angry bull over and over again. However, free horses do not move with cadence and regularity and who cares when your life is in danger. And these riders can sit on these horses!!! Imagine giving up control while your horse is attacked by a bull and staying out of your horse's way and not falling off... Imagine modern dressage rider doing that?... :)
Modern dressage on the other hand is like a ballroom dance. Rider is like a leading partner, controlling the horse's movement and balance. A good dance partner makes a world of difference compare to clumsy one. Most dressage riders are clumsy leaders even at high levels. They depend too much on rein, do not feel their own balance, too weak in the core. If a dance partner was like that the pair will look slow, ungraceful, unbalanced. No wonder there is seemingly a controversy cadence does not go with lightness. How can a horse be light if in order for rider to stay balanced they must hold the reins! Imagine dancing with someone who is constantly falling and holding on to you to stay in balance on top of that this person is moving in all directions with his uncontrollable hips and shoulders, nightmare!!! Rider like this will not have any other choice but to create resemblance of cadence with reins and not seat. As soon as this happens bye-bye lightness. As a leading partner rider has huge responsibility to stay in balance himself/herself, to feel the balance of his/her horse, to ask clearly and lightly and expect prompt response. Crooked horse is not going to be light no matter what and fixing head and neck will not help, reins will not help. Ability to feel through the seat the movement, the verticality of your horse, the amount of power from behind, the vector of this power, how it goes through the body... Such focus and intensity toward the horse's quality of movement are not possible in bullfighting ring where all your attention is on the bull.
These 2 worlds are so different, horses from these worlds are so different. I believe that cadence and lightness can go together. However, this only possible if rider learns to dance before teaching dancing to a horse.
Happy riding...
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