Riding is a thing of beauty and can be made into an art form. All of us would like to be considered artists, but the only ones who will achieve this are those who try sincerely to enter into a horse's mind and effect rapport with him by sympathy rather than brute strength.
Wilhelm Museler addresses horseback riding as both science and art. It is partly a matter of logical study and partly a matter of feel. Museler states: Every rider who schools his horse must do his mental homework in addition to the practical work before he will understand it. But he also stresses that .a rider must, from the very start, learn how to 'feel'.
One should not think that learning to feel is simple. Feeling is a multi–faceted concept. Museler states: Feeling will only be learned by the person who uses his brain and interprets what he feels. It involves being aware of both one's own body, the movement of the horse, and how the two relate.
A teacher can only try to stimulate a student to feel through appropriate instruction. lessons, and advice on self–discipline. But the rider must develop the sense of feel on his own. The horse is the best instructor for teaching the rider how to feel.
Riding a well–schooled horse can be of great assistance in developing a sense of feel. The rider can, then, try to recreate this feeling when riding a horse that is not quite as developed. Museler explains the advantage of riding various horses:
if one has learned to give correct aids on a well-schooled, sensitive horse, then a lesser–trained horse will react correctly to them. As the striving for feeling develops, it becomes increasingly important to ride different horses as each horse gives a different response from others. This obliges the rider to re–think his views on feeling and enlarges his ability to give aids tailored to the differing sensitivities of different horses.
Once a rider has learned to feel, he is better equipped to influence the horse. One can influence his horse by using legs, reins, weight, and back. Using these in combination, the rider has an infinite number of gradations from which to choose.
As the rider develops a sense of feel, he can better sense how his center of gravity sits in relation to that of his horse. As Museler puts it: When the rider is in this state of balance, the horse is able to give of his best and the rider can give his best instructions to the horse. Depending on what the horse is doing — trotting, racing, jumping — his center of gravity changes and the rider must adapt.
Feeling and balance lead to a sense of oneness with the horse. Speaking of this oneness, Museler states:
True harmony stems from the feeling of oneness that should exist between rider and horse. Only from a position of this harmony can natural aids be given and the ability to ride with an absolute minimum of effort be cultivated. This is why the performance of a dressage rider does not drop off as he gets older: He should improve.
Museler's book is not only for dressage riders. The author contends that a rider can only become a master if he practices all aspects or riding.
It is essential that a horseman practises three aspects of riding equally: riding in the school, riding outside and jumping. If one of these activities is neglected or imperfectly mastered he will never attain mastery with his horse.
Still, the author points out:
The aim of schooling a horse is that a rider should be able to do all that he wants to do with his horse with the minimum of exertion on his part and the greatest possible consideration for the horse. The training that brings this about is dressage, and this means building up the horse's physique to its maximum capability and teaching it obedience.
Museler stresses a classical approach to riding. But he points out, The classical art of riding is not a set of fixed precepts, any more than Baroque or Renaissance styles are defined by particular ornamentation or architectural guidelines.. By classical, he means the method of training that seeks to establish the most complete rapport between rider and horse in the most natural way possible and with the utmost consideration for the horse.
Museler reminds his readers that a horse is a sensitive living being, not a piece of machinery. One can replace damaged parts of a machine, but he cannot replace damaged joints and tendons or the damaged spirit or a horse.
A true cavalier — and that is what we should all try to be — feels responsible for the sensitive animal and, in schooling his horse, tries to create a positive working schedule: he attempts, by appropriate dressage work, to provide a solid platform on which he can systematically build. He will always ensure that his horse is working willingly and avoids asking too much of it. If a horse is worked with these points in mind, muscles, tendons and joints will be strengthened and the horse will grow confident. And then, when the horse is totally ready in both physical and mental respects, just as ripe fruit falls from the tree, more demanding lessons and higher jumps come naturally.
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