I recently heard a “joke” about the half-full/empty glass. “While some say it is half empty and others say half full, I say it is half empty of water and half full of air.” That, I say, is dressage. I spent many years looking for the thing that would give my riding quality, until one day I learned that it was the absence of what I was paying attention to that would give me the result I was looking for. Let me give an example: In an effort to make our horse more forward and active off the leg, we put our leg aid on. Until one day we find our leg has not left their side and we have created a horse that is, in fact, slow to the leg. The day that we can get our horse forward without that constant leg is the day that we are riding correct dressage. We spend so much time paying attention to leg aid (the water in the glass) that we forget the air that surrounds it. Sometimes, when I am teaching students, they are so good at applying the slowing aids that their horse will not stop. The key is to tell them to relax their aids so that the horse can actually feel the difference. Without the moment of nothing, the horse cannot tell if the rider is applying an aid or just tight/nagging/unsteady. Again, the aid (the water) is only half of what is in the glass! So next time someone asks if you believe the glass is half empty or half full, tell them that you are a dressage rider and you are certain that the glass is half empty of water and half full of air. How true that self-carriage, an ultimate goal of a dressage horse carrying himself without our constant support, is often compared to floating on air. On that note, happy riding. I challenge you to find all of the ways that air can be your new, most-helpful dressage aid!
- Rider Wellness
- Horse Care