“Riding a horse is not a gentle hobby, to be picked up and laid down like a game of Solitaire. It is a grand passion.”

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Horses can be both alluring and intimidating to us as humans. Because they are inherently prey animals, they can be a challenge for us to understand. It is this challenge, in part, that is what draws us to training and riding: the challenge of speaking two wholly different languages and creating a middle ground, in a partnership that is almost impossible to describe.

It is my believe that the root of all under-saddle training should be dressage. My background is in dressage, both French and German, and my passion is the balance and connection that correct biomechanical training can give both horse and rider. The lightness and relaxation a horse can gain from biomechanically sound dressage basics are things that a horse in any discipline can benefit from, from huntseat to western to saddleseat.

Read: Rehabilitation: Dressage as Physical Therapy

The concepts of classical, correct dressage have spanned centuries. From as early as 400 BC, the ancient Greek, Xenophon advocated sympathetic and empathetic horsemanship in an attempt to connect the horse and rider in a relationship based on encouragement rather than force. It is through this classical mind-set of encouragement and relaxation, rather than physical force and brutality, that horses are taught to carry themselves and the rider, balanced, relaxedly and forward.

The reputation of modern competitive dressage riders paints an ugly picture: Stiff back, braced contact, and a noseband gripping tight around the horse's muzzle. The use of gadgets and gimmickry may work in the short run to force a horse into a "frame" but the maintenence of this outline without the correct and balanced muscling, relaxation and comprehension will cause a horse to break down quickly, both mentally and physically. Additionally, a horse that is stiff in the jaw will transfer that tension throughout it's body, causing a horse that is neither mentally nor physically sound.

It is through encouragement, patience and understanding of the horse's cognitive process and physical mechanism that I train my horses. I work hard to build trust and partnership in a clear and concise way that gives the horse a defined and confident place in our "herd of two". I work with my students and training clients closely to help them build this trust with their own equine partners.

It is only through trust, encouragement and relaxation that we can obtain the closest connection and most classical relationship with our horses: an empathetic relationship as both athletes and companions.