A New Kind of Partnership

Can you imagine what a dancer can do? A dancer is trained to the inth! Legs go anywhere at any time. A dancer can bend over, jump high, leap into a partner's arms and then be let down to twirl piroettes and still be on her toes to jump again! It's breathtaking to watch dancers on stage…but it is totally amazing to be the dancer on stage, with the ability to move every part of your body at your command. And that was my life! I was lucky to be able to do what I loved to do professionally all of my life.

As a dancer, I loved rehearsals and I loved duets the most. In rehearsals with my partner, we could experiment and talk through the movements we were learning to perform. We would try a lift....and fail. And then try it again, and if it didn't work, we had language to discuss the issue and come to an understanding of what needed to be done to make it work. Maybe a little more support on count 6? Whatever it was, we could talk it out and we could make it work. And the duets were magical for me. Just me and my partner moving together, shifting weight and helping dynamically balance each other to create the seamless motion called dance.

Many moons later, I began a new kind of partnership. I got a horse and wanted to ride. I thought riding would be as beautiful and elegant as performing a duet on stage in front of hundreds of people. But try as I might, I struggled on a daily basis to recreate the magic of the duet with my horse. I often felt like I was stepping on his toes or getting in his way instead of helping him balance. And he felt like he was often moving without me, not hearing me. Or maybe I was just too dang loud that he tuned me out. Whatever it was, it was not magic. My frustration grew.

I don't think I am alone in having had this kind of partnership problem. I think there are a lot of riders out there that feel the same. You see, while I could talk to my dance partner and explain the need for support on count 6, I couldn't do that with my horse! What I came to realize was that the partnership with my horse was all non-verbal. At every moment I was riding, I was speaking to my horse. I knew what I was trying to say, but was I making sense to my partner? Could he hear me? Was I too loud? Too soft? Using the wrong words?

This realization led me to explore the nature of the non-verbal communication that exists between horse and rider. I found that the more still I was, the better my horse could hear me. And stillness isn't stiff. Stillness in this new kind of partnership is a strong but supple sense of self that resides in the carriage of the rider.

So try this experiment with a friend. Stand in a riding position and create the feeling in your body that you have when you are sitting on your horse. Now have your friend gently nudge you from behind. Notice what happens. Were you knocked over? Did something move? Did you tense up? Any or all of those reactions would have "spoken" to your horse. Something. And probably not exactly what you had in mind to say to your horse.

So now regroup your riding position and pull your belly button to your back bone and feel your back relax. Have your friend nudge you again. Ah.....did you move less? If not, try again with even more effort in your abs. Using your abs correctly, you will find a strong supple sense of self that is quiet as the horse moves. With this as your self-carriage, you will be able to speak more eloquently to your horse because you have balanced yourself. And when you do, you can help balance him.

And this is the start of a new kind of partnership.

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Pilates  for  Dressage®

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