In the circus that is my life, I found myself at my California dinner table sipping wine and eating chocolate with two world class horsemen – one from the famed halls of the Spanish Riding School in Vienna and the other an Argentine polo player who has played green fields from the sands of Brunei, to the vast stretches of Patagonia, over the cool fields of England…..
We talked of travel, and landscapes and weather. Mostly we talked of horses. It dawned on me as I watched these gentle men, both with hair streaked with gray, calluses on their hands and sun creases on their handsome faces that both had been brought up preserving the critical art of training a horse for war.
Both Classical Dressage and polo are dignified exhibitions of mounted soldiers practicing to defend their communities or attack others in the search for resources.
Christian is a specialist in the Airs Above The Ground – the ancient jumps and kicks that could kill a foot soldier and strike fear in entire regiments. Enrique’s beloved polo is a classic game of defending territory as a regiment and scoring wins. There’s tell of stories that the game was developed using the heads of enemies.
As we know, mounted war is a thing mostly of the past nowadays. High powered guns, tanks and now drones have replaced the awesome swift fierceness of a mounted military.
Both men are master teachers. This is extremely rare – to be able to teach both horses and humans. But I watched both tell stories of riders who blame the horse or are eager to replace the horse to get to their goals more quickly. I sit and breathe in their wisdom as they pound the table, leaning in to express that it takes years to train, not months or a seminar or a new bit. Despite the fact that their disciplines are vastly different, the breeds they prefer don’t match at all – they are of one mind that patience and a quiet mind are what train a horse.
The Spanish Riding School prances to delight crowds with their famed white stallions while polo is played in wealthy neighborhoods as spectators sip champagne and critique other attendees’ fashion choices.
If you saw either of these men ride and train horses – you would understand that it is an art. What then, is the future of these arts?
I’d like to believe that the ancient art of teaching a horse to carry us to war is now helpful in healing our souls.
By training a horse in soft collection – in understanding and the horse using his body to effortlessly carry us in harmony and in bravery – the horse connects us our selves through our dis-regulated senses. As this giant prey animal lends us his grace and beauty we rediscover our self worth and we take that generosity back out to our technology laden world. These masters show us through our horses that patience, clarity, humility and the ability to be fully present are the tools we need most.
The matron in me wants to keep them at my table – to feed them well and make them safe from having to teach people who will wear them out in their quests for an easy fix or needing to look a tormented horse in the eye and do what they can to help. That’s not possible of course and I sent them both off with a hug to their next teaching gigs – hopefully imbued with renewed spirits in finding soulmates in their relentless pursuit of equestrian art mastery.
As for me? I’m relishing every memory of connecting these Masters at my table and more importantly in the arena where they both served Square Peg horses and staff with wisdom and love.
Lucky – lucky me.
The character of the human, too, will find its expression in the training and performance of the horse.
The level-headed one becomes a master, the inspired one an artist, the correct one a controller, the violent one a subduer, the crafty one a conman. The faint-hearted one makes compromises, the timid one capitulates, the hot-tempered one becomes unfair, the malicious one a torturer, the melancholy one a trifler. The hasty one becomes frustrated, the impatient one becomes unhappy, the fool becomes complacent, the snob becomes a more or less happy boaster on his horse. The prudent one remains a student forever, even if he is a master; the sage, however, …?
The sage in the saddle is rarely encountered. He is recognizable by his extreme modesty, because he knows that no-one can solve all the riddles the horse presents to us – life is too short.”
(Udo Bürger, 1959)