Lessons from the dressage horse

The dressage horse, in my opinion, is one of the most beautiful and elegant creatures on the planet.

A ballerina, the dressage horse performs each movement with fluency and perceived effortlessness and grace. He is the epitome of athleticism. It is poetry in motion.

The dressage horse must be able to recognise what is being asked of him by the slightest aid. An ounce of increased pressure from the rider’s leg means the difference between a piaffe, and an extended trot. It is a silent, almost invisible and exact communication.

So, what can we learn from the dressage horse? How can we apply this to our own lives?

Receptiveness. Zeal. Trust.

As people, we fail in the wake of our own stubbornness. To grow, we must admit that we do not, in fact, know everything. This stubbornness is often the biproduct of pride. We refuse to accept help from those who know better than us, for fear of embarrassment or belittlement.

The dressage horse does not harbour these misconceptions. He is receptive to his rider. Learning, for the dressage horse, often comes quickly, because he doesn’t make assumptions, or try to take control. He simply listens. He has no capacity for embarrassment of the small missteps that come before the perfectly balanced pirouette.

Learning is a process. To succeed, we must fail. So, it is inevitable – if you fear failure, you will never learn.

Something that we also seem to forget is that learning never stops. Learning for the dressage horse does not finish when he reaches the Grand Prix. Just as learning for us does not finish when we reach our first goal. It is good to enjoy your success, just don’t stop there. Smash through the glass ceiling.

But don’t just crawl across the finish line. Do it with zest.

Impulsion is everything in dressage. The dressage horse cannot achieve the perfect movement without energy. Just as we cannot reach our full potential without applying ourselves. We may not be passionate about everything that we do in life, but we can approach it with vivacity.

The dressage horse is instinctively a flight animal. His natural reaction to the unknown is to run.

So, why doesn’t he? In truth, sometimes he does. And, while its not much fun for his rider, it’s okay. Horses, like us, cannot be perfect. They feel, just as we do. Fear. Excitement. Attachment.

But the dressage horse doesn’t always run from his fear, because he has trust. Trust in the person on his back, with their legs secure around him, guiding him.

Trust doesn’t come easily to all of us. But without it, we are limited. Sometimes, we need to take a blind leap of faith, and trust the support of those around us.

In closing, there’s something else that I want to share with you… The lessons we can learn from the dressage rider.

Patience. Determination. Trust.

The dressage rider has no option but to trust the horse beneath her, with a mind entirely of its own. If she doesn’t, the partnership will fail. When she does, it is magic.

She is a fearless soul, with the patience of a saint. She rides through the spooks that almost dismount her. She dusts herself off and gets back on after the ones that do. But she never punishes. Never allows herself to get frustrated. She simply pushes forward.

Anger is pointless – in riding, and in life. It achieves nothing. In fact, it takes you two steps backward.

It is impossible to eradicate frustration from ourselves entirely, but it is something that we should all strive towards. Make peace not war. This is the path to success.

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