More on dressage and facilitation

I got a great email yesterday from a horse rider who had stumbled upon my post about Dressage and Facilitation. It’s the sort of contact that makes blogging great: I post a few stray ideas about a sport I know little about and here comes an expert to flesh out the detail for me. Thanks to Beth Daniels for this:

I was surfing around in an effort to see what is on the web with regard to the discipline/art of dressage that was somehow unique and your thoughts on Andreas Helgstrand’s ride on Matine in the freestyle caught my eye. I am a serious amateur dressage rider myself and train with an international caliber trainer based here in Aiken SC. I have also done years of pilates work, meditation, rolfing, and other body aware methods. And probably most significantly, I have spent a lifetime surrounded by animals.

Woven into all of this experience has been any number of business training sessions in sales and marketing. Therefore, I was particularly intrigued by your analogy of facilitation to the riding of the dressage freestyle since for those of us who spend years perfecting this incredibly and challenging form of riding (any dressage, not just freestyles) it becomes very clear that our job as the rider is, indeed, that of a facilitator though few of us may describe our role in this manner.

But think about it…we are using a highly specialized language- albeit one that is expressed through our bodies rather than our voices- for the purpose of obtaining a very specific response from the horse whether it be a sideways movement called half-pass, or a 360 degree turn at the canter called pirouette or one of the many other moves we train the horse to execute when asked. All horses can naturally do these movements at will to a lesser or greater degree, but to execute them at a specific location and point in time and within predetermined parameters for the quality of the movement requires the presence of a facilitator, i.e. the rider.

And the better the rider the less obvious his or her role in that facilitation and the greater the expression will be from the horse executing the movements precisely because the rider as facilitator understands how to consistently ask the horse for more expression in each movement and can, in fact, ask through the proper use of his or her body. It”s brilliant, really!

I’ll just add my caveat in the early post about this not being a perfect analogy. The twist with facilitation is that you’re trying not to direct “the animal” with the precision that dressage (as I understand it, anyway) demands. It’s more about supporting emergence and that’s where it all gets a bit paradoxical…

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