Dressage in Nature

Shut your eyes for a moment. Imagine this; yourself on a beautiful horse in a beautiful forest, the horse dancing beneath you in perfect rhythmic piaffe. Light filters through the branches. The sound of birdsong makes a descant over the horse’s soft but energized two-beat footfalls. Light in the hand, light in the heart…you ride on, the horse finding a passage underneath you that brings a gasp of joy with every upward rush of energy.

You never knew riding could be like this – the apogee of classical riding, outside in nature. It’s like something from a fairy tale, a dream. Yet it’s real – as real as the photographs being taken as you and the horse dance together under the spreading branches.

Pictures that you will take home with you, proof that it wasn’t just a dream.

For many of us the word “dressage”, while being something we might aspire to do, often becomes “stressage” as we try to navigate the intensity of the arena, where lines are invisible, abstract notions, and a certain intensity often makes both us and the horse tense up. Brain and body function that are normally easy for us to access, often somehow fall apart in the arena as the pressure of trying to get it right, trying not to get it wrong, feeling never good enough, take their inevitable toll.

Where, one wonders, is the joy?

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Dressage can be explored just effectively outside in nature as in an arena. Forest trails, bridleways between the fields, where the horse has a natural desire to go forward, where one’s body is naturally relaxed, where enjoyment is simply built in to the whole picture, make for a perfect place to discover the mysteries of the upper level movements – piaffe, passage, pirouettes, even airs above the ground – whether of foot with work in hand and in long reins, or in the saddle.

Come experience this on trained, kind schoolmaster horses in the forests, orchards and fields of Hessen, Germany. Stay in old historic mills, where the horse is brought into the courtyard after breakfast for you to mount, as if you were a nobleman or woman of old.

Explore nature in between moments of pure equestrian ecstasy as the horses dance beneath you as deer dart across the path, and birds of prey wheel overhead. Ride to lunches in old gasthofs and picnics in the forest.

Experience dressage as it was meant to be experienced – as something purely joyful.

And bring those experiences home in images to treasure forever.

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