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You can't have your cake and eat it too
 Moderated by: DrDeb  
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DrDeb
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 Posted: Thu Nov 1st, 2018 06:09 am
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Dear people: Below I dub in recent correspondence with someone who attended one of my horsemanship clinics a few years back. I think this letter will be of interest to many --not necessarily "many who read this board", but to many riders who are known to people who DO read this board. In other words,I invite you to  take it and print it out and show it to the ones who you think need to see it. -- Dr. Deb

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Deb, how nice to hear from you. My daughter and I attended a clinic...in Wisconsin with you a few years back. Wow--it really stuck with us both, especially her! My daughter's passion is what you taught. She left school to train horses in 11th and 12th grade but never once missed a biology or anatomy class. Instead of college, she went to Wellington [Florida, where there are big dressage and hunter-jumper shows and lots of activity in that area].

Now 25, she is struggling with the culture and about the treatment of the horses in the upper echelons of the  dressage business. At a crossroads, she quit her training job and took a job at an equine imaging clinic. Her aspirations are shifting toward expanding on exactly what she initially learned from you years ago. And also fairly unhappy with Florida, she is thinking about moving to the horse/dressage community in California.

Deb, I'm writing to you because I'm trying to help her conceive of new options that she can be happy and excited about. Are you aware of any programs she might pursue or people/organizations she could get into contact with? If you're still doing this work, do you have upcoming plans for any full body dissection courses? If you have any ideas about how she might pursue more knowledge and credentials in this area, find meaningful work, etc., please let me know what I may be able to pass along to her. At that point, she will hopefully have a chance to connect with you herself.

 Thanks for reading my long-winded letter, Deb. I don't normally get involved in my daughter's business but she's really struggling at the moment and I'm trying to help her see that there are other doors to open--other possibilities.
 
MY REPLY:

Ahh, yes, how nice it would be if we could have our cake and eat it, too. Your daughter is now faced with the same dilemma as everybody else who comes to our school and “wakes up” with regard to seeing the world from the horse’s point of view. The dilemma is – that ain’t how the world at large works. And for many people, it is an unsolvable conflict, because they so much want to be able to “fit in”, and they so much want everybody to be on the same page. But they aren’t, and this means: you have to decide. You have to pick one – OR the other. You cannot have both.

Your daughter can go right on being a real good horse trainer, according to the lights of our school. And if she continues according to our principles and using our approach, she will indeed produce horse after horse who is an excellent companion, a happy and competent performer, who can execute a dressage ‘test’ (or anything else you ask it to do) just as well as the horse which is cranked through its training by some rough bastard from Germany who has no humanity left in him at all, having gone through their system and had that part of him crushed to death. So you get this: the two horses – his and yours -- are EQUAL as to their ability to perform the test. The difference is not, thus, a matter of whether they step through the routine, going precisely from letter to letter and performing transitions at the specified times, and performing whatever ‘movements’ or ‘airs’. The difference is in the degree of softness and in the presence – or absence – of true collection. “True” collection is generated by the horse, via the fountain of collection, as opposed to taken from the horse by an aggressive and skillful rider who produces pseudocollection, an ersatz of the real thing, by pushing and holding.

Your daughter can take her soft, round, truly collected horse and go to shows and perform tests and they will, I am certain, be tests very well ridden. And with some judges she will win, and with other judges she will get the big goose-egg, and with most judges she will get a 62% which is what all the rest of them get, also. Your daughter needs to recognize that 99.9% of all the judges currently out there have never themselves produced a horse that would properly rise to the leg, truly collect itself, or even take one single step in the envelope of release. Why, therefore, would it be important to obtain the opinion of such people?

Your daughter must also realize that her small efforts – all of our efforts are small – are not going to make one single iota of difference to the juggernaut that is the world. The evil that drives dressage drives every other form of horse competition also, and you, my sweet, are not going to have the slightest effect in changing that. Why, therefore, do you persist in any desire to attend shows or compete? The only reason I could see would be to do it because it pleases you, and to that you have every right.

That having been granted, and you go to the show, then by God, go and enjoy yourself and quit complaining. You go and enjoy yourself no matter what score you get, whether you win or lose, and without concern for being on some kind of campaign to change the world or to instruct anybody else whomsoever. You enjoy yourself because you enjoy your horse and the relationship you have with your horse; you know with what softness and with what depth he responds. So you do it by yourself, for yourself: exactly what Tom Dorrance said, too. If you find even one or two friends who would like to attend shows with you on that basis, that is to say in your entire life, well, you will be very lucky indeed.

And that’s the only and final answer. If you want more in the way of technical instruction, i.e. how to make a bridle horse or more in depth on jumping or learn how to cut cattle, you can go see Buck or Melanie Smith or Joe Wolter. If you want more on history, biomechanics, rider mechanics, and how to make straight, soft, and round, come see me. And you should go find Harry Whitney anytime, for the in-depth subtleties as well as technique. But don’t, please, expect any of us to solve your essential dilemma, which is reconciling our approach with the world’s approach, because they are 100% incompatible and, as I said before: YOU WILL HAVE TO FINALLY DECIDE.

Cheers, and good luck – Dr. Deb


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