The Why In Harmony

Harmony can be defined as a consistent, orderly, or pleasing arrangement of parts; congruity according to the dictionary.

At the last show, I made a step forward in learning what really matters: it weren't only the ones with the huge gaits that won and it weren't the ones that showed the most correct movements. Most of the times, the most harmonious pair won. Even though their tests might not have been spectacular, even though you might even see them as a bit boring. But seeing a horse and ride move in harmony can only give you goosebumps. Harmony makes things look super easy as the lightest aids seem to work wonders. It does not take much to ask a horse to do a certain movement in that case and even the horse seems to do it effortlessly. It sometimes even looked like they were clicking like a clockwork. As said before, it can be seen as a consistent arrangement of parts: the steps are even, the rider's hand are where they need to be, the leg does not move on its own.

I realized that Hafl and I were far from that. We showed super nice flying changes but the marks were remarkably low. At first, I did not know why but watching more and more riders, I understood our problem: even though our changes might be pretty good already, the few strides before and after a more or less a fight of me trying to hold him back, Hafl hollowing his back trying to make some room in the contact. It is sort of a vicious cycle and it culminated in a ride that did not look like it was fun for neither of us. A friend even told me that it looks like heavy labor when we are in the ring. Note: that might not have been true for the warm ups but that does not help when you cannot ride as easy peasy in the ring then. So I started to think about the root cause and came to the conclusion that we lack in harmony.

After the show, I took a step back and did nothing else than working on harmony. I wanted to create a more harmonious expression in our rides starting off with hundreds of hours on circles only trying to be as calm as possible, as forgiving as possible and doing things over and over again; walk, trot on, Hafl against the bridle, back to walk, trot on again, Hafl nice and easy in the contact, give him a pat. I was bored after a few days already and was close to going back to riding fancier movements again instead of being on a circle the whole ride and doing nothing than transitions and more transitions.

We did not only make sure that the transitions kept getting better, we also worked on contact. A consistent flexion, always looking the same, same bending, no more tall motion. I kept an eye on that and whenever I realized that we came back to old patterns, I started all over again. Most of the time I spent on myself, being soft with my hands, more consistent with my leg, use my seat more effectively.

Soon I saw a major change (today, it is exactly 4 weeks from the last show) in the trot work. Of course, I had him with a swinging back before but only after a longer period and not every day. Now, I have a swinging back once I hop on. But I did not want to rest on our laurel's so I kept riding in circles over and over again. In between, I lunged him and went for some relaxing hacks.

And then there was yesterday: the beginning of the week seemed like a huge step back. Trying to canter resulted in a 4-beat Hafl fighting with all his might and I was back to: okay, we might never make it. Two days ago, a friend of mine helped me again and he was not good but better than the two days before.

Yesterday, I hoped that we would see at least the canter I saw the day before after trying hard. But went we came to canter, he felt like a whole new horse and my friend could not stop crying how good it was! I was over the top! There were moments where our movements were in perfect harmony, where we showed a super uphill, clear 3-beat canter, Hafl perfectly accepting the bridle. And it was not only one or two strides. For sure, it was not half an hour either, but these few moments felt so pleasing, and obviously were pleasing to watch, too (thanks to the ringside chatters).

As a dressage rider, we always strive for perfection. We live in a world, where an 8 seems like the best thing that can ever happen to you and a 10 seems so much out of reach (actually, in the last couple of shows, even 7s seemed to be out of reach). I wrote before, that we (and I mean every one of us) will likely never reach perfection, but at the same time I need to say: there is hope because there is something that we CAN reach: harmony. It needs dedication and patience, but once reached it might not matter that much anymore that you do not have the fanciest mover or that you have some smaller mistakes. In the end, consistent, orderly or pleasing arrangements of parts (in our words: movements) will eventually be perceived as harmony. And that is what we strive for now.

Hafl looking for harmony...

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