At the start of his short book Comdt Licart stresses the importance of what I think of as equestrian know-how. As I sit and watch many dressage tests every month I often wonder how much the riders understand about why the movements are included in a test. What does the centre line tell the judge, a corner, a circle, a turn and what difference does it make if one has bend, energy, impulsion, balance, tension?
These are his words on the subject followed by my translation of sorts:
Une methode de dressage ne consiste pas a exposer chronologiquement, dans un order meme tres logique, une succession de figures de manege. Ceci n’apprend rien aux cavaliers, et les figures de manege n’ont aucune vertu propre. Un ouvrage sur le dressage qui expose un dosage, aussi savant soit-il, de figures de manege fait l’effet d’un livre de recettes de cuisine.
Les progres ne viennent pas de l’execution de tel ou tel mouvement. ce qui importe, c’est de savoir pourquoi il faut les faire et comment les bien faire.
**A method of dressage shouldn’t just consist of a series of school figures/movements, even when placed in a logical chronological order. This teaches nothing to riders and the school figures have no quality if they stand alone . However clever a book on dressage training may be, if it is just a list of exercises it will have the same effect as a recipe book.
Improvement comes from executing this or that exercise whilst understanding why one must do them and how to do them well.**
You will understand my frustration when I hear words such as ‘my horse doesn’t like circles’, does any horse like circles as a stand alone item? It is all about how they are executed that changes the horses perception of them. Mindless hours travelling on arcs will never engage a hindleg, never supple the topline to allow for the placement of that hind foot unless you know why you are doing them and how to do them well.
Learning to be a good equetrian is about reading and discovering truths but also about learning how to apply these in the real world.