Klaus Balkenhol was awarded the title of “Reitmeister” (“Riding Master”) in November of last year at the CDI Stuttgart in Germany.  The handsome, gray-haired gentleman said at the time, “I’m still young enough to devote myself to classical riding and the riding culture.”

I say, “Hear, hear!”  

So today, let’s start by hearing a tiny bit of Mr. Balkenhol’s wisdom.  This is for anyone who works with horses, regardless of their level of expertise or the experience of their horses:

“Don’t be dominant…we have to wait, so the horse can give the answer when we ask the question.”

I imagine that Mr. Balkenhol is talking about communication between horse and rider on many levels.  Certainly, when we train, we must ask with our aids and wait for the horse to respond.  If we drown out the response with aids that never release, how will we know that the horse has responded to our aids….or the fact that we refuse to release them?

On a deeper level, I suspect that Mr. Balkenhol is speaking of the partnership between horse and rider.  As a partner, the horse must be allowed to have a voice.  And we must respect the horse, by asking questions and having the patience required to wait for the answer.

The horse is such a sensitive soul that to add dominance to distraction — which is what happens when greed shoves patience aside — is to ensure that our training is far less harmonious than it could be.  This is antithetical to the classical tradition, since harmony appears prominently (and rightly so) in Article 401 of the FEI (object and principles of dressage).

Patience is a virtue in all aspects of life.  But it may very well be the most important virtue in horse training.  Even though it is usually the horses that teach it to us.  If we are willing to listen.

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