My teaching and training philosophies have evolved over the last several years, especially since I began my training in the Alexander Technique. I have sat in the grey areas of dressage – the areas that can be left up to individuation and personal flavors and talents. I have considered dressage as both an art and a science and have contemplated in which light I would prefer to view it. How we define the discipline has influence over our approach and attitude towards ourselves and the horses. I have had access to numerous trainers in my life and have been able to witness those who ride with excessive force and control and those who lack enough ‘umph’ to be really effective riders, and every kind of rider in between. It left me with questions that I will spend my lifetime attempting to answer : how can we achieve the highest levels of finesse and skill while maintaining the utmost respect, compassion and ethical consideration for the horse? How do we ride in a strong enough way to be effective while also riding beautifully, lightly and artistically? I think this is achieved through exceptional education, proper fitness of horse and rider, clear training expectations and advanced skills of the rider: able to properly balance, not hinder the horse’s natural movement and give clear timing of the aids.
For me, the Alexander Technique has been a great leap in that direction and has given me a vast array of skills that benefit me immensely in dressage. What sets the Alexander Technique apart from anything that I have ever done is the breakdown of biomechanics down to the very basics of movement before re-educating you on how to use your body to its utmost potential – no habitual and unnecessary tension, gripping, tightening, overworking, or micromanaging movements that should just be allowed to flow. As riders, and just normal everyday people, we all have bad habits that interfere with our natural design (think slumping while driving a car, sitting at a desk or texting on your phone). A rider who is well instructed in the Alexander Technique will move freely and gracefully while being effective at guiding and training the horse.
I grew up in the horse world and have seen my fair share of instructors who glorified yelling at, belittling or ridiculing their students. I would love to see this change in the industry. I just do not believe in teaching this way. I take time with riders to explain and educate, both on and off the horse about anatomy, equitation, posture, movement, balance, and timing of the aids to set them up for success in their riding endeavors. I enjoy leading riders to make discoveries for themselves and to ask questions. A curious rider is more beautiful to watch than a rider stiffly and tensely trying to follow a rigid set of commands.