Subtle Power
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Author:  Pelle [ Fri Dec 27, 2013 1:55 pm ]
Post subject:  Subtle Power


Inspired by a discussion on another forum, I want to write a bit about power today. You may be unsurprised by my choice of topic. However, this topic is not chosen for me, it is chosen for our students and friends.

Christmas is a fine time for reflection, here as elsewhere, and we have been doing a fair bit of that sort of thing over the last weeks. (Long christmas here in the forest) We have been watching films of riding and other sports, discussing typical behaviour in modern society, and how revolutions come about. Rather challenging, actually, but very well connected.

Subtlety is often not associated with power, but I still chose this as header for the topic. The reason is that any power that is obvious, can be countered. Power without subtlety is often effective, but hardly efficient- the cost is often very high compared to the payoff. A comparison that might bear close scrutiny is how dynamics in music work; Listen to the Firebird by Stravinsky for instance. The big change in intensity and volume is made possible by the orchestras ability to play with feeling.

But this is really not all that interesting, everyone knows that subtlety is power. Just like knowledge is power. However, my contention is that there can exist no true subtlety without the presense of power. I believe that these are strongly interconnected. This post is sorted under "Combat riding" for a reason. The reason being this; Any "subtlety" existing without power, is easily (well...) undressed as being the emperors new clothing. And we fall for it so easily, because (among many other things that I don´t think of, because they are what I fall for) they ressonate with our own weaknesses; lazyness, fear, the need to "fit in" and so on. I can not call out any specific exercise here, as all (again; well....) exercises can be executed in an artificial manner, or in an artful manner.

The understanding of POWER here, then, is not only that which many of my students and/or readers will be predjudiced to think that Pelle means, when he says "power". Or even more precice; Not ONLY that ;-). In the training of peoples bodies, there are ten recognised physical skills: stamina, conditioning, strength, flexibility, POWER, speed, coordination, agility, preciscion and balance. And none of these are more important than others. Or? POWER and SPEED are to a great degree functions of the other skills. And this becomes extremely important in the understanding of riding. Especially so for Combat- riders, but never forget; Dressage was created as a way of training horses for combat. In my personal set of predjudices (;-)), riding that does not train the horse to be functional in a combat- environment is not classical.

I will have to mention a few strange things here. Bullfighting, being the only pure form of horseback- combat that exists at the moment, shows some of what we need. I do not speak for or against bullfighting here, I only observe that the bull tries to kill the horse/rider. In my opinion, based on a fair bit of experience that I will relate shortly, this creates in the rider and maybe in the horse- a feeling of living that is hard to express. There is in those moements nothing you would not do, in order to survive.

Watch the whole "rumble in the jungle"- boxing- match between George Foreman and Muhammad Ali. It will show some of what I mean. I used to play American football- my position was that of running- back. For those who are uninitiated in football, it simply means I was the prey. NOT the predator, which is perhaps more often associated with POWER. But I assure you- being a successful runningback relies to no small degree on power. With subtlety. Whenever you can trick someone into using more power than needed, you win a little bit. And every time you manage, the elation of having escaped "certain death" (Hehe... you get the point?) is its own reward. There is no distinction then, between failiure and punishment. There is no grey zone. Punishment means failure, and failure means punishment. You are not punished for failing. Excuse me for hammering away at this, but it is extremely important. You are not rewarded for success- and this is important too! Research has shown that in complex tasks, a reward for success makes us more INefficient. Success is its own reward, eh?

We now come to the hard part. How to relate this power, and its subtle uses, to riding. I will have to go a byway: Klaus F. Hempfling is a master at communicating with horses. No doubt about it. Why? Is he magical? No, in his own words (well, my recollection may be a bit shady) he must feel, truly, that he is calm. I find this must be unafraid. And here is perhaps my most important point; I try not to discriminate between power, fear, running away, and fighting. I believe these are so strongly related, that we can hardly understand them.

First; Fight or Flight. This is, as we know, a very strong instinct in us. It is believed that many of our modern- day sicknesses come from the adrenaline rush that earlier saved our lives, but is now triggered too often, and released physically only rarely.

Second: Fear and Power. I know very powerful people, in all meanings of the word, who are still very afraid. Cultivating courage means to be on a continous quest to learn more about one´s abilities and, if any, limitations. There are loads of circumstances that suggest that the more intelligent we are, the more uncertain we are, thus we are more afraid...

And then this: A horse is ever so much more physically powerful than we are. And the attraction comes in no small part from this simple fact. I have seen it, and I have felt it.

But as long as we are stuck in the third part:


... we cannot be one with the horse. If we are not willing to go with the horse when it does what it enjoys (Have a look at what a stallion enjoys when he´s let out in the paddock), but instead seek to limit the movement; control it- then we are not yet done with correcting our own inner weaknesses.

The idea must be along the lines of harvesting the power. Not limiting it, or controlling it.

How to do this, then?

Learn to move through your hips. Learn to ride the horse so that he always starts moving first with the hindleg.



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