I am a bit proud to have won a guest blogging competition on another horse blog! My winning article is now posted there - it's about a unique horsewoman who uses elements of Tai Chi to work with horses and people in creative ways. Check it out at Enlightened Horsemanship Through Touch.
This new DVD follows the quest of a competitive rider and trainer who is frustrated with how being in the adult competitive horse world has taken away the fun and relationship to the horse she remembers from childhood: the simple love of a little girl for her pony. She goes on a world-wide quest to meet horse people who have tried to change the relationship between horses and people into something more spiritual, more egalitarian, more balanced, or more sensitive.
On the most practical side she visits noted Western trainer Mark Rashid, who is one of the few people she meets who still uses the horse as a work animal, though he approaches training and riding with a profound sensitivity and awareness of the horse's needs and how the horse understands.
Some of the other horse people she visits, including Carolyn Reznick, Klaus Ferdinand Hempfling, and Alexander Nevzerov, are all people who dance with their horses, eschewing riding for the most part, and in the case of Nevzerov, proclaiming the bit and bridle pure cruelty. For some of these trainers, the relationship with the horse has become something of an art form, and riding or traditional "use" of the horse is an anachronism best abandoned.
The skill of the horse people (not all would call themselves 'trainers', and one is a painter) covered in the movie is remarkable, and the work they do with horses quite impressive. I do wish the video had put the narrator's quest into some context, perhaps
touching a little more on the history and varieties of horsemanship and
The DVD will clearly appeal most to those with a spiritual or romantic inclination, rather than 'meat and potatoes' types. It is beautifully shot and produced, and full of beautiful horses and some impressive scenes. Just keep a hanky nearby for the more sentimental bits.
This performance is unusual and lovely - a dance between horse and rider. With careful study you can see the cues in the dance - often Ms. Fedotova's arms are moving in bold gestures, but it is her legs which are actually cueing the horse. Other times it is the position or movement of her whole body which guides the horse's movements. This is a really beautiful performance.
Hempfling is a rather interesting trainer (based in Denmark) who practices a unique style of training, although it is not entirely different from Natural Horsemanship. In his videos of ground work you can see his extensive use of body language - far more than most trainers use - such that he appears to "dance" with the horse.
He has an extensive collection of books and videos available, although I find the videos are not particularly methodical, in a way which might allow others to learn his methods simply. Rather they are intuitive, free-flowing, and beautiful, and thus quite a pleasure to watch. Here is one where you can really see how Hempfling uses his body to direct the horse while free-lunging.
Singing cowboys on dancing horses are popular at horse shows, rodeos (and here, a circus) in Mexico. The horse spins, trots or canters in place, moves sideways, or rears as the rider sings a favorite to the crowd. Depending on the rider's skill, the dancing can be rather clunky or quite precise.
One I saw in Texcoco several years ago sung part of his song while standing on the rump of his horse, and another stanza while sitting on the horse, which had been made to lie down. In between he trotted in place, cantered sideways, and occasionally emphasized a line by asking the horse for a sort of capriole, which was done a bit awkwardly, but to enthusiastic response from the crowd.
The performer in this video, Raul Gasca, is a famous Mexican circus performer (handles tigers, too!) and does a well-honed routine with this horse. There is an article about the Gasca family here (in Spanish).
Mexico has a fascination with dancing horses, and as in much of the world (browse the "Dance" category on this blog) "dancing" consists mostly in trotting in place - the movement in dressage known as "piaffe". Here are a bunch of horses at a competition. You can see the varied skill and finesse with which they perform, some better trained than others. Dancing horses appear at horse shows and in parades throughout Mexico.
In Sumedang, in Java (Indonesia), there is a tradition of horse-dancing. Kadu ("horse") Reggong is a dancing performance by a costumed horse, accompanied by a gamelan orchestra. Kadu Salit is a performance said to imitate the martial arts, where the horse moves on its hind legs. Reggong horses are popular at weddings and circumcision celebrations.
The image at left appears to be of a horse working at liberty, although in other images the horses appear to be directed by reins or a lead attached to a bridle. The costumes are very armor-like and colorful. I can't tell what they are made of.
The web is deficient in good images of these horses, but there is one here and here and here. Photo and useful info in English from: Jakarta Java Kini
Horseman Honza Blaha does a nifty liberty act with this chestnut stallion. I've never seen the backing up trick before, and the horse also does spins and other tricks following gestures and cues from the trainer's body language and whip.
Here's something unusual: a Friesian horse ornamented with glow-sticks, doing a musical freestyle dressage exhibition in the dark! I've seen the glow-stick trick one other time - on an Icelandic drill team. They just had bracelets on the horses' legs, but it was a neat effect as they all came tolting into the arena in total darkness.