19 July 2009

The Essential Paul Belasik

How did I miss reading ANY of Paul Belasik's work for so long? Oh well, better late than never.

This compendium of three of his works--Riding towards the Light, Exploring Dressage Technique, and The Songs of Horses is not typical of any genre. Belasik's excellent in his technical analysis. For example, I'll never look at a pirouette or piaffe the same way again, but that's not why I fell for this man's work. This man connects eastern philosophy, western psychology, and mythology to explain the deep connections between the art of life and the art of riding.

What especially struck home with me is that in Chapter 10 of Exploring Dressage Technique, the most analytical and also the most philosophical work in this group, he talks of "Riding as a Meditation." Riding is, he says, "in itself the reward, the path to enlightenment, education, self-development. The gratification is determined internally, as each individual reaches his or her own very unique potential."

OK, as a writing instructor, I winced at the superfluous and technically incorrect phrase "very unique," but everything else expresses my own reasons for riding. As for him, horses link me to "a metaphysical, spiritual, psychological place." I believe in no specific religion. I hold no specific creed. And, like Belasik, I find competition "the Way of Death." Egocentric striving tires me, and it was so wonderful to have Belasik nail down the whys by bringing in Jungian and eastern thoughts about such striving. For me, communicating with the horse, gaining first its confidence and then, with patience, its gracious cooperation is the end in itself.

One of the first things I tell my students is that I do not want to teach anyone whose goal is to show and win pretty ribbons and bring home silver trophies. As Belasik says, "Learning to ride is not learning to compete." Riding--whether at the Grand Prix level or at a walk-trot level--is/can/should be a meditation.

I've waited a long time to find Paul Belasik, but I quickly added him to the LIST, one that contains only a few names, names such as Seunig, Oliveira, Podhajsky, and a few others.