Maestro Nuno Oliverira spent his life in the study of classical dressage, which he defines as a conversation with a horse on a higher level, one of courtesy and finesse. Times change but classical principles remain: The horse should be a partner and not a slave. The goal of Equestrian Art is the perfect understanding with our horses, which requires them to be free of mental and physical contraction.
The joy of the horse is the ultimate goal and the Maestro talks often of love where horses are concerned: he explains how to show love from the saddle, riding in classical terms of kindness and compassion.
In our world today, we see two approaches to training horses and they can easily be traced back through history. In societies that valued culture, like the Greeks, horses were seen as sensitive creatures to partner with and in cultures that were more interested in war and domination, like the Romans, horses were used as tools. Oliveira writes eloquently describing the virtues of gentle work in chapters that cover all aspects of training, start to finish. The final chapter is entitled “Brilliance,” and it’s an anthem to work done well.
I confess, I have been familiar with Oliveira and this book for over two decades. There is no one who explains horsemanship more clearly or who I quote more often in training. This book is a treasure of information that the serious rider will refer to again and again.
“Ask often, be content with little, and reward greatly,” is the Maestro’s most common reminder.
The teaching is not new, but the format–an audiobook–is new. Technology has brought the opportunity to have the Maestro in your ear. The reader’s voice is calm and meditative, reading with clarity, making the text very understandable. Most of the chapters are short, around four minutes, making it an easy aid to listen to in available spurts. It’s truly classical information, delivered in a form that is a contemporary, real-time aid.
The process of learning to ride effectively and kindly is complicated. It takes time and study to comprehend and becomes most complete when all of our senses have a chance to take it in. Meaning we need to see it, think it, feel it, hear it–in order to assimilate it fully. This is a valuable technique to experience the information, quietly in your ear while driving to the barn, or as you are warming up your horse. It offers the classic method both personal and assessable.
The confidence and respect that Oliveira had for horses, and working with them, settles into the listener slowly, without arrogance but with humility. It gives the student a template to begin work, or if this peaceful approach to training is your current method, it will renew your pride in doing correct work, for the love and respect of your horse.
But more than that, listened to in the whole, this audiobook affirms why a philosophy of kindness in training make the horse/rider bond stronger. It explains the reason harshness fails a horse, and how methods using love and respect will always lift a horse and rider above the mundane to a place of art without mental or physical contraction. Another term for that is Oneness.
“Riding is a school of humility and selflessness, its practice if it is done well, tends to make better Human Beings” Nuno Oliveira
Reflections on Equestrian Art by Nuno Olivera, Audiobook available to download or stream at Gold Leaf Farm’s Classical Horse Books (http://www.audiohorsebooks.com/) Originally published in 1964, with translation and reprints in following years, voice work by Sara Morsey.
Watch a video of Oliveira riding (here) and see the very definition of less is more, a perfect pairing with this book.
Anna Blake, Infinity Farm