Home' The Horse Magazine : December 2016-January 2017 Contents WWW.HORSEMAGAZINE.COM 111
Nothing felt better than when
I shut the door on my travels,
cocooned in this mysterious old
farmhouse until 11 o’clock on
Saturday morning. It had been a
The kitchen looked over a series
of ponds to a backdrop of woods.
The woods here abouts were
no place to be during the civil
war. Descendants of the slaves
who’d fled to freedom from the
South used ‘Moonlight Farm’ as
an open air Jazz venue, hence
the name. Paul was with his
7 year old son Wylie. They
were shooting arrows. I never
thought to enquire if ‘Zen in the
Art of’ came into it. I suppose
I learned the answer. We were
soon on our way to compete
Paul’s horse, Mime in a Grand
Prix Free Style to music. Like
the legendary arrow was I
about to witness the piaffes and
pirouettes doing themselves?
Mime was plaited and
groomed, Jeannie [Paul’s wife]
also drove and we talked of many
things, even the weather. It was
‘Better be a short warm up...
not long till your test in ring one’.
I learned how the transition from
home to the competition arena
could be smooth and easy with the
aid of a horsy wife and a groom.
Paul and Mime were off to the
warm up area. They would barely
raise a sweat. A light warm up, a
bit of piaffe in hand under a tree,
then off for scrutiny.
I wasn’t ready for what I saw.
Mime didn’t look animated or
expressive until after the salute
when he came out of the corner and
faced the long side. I have a habit of
looking at horse’s backs. Specially
high level horses. They are usually
dropped. The Alexander Teacher
in me is concerned with the way
they use themselves, particularly
if they show big movement
anyway. When I scrutinized
Mime’s back in the cross ties, it
was wide and open. The massive
extension devouring the long side
was from no ‘Shank mover’. This
big handsome chestnut 13 year
old Thoroughbred horse knew all
about swinging that back in trot.
It was not adventurous or risky
riding, the horse flowed. I had seen
all I needed to see. The rest of the
test was a bonus. Peter and the
Wolf flowed along nicely with it. It
was calm, accurate and joyous to
watch. Even better for having been
choreographed with the spectators
in mind rather than the judge.
Then came another surprise.
In no time we were loaded and
leaving. ‘But what about the other
competitors? What if you won?
Who will collect the score sheet?
Prize money?’ I was grappling with
my own experience of competition
days, with the things I hate about
them... the waiting, the competition
itself, the intensity of who’ll think
what and why, bored horses
standing about. To all my questions
the answer was the same: ‘I am not
really interested’... bewilderment!!!
‘Then tell me why have we come
all this way on a hot day to do this?’
Simple, you have to make the
practice your competition and the
competition your practice. Other
wise how good is your practice? If I
come here and fall apart I have to
check my motivation? Do I ride for
myself, for my own development
or am I just worried about what
other people might think?’
Now I am sorry he would not
be heading up to New Hampshire.
This character has a few good clues
on this Centreing business. I was
spinning around tripping over my
own questions until I was put out
of my misery.
‘That’s enough dressage for one
day we’ve got some swimming
So I had the afternoon
to exercise and indulge
brain reshuffled ready for
the promised interview
My first question was
resolute and orderly ‘Posture
seems to be central to your
riding approach. Tell me a bit
about its significance?’
With Paul if you want to
know something you just need
to ask. Full engagement, he
was off, heaven help the slow
Out came such poetic
discourse, such passion and
wisdom all I could think of
was ‘this needs to be captured. I
can’t cope with the responsibility
of annihilating this man’s words’.
A tape recorder was summoned
but you never do capture a moment
like that. ‘Art is transient. Every rider
knows that from day one... You do
a beautiful movement and it’s art
then it is gone. If you are real lucky
someone was there to see it...’
‘But mostly not...’ he said that
later. We went well into our second
90 minute tape. You cover a lot of
territory but you don’t get very far
in a few hours. The well spring
of generosity and knowledge
seems unfathomable. For me
it was counselling. I turned the
interview into that when I told him
my reaction to reading his book.
One passage was central.
For a time competition made no
sense to him so he stopped. He
writes ‘When I did resume riding in
competitions, I knew I could never
ride to win. I would ride instead
not to lose. This was no trick of
semantics. It was deadly serious.
However, I was not talking about
losing the competition. What
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