These are the dog days of summer. Initially, Romans related the hot weather to when the dog star, Sirius, was the brightest star in the sky. But we know better now. It’s the time that dogs lie around like half-deflated balloons on the bare floor because the sofa is too hot, because the weight of gravity is too much to bear. I can relate.
I try to do chores before it gets to the temperature skin melts (7 a.m.) Lesson schedules get adjusted to earlier or later to avoid the worst heat, and I’m hoping to achieve more today than just holding my head under the hose and groaning. I suddenly consider taking out-of-state clients because my truck has air conditioning.
The horses have adopted a special, even more committed, midday siesta, the traditional daytime sleep of Spain. Maybe I should take my cue from them and mix heat exhaustion with a Spanish-flavored dream of classical equestrian elegance from Nuno Olivera. Would it inspire my thoughts above complaining about the slow, thick heat?
When the prairie breeze feels like a blast furnace and I wonder if there is a form of heat-related dementia, “Equestrian art is the perfect understanding and harmony between horse and rider.”*
When it is too hot to move, much less ride, “The secret in riding is to do few things right. The more one does, the less one succeeds. The less one does, the more one succeeds.”*
On the trail or in the arena, I rally the mush trying to pass for brain cells to remember, “To practice equestrian art is to establish a conversation on a higher level with the horse, a dialogue of courtesy and finesse”.*
As the sweat, all the way from my slicked down helmet-hair to the droopy socks in my boots, smacks down my determination and sense of humor, “The true rider feels for, and above all loves, his horse. He has worked progressively, remembering to help the horse to have stronger muscles, and to fortify its body, while at the same time developing the horse’s brain and making it more sensitive.”*
Working in the arena and finding out that sun block doesn’t actually block sunburn anymore than it does the heat, “Riding is a school of humility and selflessness, its practice if it is done well, tends to make better Human Beings”.*
I am not sure what moisture wicking is, but I don’t think it means a cloud of hot steam between my skin and my breeches, but “Try to awaken curiosity by the tenderness of your aids.”*
I have consumed liter after liter of water, am I becoming a giant blow-up pool toy? “A horse will never tire of a rider who possesses both tact and sensitivity because he will never be pushed beyond his possibilities.”*
The flies are mean, they hunt in packs, swarming and biting, actually trying to trip my horse. He begs me to napalm the whole barn. “Us humans love to make war. We even do it in the name of love. Being adversarial is so natural to us…”
Looking on in envy as my horse takes a dirt bath after riding, to scratch his sweaty back with a roll in the sand, “Training a horse is above all feeling and trying, according to what you feel, to help the horse and not to force him.”*
Dog Day Dressage is teetering between kind, classical training principles and joining the ducks in their wading pool, maybe without even changing the water first. “The horse is the best judge of a good rider, not the spectator. If the horse has a high opinion of the rider, he will let himself be guided, if not, he will resist.”*
Anna Blake, Infinity Farm.
*All quotes attributed to Nuno Olivera, widely acknowledged as a master of the ‘baroque’ or ‘classical’ style of the art of dressage.