I loved the interview with Dominique Barbier on the Lightness Summit and want to make some notes of some of the things he said that I most want to remember. He came across as a lovely, warm, kind man with a great love of horses and huge enthusiasm for sharing his ideals for classical dressage and correct training.
Dominique said that lightness is destroyed by the wrong understanding of contact. He said if you feel tension in your hand and so you kick with your leg and push with your seat you kill all that you want. Why? He said it's like a bubble of soap; the bubble appears very beautiful but as soon as you touch it - poof - it pops!
He said that with a strong contact with the rein and leg and pushing with the seat you are trying to push and hold the horse and do all those things that you physically can't do.
He said that the secret of training the horse to balance himself lies with shoulder in, haunches in and pirouette.
Work in shoulder in and drop the inside rein when the inside hind leg is underneath the horse, work on both sides and the horse is light on both sides - instantly!
Lightness comes from the rider, from opening the fingers and giving, saying I don't want a strong contact.
He said that Francois Baucher said there are two kinds of resistance - resistance of weight and resistance of forces.
Resistance of Weight - caused by the horse being unbalanced and running on the forehand. These horses need shoulder in and then they cannot be on the forehand.
Resistance of Forces - caused by the horse pulling on the reins because the rider is pulling on the reins. If the rider keeps pulling the horse will defend himself and pull back. It will never change unless the rider changes. Cure - walk six strides and halt, walk six strides and halt - touch the rein like it is an electric fence - touch but don't grab.
If the horse is trained correctly he will stay in position on his own, without you. You won't need to touch the rein. Repeat to yourself "You stay there and I give you (the reins), you stay there and I give you" over and over again. The contact should be the weight of the leather of the reins. The horse will be light because you are light.
Descente de mains, descente de jambes - when everything is right you take your legs and your hands off the horse so they are not doing anything and suddenly horse and rider are one. A centaur. Start at walk and look for tiny moments which will become longer.
Go for simple methods of training - basically shoulder in and haunches in. Have a clear picture in your mind of what you want and train the horse in this way to carry himself. Become a master of simple things and suddenly you are a master of everything!
If you think it's hard then it's over! It's simple, it has to be simple, like all the good things in life. You don't have to fight with horses, you can train them without force. The horse has to be happy and he can only be happy if he is relaxed.