The Search for the Holy Grail of Horsmanship……

For years now I have been searching for the Holy Grail of horse riding – how to be the perfect horsewoman, with the perfect horse, doing the perfect piaffe/ passage/ jump, etc. It’s been a long and winding journey and has had the occasional false lead but for sure already I’ve learned a lot from it.

My difficulty for a long time has been in even knowing what the Holy Grail may look like – after all, it’s pretty difficult to search for something when you don’t even know what it looks like. Does it look like the top level competitive dressage horses you see at the Olympics? Does it look like some of the natural horsemanship guru’s, riding bareback & bridle-less along the beach, with the wind blowing in their hair? Does it look like one of the classical masters? Or does it look like one of our top 4* eventers that I have admired since I was a teenager?

I’ve also been wondering whether trying to find what the Holy Grail of horseriding looks like is even the right pre-requisite to actually finding this elusive Holy Grail. Maybe it doesn’t “look” like anything? Maybe it is how it feels? A connection. An understanding. A way of being with my horses? ….. or perhaps even just a way of being.

So I’ve studied and trained with a lot of people who seem to give the impression that they’ve already found the Holy Grail. One might even say I’ve ended up being a bit of a clinic junkie in the process (OK, guilty as charged!!). I have often been struck by how sure they tend to be that they are right and that what they are telling me is “THE” way. Have they found the Holy Grail? If so can they show me how it looks/ feels/ how to get there?   If I try to emulate them and to do the things they do, will enlightenment befall me? But they all have their differences so how do I emulate them all?

As many of you will already know, I’ve been given what I feel to be the chance of a lifetime and I have a place on the forthcoming Philippe Karl UK teacher training programme, starting September 2014.   Philippe Karl is arguably one of the classical dressage masters of our time and to have a place on his course is a true privilege. But is the Holy Grail to be found at the end of my course with Monsieur Karl?   Will I need to become a “mini-Monsieur Karl” to see my way clear to the Holy Grail – and if so how?   I don’t have Monsieur’s ability to look good and be immaculately turned out on all horses at all times, that’s for sure! (what can I say, I muck out before I ride and if its winter those legs and tails don’t see a hose too often and our fields are on clay!).

Well, I’m still trying to get all that figured out, but right now I have an inkling that perhaps I’m still looking in the wrong place for the Holy Grail? Perhaps, in fact, the Holy Grail isn’t something to be found externally at all? It could be the Holy Grail is to be found inside one’s self.

After all, it can’t be just about how the horse actually looks when he’s being ridden as surely different horses ought to look different depending upon their own situations and what they are being asked to do; there’s no one “perfect” way of going as the way of going is (or should be) circumstance specific. It might be more about how the horse feels but it’s probably pretty arrogant to assume we really know what’s going on inside a horse enough to assume we truly know how he feels, so in fact that probably means it’s more about how we feel, or at best the feel we get from being with the horse.   Can we then really detach that from our own psyche – our own needs, wants and beliefs?

For where I am at the moment, I tend towards the view that each person must find their own Holy Grail and that journey, as well as the end goal (if we ever reach it!), will necessarily be different for each person. It’s useful to get some directions and guidance along the way and many paths will overlap and I don’t even need for my Holy Grail to be the same as another person’s for me to like and respect their way of doing things. I most sincerely hope that my Holy Grail will be pretty similar to Monsieur Karl’s but there will necessarily be differences as I’m not him and he’s not me.

So I invite you to share my journey to finding my Holy Grail. We may find some paths in common for a while, but for sure along the way there will be blood, sweat and tears, equalled only by their love, joy and laughter. Enjoy the journey!


….. and by way of tribute to the Pythons – who I always like to think found their own Holy Grails – lets remind ourselves of this scene:

King Arthur: Go and tell your master that we have been charged by God with a sacred quest. If he will give us food and shelter for the night, he can join us in our quest for the Holy Grail.

French Soldier: Well, I’ll ask him, but I don’t think he will be very keen. Uh, he’s already got one, you see.

King Arthur: What?

Sir Galahad: He said they’ve already got one!

King Arthur: Are you sure he’s got one?

French Soldier: Oh yes, it’s very nice!



4 thoughts on “The Search for the Holy Grail of Horsmanship……

  1. Linda Jordan August 10, 2014 / 8:01 pm

    Thank you, so much for your words. Timing is perfect. Maybe serendipity but I have been wondering about my own journey.

    Having just spent a week in Dublin, watching Buck Brannaman, (fantastic) who ended with a poem Ray Hunt taught him, very emotional, but made me realise, I need to listen to the woman in the mirror!!!!

    Learning as much as possible but applying in our own way is, I believe, our Holy Grail.

    Brilliant, looking forward to next blog.
    Linda Jordan

  2. janetpaterson August 10, 2014 / 11:28 pm

    Hi Linda
    Thank you, life is funny like that sometimes, isn’t it?… and I hear Buck was fantastic – sorry I missed it!
    All the best

  3. Kate August 11, 2014 / 5:47 pm

    Really looking forward to following your progress along the way xx

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