On Saturday, I went to the Blue Rider Stables 19th Annual “Carry On” Circus. The day was hot, topping out at 87 degrees, but despite the heat, a good crowd came out to cheer on the equine and human participants.
The first half of the show featured a western drill, a pairs and trios number, a vaulting act, and a jumping exhibition that was, at a few crucial moments, affected by the bobbing umbrellas of festival goers seeking to escape the brutal sun by creating their own little patch of shade. (I’m guilty as charged.) The horses were performing beautifully despite the dripping hot weather and the unfamiliar crowds of people, but bobbing umbrellas proved to be the last straw for one of the horses, who detoured around the jump at the last second, or in one instance, came to a screeching halt and dumped its rider over the poles and into the dirt. All in a days work with horses, I suppose. Maxing out the cuteness quotient in the first half was an act called “Mr. Sun,” an adorable parade of tiny riders on their very docile steeds, including the tiniest tot of the lot atop “Twist,” the largest horse in the Blue Rider herd, a very large work horse with a golden mane who is a favorite of riders of all sizes and abilities.
I was amazed at the fact that most of the young people in the show rode bare back – not the easiest way to ride a horse by any stretch of the imagination. But the easy-going nature of the horses (I’m guessing) and the close relationships between horse and rider were underscored by the lack of saddles. Plus, the kids were obviously receiving excellent training in horsemanship. A good reason to support them.
The stars of the second show were without doubt the riders who are regular participants in Blue Rider’s therapeutic program for people with diagnosed issues. They performed dressage, a comb drill, vaulting, crossovers, and a wheel drill. The grand finale brought out all the horses and people performers to line up for their well-earned applause. A great day was had by all. Great MC’ing by Jeanne Bassis! Plus, I got a great Blue Rider Stables hat that is my new fave.
Blue Rider Stables is well known in the Berkshires as the provider of therapeutic riding, training in horsemanship, and body-work work focused on body awareness and inner balance. Not to forget, it is also a home for horses and a few adorable donkeys that would no longer be with us if Blue Rider hadn’t rescued them. All of what they do over at Blue Rider is based on the simple but fundamental belief that equines are known to be healers of body, mind, and spirit. Just looking at them, standing there in the “ring” doing what is asked of them without a lot of hoopla is enough to shift your thinking for a day. Working closely with horses, well, that brings you right up to the well of deeper happiness for a big drink. Not that anyone can make you actually drink from the well of happiness… even though someone might bring you right up to it, right there, where you could drink from it. Just sayin’, yo!
The Rider peeps sum it up like this: “There are many documented benefits of riding, or equine activities, but the most important one here at Blue Rider is the benefit of the relationships formed when two beings meet to do something together.”
So cool. They believe hanging out with another being, doing something, is a real thing. Any organization that gets behind that kind of cross-species positive-relationship-building is one I fully endorse.
The organization is named after “Der Blaue Reiter” Expressionist art movement that took place in Germany in the early 1900’s. Based on a fundamental desire to share spiritual truths through their art, the principle founders of the movement included Wassily Kadinsky, Franz Marc, and August Macke. Kandinsky and Marc shared a love of horses and riders, respectively, and Kandinsky associated the color blue with spirituality and eternity.
Founded in 1991, Blue Rider is a non-profit organization dedicated to “creating positive opportunities through holistic horseback riding.” They strive to support the growth and progress of each individual student while being mindful of a “safety first” principle for riders and horses.
The founder of Blue Rider Stables, Charles Carlson III (Chip), a painter, photographer and life artist, wished the stables to reflect the idealism of Der Blaue Reiter, and I believe it does. In my brief encounters with the program at Blue Rider Stables, I have been moved by the respectful way in which horses and humans interact, the knowledge and dedication of the organization’s Executive Director, Christine Sierau, and its Board of Directors, and volunteers. After horsing around (ha) with the idea of volunteering for Blue Rider, I’m about to finally get my ass (ha ha) in the saddle and help with their annual auction this summer, and maybe get closer to the animals by mucking out some manure.
My horsewoman experiences have not been overly impressive, but they’ve been meaningful to me. Horses do seem to have some kind of ancient wisdom behind those big, beautiful, long-lashed eyes. And they are poster-critters for the kind of patience a hyper girl from New Jersey would do well to study up on.
It seems horsing around is on my cosmic agenda lately. I consider myself very fortunate to have recently been introduced to the work of Bill Dorrance, a life-long rancher and horseman who died in 1999 and who had an amazing and humane approach to working with horses through “feel,” and to learn of Leslie Desmond and her work with horses, and the book she wrote with Bill Dorrance, “True Horsemanship Through Feel.” The approach at Blue Rider Stables seems to me to resonate with the same philosophy inherent in Dorrance’s and Desmond’s work: horses are precious, devoted and loyal, and are worthy of our love and respect. I surely believe that, and would like to learn more about it all.
Shoveling manure seems like a good way to start.