This week we’re switching things up and bringing you a Friday feature of a more literary nature.
Dressage in the Fourth Dimension by Sherry Ackerman is a lovely little text I stumbled upon, wholly by accident. I’m now on my second read through of the book, and will happily admit that its one of those gifts that keeps on giving.
It’s a book that challenges conventionally held perceptions and dares to argue that riding, and more specifically dressage, has a metaphysical dimension. That the patterns and figures ridden in the ring, in combination with the partnership between horse and rider, lead to a wider perception of our self and our reality. It also argues that Dressage, at its very core, is an artistic practice.
While to some this may sound a bit baffling, a tad bit strange, or heck even a smidge crazy, I will readily admit that despite any readily held preconceptions, I have found the concepts and theories presented both intriguing and scarily accurate in some instances.
Even if you do not hold firm, or believe in, the spiritual aspects presented within the text, the philosophy behind many of Ackerman’s concepts are sound. Drawing on ancient Greek philosophers like Xenophon and Pythagoras, as well as modern theorists and writers like Carl Jung, Aldous Huxley, William Blake, and Martin Buber, Ackerman creates an entire book about the essence and fundamental nature of Dressage, as derived from Philosophical theory. For as Ackerman herself writes, “… without philosophy there is no art” (Ackerman 1).
“They [the students] had to learn that they do not own their dressage.
It belongs as much to the horse as it does to them.” (Ackerman 33)
The book is broken down into six chapters and works not so much as a series of disparate concepts or chapters but as a journey of revelation achieved through multiple steps. Moving from the sacred geometry found in the figures of the riding arena, to the path of the soul, and ultimately the fourth dimension, Ackerman leads readers on a journey that will challenge their perceptions, examine their spirituality, and engage them with philosophical theories as they relate to the equestrian arts.
Ackerman’s text is a masterful blend of philosophy, history, and lived experience. The final product is a unique and innovative perspective on an ancient art, and a contribution to the realm of thought that horses, and our partnerships with them, teach us valuable lessons that everyday life cannot.
The text begins and ends with the “call to awaken to the moment” (Ackerman 5), a call to become present and engaged in the now, in the unity of life and creation, and it’s a call I think all of us should remember to heed.
Professionally, Ackerman is a professor of philosophy as well as an internationally acclaimed dressage clinician.
“The ecuyer (riding master) becomes adept in dressage not by conquering it but by becoming it.” (Ackerman 22)
Ackerman, Sherry. Dressage in the Fourth Dimension. 2nd ed. Novato, California: New World Library, 2008.