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The Meaning Behind the Footsteps

"Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the wise; seek what they sought. Seek the meaning behind their footsteps, and not upon the steps themselves. For in seeking the footsteps you shall be glancing only upon the next footprint. The meaning behind their footsteps, and not upon the steps themselves. For in seeking the footsteps you shall be glancing only upon the next footprint. And you're sure to stumble upon an unforeseen obstacle. But in seeking the meaning behind their footsteps you're sure to see ahead; comparable to looking up while walking. Thus allowing you to easily maneuver around the hurdles on the path you walk. And if you walk like this long enough, you'll one day, to your surprise, find yourself among the wise."

- Zen Master Bashō

I think one of the biggest fallacies in the equine industry, and most of society - is traditionalism.

The idea to follow the masters so closely that you spend your career trying so hard to do exactly as THEY did, that you never bothered to seek WHAT they were seeking.

I’m constantly watching and listening to things that the masters allegedly taught, only to later find out that it was simply a perception of the teachings, and not at all what was actually happening between them and the horse.

When all we have left are texts and pictures, how then can we ask for clarification?

And yet people cling to their own interpretations as if it is the one true truth…

Even though I break things down to be incredibly simple in my own work and am accessible enough to answer questions, it still gets misunderstood and taught incorrectly.

It is human nature to do that, sadly.

I say this to say -

None of us on this journey are ever “finished”.

The art of horsemanship and pursuit of a deeper understanding is a never ending wheel, and I imagine I’ll still be asking questions on my death bed.

The masters knew that, and I imagine would be rolling in their graves if they could hear how some of their work has been bastardized over the years.

And more so, I imagine that they would be frustrated that the people got so hung up on impersonating them, that they stopped asking questions and never tried to “seek what they were seeking”.

I’m not classically trained, and I’m not well-read on the literature, and yet my work constantly gets compared to classical dressage.

And not only compared, but then judged that it’s not the same so I’m clearly missing things…

But the more I compare my unbiased findings, developmental work and exercises to those of the old masters (both dressage and bridle horse), I find myself getting excited and inspired to find that we are/were all chasing the same thread:



Overall Soundness

Personally, I don’t think I would have figured out as much as I have had I been well-read or trained. For me, it likely would have been that road block Zen Master Bashō spoke of.

When I say that I’m a student of the HORSE, that’s what I mean.

Not that I’m a student of other people that were a student of the horse.

Now, I’m obviously not saying to blow off teachings.

Anyone that knows me knows that I’m a glutton for learning and will continue to read and take classes and lessons and lectures and work with others, because I deeply believe that COMBINING our knowledge is where the magic lies.

Collaboration is key here.

And -

Don’t lose sight of what you bring to the table with your own intuition, deep curiosity and pursuit of the horse.

You likely will find things that no one else will.

That’s all.

I hope my daughter does not follow in my footsteps.

I hope she chases down whatever pursuits of delight and inspiration that are found in her heart and that her intuition lights the path.

Photo by Julia Kaser


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