I recently had the pleasure of watching and hearing a 25 piece guitar orchestra from Barcelona. I expected to witness something fantastic, and the sounds and sights of the concert were utterly amazing. What really struck me though, was how I kept subconsciously comparing the meticulous strumming and picking, harmony and grace of the guitarists to classical dressage riders. It was as if the musicians were great riders, subtly coaxing each note out of their finely tuned instruments. Initially, I wrote my comparison off as my habit of always having horses on the mind, yet as the night progressed, the similarities became more and more apparent-and less far fetched.
Before each songs, the guitarists would spend a few moments wholly absorbed with their respective guitars, tuning and strumming experimentally to ensure that their instruments were ready to perform perfectly. It was so like a warm up ring that I could practically see shadbellied riders doing last-minute piaffes and extended canters, getting their mounts supple and ready to perform a symphony of grace in motion in the arena.
Before the musicians began playing, they paused a moment, collecting themselves, taking a respective breath before diving into a delicate song. It was the halt at X, a brief beat of complete silence and stillness, a gathering of senses and a moment of mental connection before the main show.
And then there was the actual playing itself, a whirlwind of sound that was postively mesmerizing. These were masters; when they performed, all sense of time was suspended as I was completely and utterly immersed in the rousing choruses and gentle, almost silent interludes. My own discipline, show jumping, is as much an art as dressage in my opinion, but watching it is more of an active experience. Top level dressage, however, is a display that captures the spectator like a fine orchestra. The viewer is drawn in, captivated by the balance and poise of horse and rider.
As the musicians bent over their shining guitars, fingers flying and notes flowing effortlessly forth like some great fountain of sound, I could not help but see the invisible processes at work behind the magnificent symphony, the same processes at work during dressage tests. The slightest shift of weight or nudge from the calf that produced a canter pirouette was on display here, as the dancing fingers coaxed chord after chord from the guitars, faster than my eyes could follow.
I knew, somehow, that those guitarists were familiar with their instruments in a way only a rider could commiserate with. Just as they know the meaning of a twitching ear or a momentary pause in a stride, the musicians knew the intricacies of each string, the limits to which they could hold each note.
I knew too that despite the difference in language and culture, the language of music is universal. These men and women from halfway across the world expressed themselves through a medium completely understandable. They said more to me about themselves through their songs, their passion, than words could ever express. The same can be said of great riders. No matter what country they are from or what language they speak, they are horseman, and they speak horse. The language of equestrianism is universal; it is body language, intuition, and it is above all the bond between a rider and his or her mount.
Passion is passion, whether it involves a finely-tuned guitar or a highly trained horse. Both are exceedingly beautiful.