I was high after this breathtaking ride because I had finally achieved a personal goal of riding him at the show like I did at home. Our powers of concentration were sorely tested that morning, but the things we did right, like the last centerline, were amazing!
In that way, Cadillac was a tough teacher without ever volunteering for the job. He taught me his language and agreed to learn some of mine, but we only communicated when he was relaxed enough to concentrate.
My hardest lessons came when he was distracted. My greatest achievements came when I learned to reduce his distraction to split seconds rather than whole minutes. Many a test was won or lost on my ability to stay in the zen zone and keep riding.
Cadillac came into this world a special being. He left this world unchanged, but he managed to train a whole lot of horsemen around him. He taught me as much about Buddhism as dressage. While I read the lessons of the Dalai Lama, I experienced them in real life from a magnificent Cadillac.
Compassion. Acceptance. Courage. Detachment. Wisdom. These were the qualities required to ride such a horse.
I had to develop Compassion for his nature in order to understand him and Accept him for what he was. I had to have the Courage to love him and revere him in the face of criticism from less enlightened horsemen. I had to Detach myself from the outcome of every test and ride as if nobody was watching. I had to have the Wisdom to let him go when his welfare hung in the balance.
At the time of learning, all these lessons were difficult for me and I cannot claim to have mastered them. Looking back now, I believe that Cadillac gave me more than I ever deserved from a horse. Not only did I learn these lessons, but I also had a feeling on that horse that I am sure I will never have on another. Riding Cadillac felt like Totilas looks. It was a surreal experience, true dressage, every day.
The feeling of riding him was so powerful and so fragile at the same time that it created a reverence in me similar to the appearance of Raureif, a condition that occurs in the forest here in Germany every now and again.
Rau can mean “raw” as in cold, or as in simple/unrefined. Reif means “ripe” or reaching fruition as in the exact moment when a star burns out and shoots across the heavens for us to see.
Basically, Rita, if this heavy fog were to freeze tonight as it came into contact with the leaves, the trees, the spider webs between the weeds, it would create the splendid and awe inspiring apparition of a frosty, crystallized, fantasy forest—the condition known as Raureif. You would be fascinated by this scene at dawn’s first light when the sun rises high enough to bounce its reflective power off the frost. The frozen spider webs are made larger and more beautiful than in real life. They sparkle.
If you dare to capture such beauty through a lens, the picture you take might say 1000 words, but it still would not describe the iridescent beauty of Raureif.
Sadly, Raureif is so fragile that sunlight is too powerful for it. As the temperature rises, you watch this delightful world melt before your very eyes. It is so rare for Raureif to last longer than one morning, that one considers oneself lucky indeed to experience it just once in a lifetime.
Riding Cadillac was like that. Iridescent. Enchanting, thrilling, awesome, ethereal...transient. The last time that I rode this great horse was early one frosty morning in the Grand Prix Special at Saugerties. As the sun rose behind us, it cast its powerful light on the Catskills in front of us, and began to warm the air...
Each of the horses I have trained in this life have written another chapter in my book of experience. Except for Cadillac. He was not a writer. He is, and always will be, the raw paper upon which the rest of the stories are written. My quintessential dressage horse.
Namaste, Cadillac. Thank you for landing on my planet.
I’m Catherine Haddad Staller, and I’m sayin’ it like it is from Vechta, Germany.
Training Tip of the Day: Ride from your heart.