David Cook



With raised diagonal steps the white horse crosses the arena.

A delay between shaping and execution

lends a floating hesitancy to his advance,

delicate and precarious in its precision.


Resisting the urge to break his difficult stride,

horse, as much as rider, is fierce in concentration.

Rocking slightly, tonguing his bit, breathing heavily,

he searches each pace for hindrance and support.


It is for the sake of his mistress

he perseveres in what is so arduous.

For these rapt minutes grace is rendered by strength.


Like the notes of a chord,

horse and rider, though cleft, advance as one.

Or do they each intend the way they move together?



I was unprepared for how moving I would find an exhibition of dressage which I went to in France. It was the quality and intensity of rapport, as well as the astonishing delicacy of the performance. A few year before I had translated a poem by Rilke (Sonnet to Orpheus I,11), which ponders the relationship between horse and rider. Here are the first four lines:-

          Search the sky. Is there a constellation called 'Rider'?

          For this proud beast is strangely impressed

          on us. And a second, the one

          who speeds and slows him, and whom he carries.