Saturday, January 3, 2009

Dressage in the Fourth Dimension: Book Review

The following review was written by Dr. Candice Quinn of Southern Pines, North Carolina:

No one who has anxiously awaited the re-issue of Sherry Ackerman's Dressage in the Fourth Dimension has been disappointed. To be able to add this small gem, now with the extra premium of Linda Kohanov's Foreward, to one's library is a privilege as well as being provided with a constant source of profound insights. This volume, then and now, is at once a welcome addition to the body of exploratory interpretations of dressage artistry; and a unique and singular vision of contemplative philosophic reflections set within a poetic discourse. The philosophic tenets presented, however, are not abstractions or disinterested conceptualizations. In an act of great courage Ackerman shares with the reader a strongly subjective exegesis which carries and conveys her own deeply felt, experientially validated, convictions. In her articulation not of the 'techne' of dressage, but of its 'ousia', its substantive essence, Ackerman invites what will be for many a radical revisioning of standard approaches to dressage orthodoxy. The author's mastery of particular philosophic traditions and her willingness to breach the conventions of discipline-specific boundaries lends the work breadth and profound originality. The book's conceptual approach embodies authorial integrity as well. As an advocate of the ultimate unity and universality of knowledge Ackerman's work expresses an affinity of the feel and appreciation of the artistry of dressage with the sense of harmonic, cyclical (ascent-descent-ascent) unity sought by many of the greatest philosophic/spiritual traditions. The suggestion that the aesthetic dimension of dressage, entered into with a true heart, an 'eros,' contains within it the potential for an ascent to a higher level of consciousness invites the rider to journey beyond a narrow focus on technological methods to a place where individual members of vastly different species may meet and dance together in perfect harmony. Fourth Dimension is a wholly engaging work because the author is so wholly engaged in her subject; and it is an inspirational work because the author remains inspired by the creative energy of parts seeking to be whole, and of spirit seeking to manifest as beauty. My first reading of this work, many years ago now, informed, enlightened and liberated my own approach to riding and granted me permission to express a felt intuitive awareness of the transformative potential of riding well, that is, in a spirit of love and appreciation. Year after year I had received technical instruction in the craft of dressage but I knew there was more. Ackerman's integrative approach and symbolic idiom allowed me to enter fully into my own convictions concerning the true nature of the horse-rider alliance and provided a high voltage articulation for my own deeply felt impressions. I recommend this book to any rider who, perhaps secretly, harbors uncertain or enigmatic notions touching on the essentials of riding dressage; or who desires to ride from within the unfolding process; or who yearns to unite their own appreciation of harmony and symmetry with their horse's joy of rhythm in movement - read and be inspired.

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