We had the Olympics on in the background most of the time, well, at least part of the time, and I kept wanting to see the equestrian events (the only thing that interests me, besides, I will admit, those young male divers with Speedos that barely cover the essentials). Somehow they never came on, though I recorded great six-hour swaths in the middle of the night.
I was eating dinner and blathering on to my husband about something, when I heard some music, Land of Hope and Glory I think, and turned my head and saw a dark horse.
I wasn't paying half-attention, but I should have been, and after a while my nattering grew less and my attention grew more until I was completely magnetized.
This wasn't a horse. This was some Astaire or Baryshnikov of equitation. He was putting his feet down precisely on each beat of the music. But it wasn't just that. His footfall had a - what, a softness? Softness mixed with sureness, or was it those incredible liquid knees?
It was hard to believe what I was seeing. The commentator, some English lady who droned on interminably during all the dressage events with her ENDLESS technical nit-picking, wasn't saying very much because I think even she was a bit taken aback.
The music went all over the place (Elgar, James Bond, the Olympic theme) sort of like figure-skating music, but this horse (and rider - let's not forget - she's not just sitting there any more than an orchestra conductor stands up there and waves his arms) seemed to defy the laws of nature. The English lady kept commenting on how smooth his tail was, a river of silk, none of that irritable swishing that seems to indicate the horse wants to get this bloody business over with and get back to the barn for his victory oats.
By the time I was really paying attention to it, it was almost over. The Big Ben chiming accompanied by impeccable, Lippizaner-style pirouettes especially seemed to get to people, maybe because it was so quintessentially English.
Anyway, it took me days to find a full video of this that wasn't shot from a million miles away in the stadium, accompanied by "Ohhh, look at that!" "Isn't he marvelous?" etc. (One had DREADFUL rock music in place of that amazing score.) This one isn't perfect and seizes and pixillates in places - oh, I hope it doesn't break down altogether. But you get the feeling of it, those instinctively rhythmic hoofbeats: well, not entirely instinctive.
Some say dressage moves just utilize the natural gaits of horses, but I really don't see it. Yes, a wild stallion may prance around, but only when he feels like it or is being territorial. Not many wild horses step in time to the music or execute perfect pirouettes, though it's true that most of them can turn on a dime to escape a predator. So maybe the seeds are there.
I don't know how they get horses to do this except through patient training and a relationship between horse and rider that reflects millennia of close communication. How I wish now that I had watched more and blathered less, because I haven't seen a video that precisely reflects the performance I saw on TV. Or sort of saw. It was a humbling, shocking reminder of how the most remarkable moments get away from us, happening and unhappening in the one-way flow of time while we're busy doing something else.