Toes, Flight, Grace, and Lipizzan Horses, Szilvasvarad, Hungary

​The herd looked like a bright cloud descending from the skies. The ground shook with their thunderous gallop as their silver hair floated in the wind. I will never forget this slow moving scene that has captured both a sense of tremendous power and a sense of unbearable lightness at the same time.

As “prey” animals, the horses have evolved an immensely remarkable fight-or-flight response.

Known for speed and endurance, the horses’ magnificence and strength comes from the fact that they can outrun predators sprinting on single toes. ON SINGLE TOES! Let this idea sink in for a while...

As if a ballerina on continual and constant en pointe, they thread the world with barely a few square- centimeters of appendage touching the ground. To me this physiological adaptation truly represents the word “flight” response.

In a beautiful short film, “The Horse Whisperer”, Jean Francois Pignon mentioned how humans can lie to each other, but no human can lie to a horse. The horse is a creature of pure truth and subtleness.

And truth and subtleness for me, is the essence of the word “Grace”.

I came to the Állami Ménesgazdaság Szilvásvárad - The Hungarian National Stud Farm, with goals of meeting the famed Lippizans – a treasured breed of grey-white horses.

Humbled and honored to even come close to this very much protected and preserved animals, I mounted a stallion of a Favory lineage blushing.

I struggled with the saddle a bit. The feeling of polished dead animal skin did not feel quite right. It drew my thighs and spine farther away from the most handsome stallion I have ever ridden so far.

I felt my adductor muscles engage as I felt the sheer strength of the equine muscles in between my thighs. I tried to feel how his spine moved in a canter. I had wished that he could talk to me and tell me what to do. But the language of the horse can be as subtle as silence.

Towards the end of the short introduction to the horses of the Stud, I finally had a chance to ride one of the training Lipizzans without a saddle. And in moments of (quite rare) graceful alignments, I felt my vertebrae clicked (literally) and responded to the movement and waves of the horses’ back, as if our bones were held in a string of spine.

In these perfect moments, I had tasted a bit of freedom.

But keeping this spine-to-spine connection required continuous awareness and attention. It is because true Grace requires conscious effort and a sense of commitment to truth and subtleness.

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