Sunday, August 22, 2010

the Joy of Symmetry

At one point in my life I wanted to be an artist. I still dabble and enjoy it, but it’s not as high on my priority list as it used to be. One of the concepts I learned still sticks with me. It’s about the use of asymmetry. In order to evoke movement, and interest, one should avoid making one’s composition symmetrical. You can utilize this to great effect. It’s fun.

On the other hand, one of the “constant preoccupations” of the dressage rider is the creation of symmetry—straightness. Straightening the horse means they are equally adept, gymnastically, going to the right as they are to the left. Very much like being able to write in precisely the same way with your left hand as you do with your right (if you’re right handed to begin with). Straightness aids the balance of the horse and makes him easier to ride. To achieve it we employ a variety of exercises. Then, as the horse becomes more supple, he also becomes stronger and better able to achieve the high degree of collection we value so much.

No big deal. It’s a process, right?


Except it is a big deal. We must constantly attend to the little clues that tell us we are achieving our goals of straightness—or that we’re missing something. Does the horse feel level under our seats? Does he feel the same against each calf, or is he more present against one of our legs than the other? Does the horse hold the bit evenly in his mouth, or does the contact we feel through the reins seems heavy in one hand and light or absent in the other? Do we feel perfectly mobile, or do we feel a disinclination to go in a certain direction because it doesn’t feel as good? The checklist at times seems endless, and it always seems as though some crookedness or other is sneaking in under the radar.

Symmetry in our lives is important, too. And the balance isn’t any easier to achieve and maintain than it is in dressage. It’s a process that requires attention. Too much emphasis on one aspect and something else goes out of whack. Like riding dressage, I prefer to think of life-symmetry not as a juggling act, but as a state of being that requires exercise and participation to achieve the joy.

It’s a process. Notice, enjoy and celebrate the accomplishments.


  1. Hmm. I strive always to achieve asymmetry in my surroundings. I always put 5 or 7 flowers in the arrangement, always make sure the picture on the mantel aren't lined up like soldiers. Maybe I should pay more attention to achieving some symmetry! Thanks for, as usual, giving me something to think about, Susan.

  2. Loved your blog, anything to do with horses is my passion and these graceful giants are just beautiful. gypsy horses