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Pressing Onward

gustafson_-_jack_and_the_beanstalk-726768A couple of years ago I started assembling some thoughts for a blog, but, oops, it became DRESSAGE Unscrambled. Other than The Godfather, Part II, I can’t name very many sequels that measured up to the original. So, now it’s back to Plan A. I ended D.U. for the same reason that you stop eating potato chips—at the time I was full and, presumably, so were you. But like an old dictator haranguing the crowd, I’ve got my second wind now. You probably join me in observing that many, many riders get in their own way—by over-analysis, by under-analysis, or sometimes because they just ought to be in analysis. Dressage is full of Truths. You are bombarded by them in books and articles, during lessons and lectures and even over a glass of chardonnay at your dressage club meeting. Unfortunately, those truths are not all equally applicable across the board in all circumstances. Some obfuscate; others downright confuse. Navigating the whole shell shocking world of dressage is as fraught with pitfalls and booby traps as the task of Buying Your First Horse is to an unwary and unaccompanied novice. I certainly don’t claim to have a monopoly on dressage wisdom, but the same rules that apply to the human condition are equally valid as applied to our sport—exercise some common sense and avoid the mistakes that everyone before you has made. And, for heaven’s sake, don’t take it all so seriously. It won’t make you ride any better. As before, the tales which follow are not arranged chronologically but in studied disorder. Some are meant to illuminate. Others to distract. Some just can’t stand to hide in the dark any longer. Light and Truth R Us. And, oh, by the way, feedback is GOOD! I’m afraid that within me there’s an element of Alexander Haig after the Reagan shooting or Riff in Rocky Horror–“I’VE GOT TO KEEP CONTROL!” Consequently, this isn’t an open contribution blog. Tell me what you think. If it fits in, I’ll post it. If not, at least I’ll have learned something. CLICK to comment on anything below.

Are Judges Inherently Demonic?  Part 1

(posted 5-16-18)

Crooks, vandals, and muggers: FEAR ME! Likewise suppertime phone solicitors and doorstep religious cultists. But, please, do not if I am your dressage judge! As a judge I have sympathy when it doesn’t go right. I know what it feels like when what’s been working so well at home is just going all to hell, and I’m thinking “Does he know it’s really better than this?”

Some people say that because they’re delusional. But it can also be true. What side of the bed did this horse get up out of?

If you say that all the time, you may be fooling yourself. But when it just happens now and then, suck it up and proceed with life. It’s yesterday’s news.

Roundly Critiqued

(posted 5-4-18)

Lest you think I am disparaging the work of other instructors, be assured I am pure of heart. As Kim Carnes would say, “As pure as New York snow.”
That said, I’m surprised how many riders will tell me they went to a clinic and spent the whole time on a 20 meter circle. Usually this is less than ideal for a couple reasons. First of all, I think a horse and rider whom I’m not familiar with deserve a few minutes to “show me what they’ve got.” Assuming I don’t want to just teach the same lesson over and over, I want a few minutes to see how the rider works with her horse, how the horse responds, and even what the rider chooses to show me.
By now you know my vending machine analogy. Using other movements and figures beyond a continuous circle gives the rider an opportunity to ask the horse those revealing questions, to say nothing of avoiding boring each other to death!

It is true that a good trainer has so many tools at her disposal that there’s plenty to do on a circle. This is often less so with a student who needs to be put in a variety of circumstances to discover the tools and how to apply them. Sometimes if you are being kept on a circle – and it’s not just because you’ve signed on with a control freak – it’s because that teacher may not remember what it was like not having those tools.

On a somewhat related matter, now and then while doing a clinic, I have heard from within the audience, “He’s not teaching them all the same way!” Personally, I take this as a compliment, but I always try to take time to explain why that’s the case.

Obviously there has to be an over arching philosophy and methodology to any training system unless it’s you’re just pulling numbers out of a hat. In that case it would be no system at all. Sometimes I have to help the questioner step back a little farther to see the connecting threads. You know the phrase “There are many roads to Rome.” Though there may be only one direct route from where you happen to be located, the road to Rome from London is very different then the one from Vienna, Madrid, or Athens.

I get a little uneasy, in fact, if three clinic riders/horses in a row all require the same solution. While that may be true for them, I don’t want a watcher to draw an ironclad conclusion on my problem solving from too small a sample.


The texts of past blogs which used to appear here have their own page. Access them with a simple click below

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