A 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.
What’s it worth?
A wise old instructor once said, “Don’t charge too little for your services. Some people just need to pay to realize your worth.”
So let’s turn that philosophy around while you ask yourself what you will pay for success. Dollars don’t mean much if you have enough of them. So instead, here is your choice. Suppose you were offered big-time competitive success (assuming you don’t have it already)—the kind of success where you’re in all the magazines and your name is on everyone’s lips. There are a lot of people with that dream.
But what if the cost is this: as your “functional interaction” with your horse improves by leaps and bounds, you are no longer allowed to have an emotional relationship with him. Like those bomb sniffing dogs in the airport that you aren’t allowed to pat, your relationship with your horse must become de-“personalized,” sterile, without love.
Is successful worth that much to you?
That’s one extreme. Along the spectrum there are many versions of the same conundrum. Is success worth never turning your horse out? Is it worth keeping him on medications that will shorten his lifespan or lead to debilitating unsoundnesses as he gets older? Given that there are only so many pirouettes in a horse’s hocks or so many landings off big jumps in a horse’s fetlocks, how much do you let yourself practice those things to “get really good?”
These are questions that only you can answer, but they are worth remembering to ask.
I have been riding now for something like 52 years and teaching in some fashion or another for 46. You would think by now I could take anything you threw at me pretty much in stride. But NOOOO . . .
I was teaching a woman last week – not my best student but someone who has ridden with me a long time and has taught her own horse some fairly sophisticated things –half pass and flying changes among them.
This week her own mare was temporarily out of commission, and a friend generously lent her a Fourth Level horse (pictured) for her lesson. In the course of the ride she stopped and said something so astounding that after I caught my breath I wrote it down for posterity.
“I think I’m trying to be nice and soft,” she said wonderingly. “I can’t understand why he would want to evade me.”
I managed to temper my response, but my initial reaction was “and they let you have children?”
Perhaps if she had listened to herself before she spoke, she would’ve realized the absurdity of her comment. Once again, it goes back to the basic notion of just because they know something doesn’t mean they’ll do it automatically or at least automatically and correctly. Inclusive in the idea of soft and submissive is obedience and respect. We are not talking fear or coercion here, but if they don’t believe you mean it and that you can tell the difference, horses know that the “path of least resistance” is just enough casual resistance to avoid having to work very hard.
Not long ago an errant Illinois student demanded to remain incognito on the blog which depicted her, hence the Jewel/Osco bag photoshopped over her head. Susannah (not her real name) is a full-time southerner. That’s why her bag is from Piggly Wiggly.
The texts of past blogs which used to appear here have their own page. Access them with a simple click below