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.
In our days at the WEG I didn’t pass through a single actual town. There were a few cross roads marked by a blinking light, but even those got shut off after 9 PM. Even for a Florida guy who normally drives 5 miles to buy a quart of milk, the back country takes a little getting used to. If you are at all familiar with north Georgia or the western Carolinas, you would understand why I proposed that the signature icon for the Games should have been a giant statue of Steffen Peters covered in kudzu like a humongous Chia pet.
Aside from the flora, I noticed other things that we don’t see back in “civilization.” When you are out there where the signal from the city FM stations doesn’t reach, all you can get are those little hundred watters with a down-home DJ who specializes in folksy readings of the school lunch menus. On a rainy morning I heard one such guy caution all his listeners, “It’s gonna to be wet out there this morning so y’all just take little steps.”
Back in the day I once passed through a hamlet small enough that the pizza delivery Jeep also served as the town ambulance. In this part of the rural South it seems there was a similar casual approach to the preservation of human life – perhaps in larger families one or two would not be missed. For instance, the speed limit in school zones was only lowered to 35 mph. Either the kids are good at dodging or parents don’t care as much. Along the same line the local fire department used a pontoon boat for on-water emergencies. No need to hurry, one supposes, and there’s room to bring a band if music would heighten the drama of the rescue.
Finally to round out the ambiance of the area, I was listening to a football game broadcast on a local repeater station which ran its own ads during timeouts. The best one: Bob’s Bail Bonds. “See Bob for all your incarceration needs!”
It’s a Pirate’s Life
There’s one truism in dressage – if you wait around long enough, you’re always going to find someone with the opposite opinion of what you’ve been led to believe. When you are young and/or starting out, the only thing to do is hitch your belief system to someone who is known to be credible and stick with them. There is nothing worse than ping-ponging back-and-forth from one person’s advice to another’s (and another’s and another’s).
Seemingly irreconcilable philosophical disagreements crop up even between godlike legends. Back in the early 70s I remember observing to Lockie Richards at ADI that Podhajsky said to weight your inner seat bone in shoulder–in while Seunig said to sit on the outside one. My question to him – Who was right?
Lockie dismissed my confusion by saying it wasn’t much something he thought about. He sat where the horse needed him to sit at any given moment to make the movement work best.
In DRESSAGE Unscrambled I quoted Captain Jack Sparrow: “We don’t have rules. We have guidelines!” Until your riding matures to where you can trust your own judgment, this notion is a bit unsettling. It’s normal to think “Yes, I know, I know. Just tell me what I’m supposed to do, and I’ll do it!” No such luck. Life is more complicated than that.
You will run into lots and lots of other examples. How about the walk? Some instructors will admonish, “Never work very long in the walk. It’s so easy to damage the rhythm!” Appearing to contradict this, other notables will say, “If you can’t perform a movement in a slow gait, how can you expect to do it in a faster one? Practice in the walk!”
There is no grand conclusion here other than your approach must be situational and depend on a variety of factors. Don’t be surprised. That’s normal. In fact there may be a “best way” but it may not be the same way every time.
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