In the Gazing Globe

(“I encourage riders’ goals to stay in the realm of possibility.”)

I am a glass-half-full kinda guy. I don’t begrudge people their dreams. I’ve had a few of my own. So I don’t mean to throw cold water on the fires which burn within you. Nor would I ever wish to denigrate anyone seeking to make her horse “everything he can be.”

But for the most part I encourage riders’ goals to stay in the realm of possibility—both for their benefit and for their horses’. Of course, there can be exceptions. A 10-year-old kid who expects to take her pony to the Olympics should not be apprised of the truth. However every horse has some physical and mental limitations—some far greater than others—and it would be disingenuous of me to allow a rider to construct a false edifice peppered with words like throughness, elasticity, and collection if the horse can barely get out of his own way. The words really matter—each one actually MEANS something specific and important! There may be crying in dressage, but please, let’s leave the fake news to DJT.

On the four legged side, I once got in trouble with The Powers That Be at the USDF when I was chairman of the Instructor and Trainer Council. I had publicly made the rather obvious observation that “While dressage is good for all horses, not all horses are good for dressage.” Apparently, to espouse this view was somehow anti-democratic and belittling to those who could not afford a fancy horse.

My own take on it was simply that you have to be fair to your horse. As one of the Marx brothers said, “From each according to his abilities…” Some horses based on their conformations or their temperaments can only go so far or only do so well. If your horse is structurally unable to shift his weight much to the rear or emotionally too fragile to learn the one tempis, you don’t do him any favors by trying to force the issue.

Perspective can be tough to maintain but it is, after all, what separates us from flatworms, mollusks, and the Alt Right.