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 makes ”perfect?”
Here’s a hint. It’s not always practice despite what the clichéd homily says. It’s not even perfect practice that wins the day. It’s schooling, and that means simple repetition of the desired finished product is not enough in our sport. Maybe it is in bowling or golf or archery, but as we all know as riders, being able to command your body to consistently perform a certain action is only one facet of being successful.
The whole point much of the time is to recognize why a movement isn’t working right. Is your horse too slow off the leg? Leaning on the shoulder? Not coming through his back? A long list of possibilities!
Many times you may seem to be going far afield of your proclaimed goal while getting at the underlying cause(s) of the problem. When you have solved them—and have revisited the solution as many times as necessary—then practice can help you.
As far as “perfect practice.” don’t conclude that this always means lots of practice. A horse which anticipates lengthening on every diagonal or making a flying change in every corner is a victim of too much practice. Your golf ball doesn’t anticipate, but you can be darn sure if you aren’t careful that your horse will.
Is having help with your horse cheating? I run into riders from time to time who tell me they want to do it themselves. They don’t want anyone else on their horse because that’s “cheating.”
Over the years I have had some pretty wonderful riders on horses that I was trying to train. One of the most memorable rides which I witnessed back in the 70s was when Maj. Hans Wikne (SWE) rode my horse in a clinic. Years later I can do what he showed me. Then that relationship was mysterious and amazing! Soft and round and just totally on the aids — something which I only superficially understood at best.
In the 80s Karin Schlueter (A German Olympic gold medalist) schooled my horse of the time in a clinic. When I got on him the next day, he still felt totally different (until I undid things). Nonetheless, it was a revelatory experience!
More recently on yet another horse Michael Poulin was helping me. I remember not so much a ride but him long reining my horse and producing piaffe and passage which was much more active and “real” than anything I had been able to create.
In conversation with my wife recently I was rolling my eyes about riders who insist on “doing it themselves.” She was reminding me that it’s just a different approach, a different mindset.
I imagine it like someone wishing to become a sharpshooter and laboring through endless target practice. To avoid “cheating,” each day before shooting, they blindfold themselves and plead, “Tell me when I hit the bulls eye.”
You know the story about the infinite number of monkeys with an infinite number of typewriters, and eventually one of them writes Shakespeare? Draw your own conclusion.
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