(“It’s a scary thought.”)
The recent USDF Trainers Conference in Wellington offered many insights from the panelists: Lilo Fore, Linda Zang, David Hunt (UK), and Henk van Bergen (NL). If you don’t know of them, they are each long-time luminaries in the dressage world as riders, O judges, and among the group who guide our sport internationally.
The audience included over 300 instructors, trainers, and judges from all over the US. Using borderline (and beyond borderline) fantastic demo horses and riders, the panel addressed both practical and theoretical issues we face in a variety of situations.
By and large, the attendees were a knowledgeable bunch, so if you are reading this from a fledgling perspective, take it all in but don’t jump off the deep end into stuff you aren’t ready for. But in speaking to how goal-directed upper level riders ought to approach their work, David Hunt pointed out that “progress happens on the edge.” You can’t hang back and always conservatively under-ride and expect to get someplace.
He also explained paradoxically that “sometimes you need to push your horse over the edge to know where the edge is.” It’s a scary thought, but it admits to a) Mistakes are inevitable. Learn to deal with them and don’t worry about them. And b) Wimps don’t win. Taking some chances, finding where the “edge” is, and tactfully riding right up to it is what brings out your horse’s best.