Let them Laugh…..

I judged a schooling show for a lady that ran a large lesson program years ago and one of the classes consisted of people leading children through intro tests at a walk.  Man, what a long test.  When I questioned her later about the class, suspecting she was including everyone to boost entry fees, she told me “If you can get them competing while they’re kids they won’t mind competing the  rest of their lives.  Once they get a little older they’re too embarrassed and never feel like they’re ready.”  Now that I have been teaching for quite a number of years I know what she means.   A young child puts little to no thought into the question if you ask them if they would like to participate in the upcoming show.  “Yes!” they answer almost unanimously.  Very competent adult amateur riders, while tempted, will anguish over the same question.  I have found that convincing them that they are performing the requirements of the tests beautifully is impossible so I have abandoned the direct approach.  Getting the proposed competitor to come watch a show while I’m coaching others is helpful.  While we are watching the warm-up arena or even a competition arena I will point out some unlucky rider struggling with their test.  Once we have diverted our attention from the flawed performance I ask the future competitor to describe the rider or the markings on the naughty horse.  Even after only seconds have passed nobody can describe the person that was bucking in their test.  I point out that even though it feels like everyone notices every mistake we make in the dressage arena,  in reality nobody is even giving it a second thought.   After the show I ask my client if they saw anybody that was so bad they wanted to laugh them out of the arena and; of course,  the answer is no.  Now, don’t get me wrong, we’ve all heard nasty remarks around the arena at shows or clinics, but in most every case it’s from someone too insecure to put themselves up for criticism.  The person that feels far more comfortable pointing out other’s mistakes than working on their own.  Because their remarks are the most memorable they seem the most prevalent but I contend these people are the minority and should be ignored.  Most people including judges, instructors, and fellow riders are far too busy working on their own goals to try and foil anyone elses.  I’ll proudly coach the hard-working, struggling, honest competitor over standing with the best dressed, most opinionated critic any day.

6 thoughts on “Let them Laugh…..

  1. Suz- You have always had a gift of giving your students and horses (of all levels) the confidence to enter the “competition arena”by your enthusiasm and passion. As a long time friend of yours and a fellow instructor, I think we both agree that teaching the student the enjoyment of “SHOWING what they have accomplished together with their horse” through hard work and preparation instead of the “competition approach” of “I HAVE to beat so-in-so” is so much more enjoyable for all involved and keeps it fun. You have a gift to motivate and you really do make dressage fun. You even got me hooked almost 20 yrs ago :).

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