Anything worth Doing….

“Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly!”  Zig Ziglar

Goodwood the greatest schoolmaster of all let me make lots of mistakes!

One of the biggest obstacles to overcome when pursuing dressage is perfectionism.  This is a problem especially pervasive to the adult amateur.  Most young riders seem content to attempt an exercise repeatedly, with no apparent doubt that eventually they will get it right.  This is generally not so with adults.  It is not uncommon for adults to worry if the first or second attempt at an exercise does not “feel” right.  This worry is usually a result of erring on the side of kindness, as the rider expresses concern for not confusing or “messing up” the horse. 

I believe that one cause of this confusion is that many of the classical dressage books are written from the perspective that a rider will be learning on a horse that is more educated than the rider.  In this case, when the proper aids are given, the results will be consistent.  Unfortunately, in this day and age, particularly in America, this is not so common.  Frequently an instructor is training a horse and rider combination through the levels together.  It is a lucky rider that has access to schoolmasters in which to learn the exercises properly before attempting them on their own horse.

Another aspect of perfectionism that inhibits a rider’s learning process is the reluctance to show imperfections in front of spectators.  When others are watching, particularly those perceived to be negative in nature, many riders become very distracted and unwilling to attempt new or difficult exercises.  This is problematic for the trainer as a productive training session should revolve around exercises in which the horse and rider are having difficulties.  A minority of the lesson time should be spent covering exercises that have already been mastered. 

So, keep in mind that it is fine to make mistakes, the horse will forgive you and you will never get it right without working out all of the possible errors.  If it were so easy to perfect the exercises in one or two attempts we would all be riding Grand Prix in two months!  If the people watching don’t understand why you are incorrectly riding that half-pass over and over again, be patient.  In time it will be perfect and you will have the scores to validate your efforts.  It is not important, or likely that everyone will understand.  Give yourself a break and go out and do it poorly!  It’s worth it!

11 thoughts on “Anything worth Doing….

  1. You must have been listening in to our barn conversations recently. After months of awful weather I’m finally starting to get serious about riding again – Riding 101 anyone?! Frustrating to say the least. And Yes, I’m sorta a perfectionist who expects to be able to do some of the simpler movements because I’ve seen, heard, and even ridden them before. Why not now? At least I don’t worry about the rail birds on the bleachers!

    1. I agree! Now is as good a time as any! Don’t worry about the movements- if you did them before you can do them now- your horse just needs a chance to catch up! The more consistently you practice them, the quicker he will understand! Hang in there, Spring is coming up quick!!

    1. Thank you! That is why I like this blogging business! We can all inspire each other to get out there and enjoy riding! The bloggers seem to be a much more positive bunch than the BB posters!

  2. It’s good to hear this again.
    I’m one of those people afraid I’ll wreck the horse. Even though I’ve been forgiven over and over by many horses for many mistakes.
    My real hang up is not wanting to make my instructor look bad. As in “she’s been riding with you for HOW long?” I’m not a quick learner.

    That said, I figure, honestly? There is no way to hide the way I ride, so I may as well go for it. Anyone who knows riding is going to see how I ride if they look.

    Just like you can get on a horse and know instantly how their owner has been riding them? The horse tells you. So no hiding from anyone my skill level, why not go for it? 🙂

    1. That is a great point! The people that know riding can tell what you know and what you don’t know already. If an exercise is working out or not, they can tell if it is you that doesn’t understand or if the horse is green or resistant, and may even judge your riding as being good if you ride the resistance correctly. Generally the knowlegeable observer will be less likely to be impressed by someone riding too conservatively and not “training”. I agree- go for it!


    1. I agree- I will never forget how kind you were to let me ride your Andalusian schoolmaster- that really got me motivated!!!! You are a great friend and the person that inspired me to get riding and teaching!! Love you!

  4. Awwww…. youve always been awesome! I just had to drag you away from that insurance company in the 90’s. Once you taught me that first dressage lesson, I believe you were inspired to help save poor horses like Jitterbug from owner/riders like me :). I think we’ve inspired each other over the years!! You are a great friend and I love you too! Red and I both thank you as well!!!!

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