It’s generally considered good manners in the barn to graciously take the blame anytime your horse is less than spectacular, and give your horse all the credit after a good ride. But it is more than manners, it is also a rider’s responsibility.
Alois Podhajsky said it bluntly, “. . . I should like to remind every rider to look to himself for the fault whenever he has any difficulties with his horse.”
Tom Dorrance said it with cowboy charm, “When I hear somebody talk about a horse being stupid, I figure it’s a sure sign that animal has outfoxed them.”
Waldemar Seunig softens the blow, “Riding instruction cannot make a master out of every neophyte. But it can open a path for every mind – the path out of self-assured ignorance to thoughtful uncertainty.”
That sounds more pleasant. Thoughtful uncertainty is a choice to be vulnerable, it implies an open mind capable of growth. Lots of times we find out that someone we thought was an expert really isnt… and sometimes it’s us. What a relief to not know all the answers and have a chance to learn something.
Dressage is deceptively challenging in its simplicity, and there are no perfect scores. Sometimes our passion can make us impatient; we push too hard and listen too little. A seed of adversarial debate sprouts between horse and rider, and Podhajsky’s words ring loudly. A student of the art of riding has to acquire enough good-natured humility to diffuse self-blame, while mustering the confidence to try again.
Learning most things demands a fluidity of both body and mind- horses are especially good at pointing this out. Take a breath, take your time.
This week, as I move between young horses just starting- and retired horses who have borne the brunt of my passion… Between lessons with beginning riders- and my continued commitment to learn and grow my own skills daily… I have been aware that feeling unstuck and in-between is getting more comfortable all the time. There is a strength in vulnerability.
It used to be my habit to try to save time driving by taking a short cut, which usually resulted in getting lost and arriving late and stressed out. Learning to ride should be more like a no-rush roadtrip- it is always more fun if you don’t know exactly how to get there. Some extra time and an alternate route might land you with a surprise view of the Grand Canyon!
Anna, Infinity Farm