Considering just last January, I bemoaned how dressage was our #1 weakness at intro level events. And later in March, I wrote about what a struggle it was to find regular dressage instruction (clearly needed).
But how is it that such fundamentals can remain so vague after 20+ years of riding?!? Well, honestly, I avoided anything approaching the idea of "dressage" - it seemed like an enigma, some unattainable mystical mysterious unicorn that was somehow perpetually beyond my reach.
And perhaps the one thing that had me the most backed off from the discipline was the perceived attitude that the work must always be totally correct or else there is no value in doing it.
Does anyone else ever get that vibe from the discipline? Because I do, all the time. And up until very recently, I took it extremely literally.
I mean, I understand the idea that correct muscles are only built through correct work. And that some bad habits are harder to fix down the road than others... But I wonder how one goes about being correct all the time without having ever been incorrect? Because personally, I make a LOT of mistakes, repeatedly, for a long time, while learning and developing new skills.
And presumably horses also make mistakes? Or struggle to understand garbled aids from a learning rider?
But for a long time, I was honest to god too scared to try new exercises lest I do them wrong (and ruin the horse, the horror!). What would happen if I tried to take a contact incorrectly? Let my horse run around on the forehand or go hollow/inverted through a transition?? Or, god forbid, miscued for the leg yield?!? Best not to try, the risks are too great!
|does it still count as hollow/inverted if it's simultaneously fierce AF?|
Seriously, guys. I felt this way for a lonnnng time. Actually maybe until only just this summer, when Austen rode Isabel and said "Fuck that, just go try stuff. You won't ruin the horse."
This may sound stupid, but that was honestly a watershed moment for me. I realized that I was somehow mentally coddling the idea of dressage, that I was treating it like this sacred cow - rather than treating it with my typical "what the hell, why not" attitude.
Do I believe that there is no value in doing a flat work exercise if it's not done correctly? No. I do not believe that.
If I practice a leg yield and we lead with the shoulders, that's ok. Maybe the next one we will better understand how to get straighter. If we try for stretchy trot and Izzy dives and runs fast on her forehand, that's ok too. That's probably the natural step between high-headed arab mode and actually stretching to the contact.
Should we not do a thing unless we know we can do it correctly? Nah, no way. Try to do the thing. Maybe fail. Keep trying. Fail harder. Ya know. The usual.
|we fail a lot. but not always :)|
Because, at least with my horse (who is as green to dressage as I am), we're working on training the brain as well as the body (for both horse and rider). And typically that doesn't happen simultaneously (your mileage may vary), and sometimes the body and/or mechanics can get lost while the brain figures shit out.
So I'm making a definitive change to my attitude: I'm ok with mistakes in dressage. They are fine. Really. They are how I (and my horse!) learn. The pursuit of perfection is admirable, and so much of dressage is the never ending goal of improving quality quality quality. But first, we kinda just have to get it done.
And the next time I read about an exercise that includes an imperative disclaimer on how it must be ridden (straight! slow! not over bent! off forehand! whatever), I'm going to approach that disclaimer as what you'd call "guidelines" rather than an actual rule. Because probably it'll be ok if we don't get it right the first (or fiftieth!) try.
Have you felt similarly stymied by feeling a need for perfection above all else? Or perhaps you've never gotten that impression from the general discipline of dressage at all? Has your attitude about how you approach learning new skills with your horse changed over time?