Dressage is an equestrian discipline that encourages perfectionism. In dressage competition every movement is scrutinized and scored. The highest score for a movement is a 10. This is deemed “excellent” but not ‘perfect’. That is worth remembering.
Last week on Canada Day I had the opportunity to watch Canadian Olympian Megan Lane give “eyes on the ground” help to my coach Belinda Trussell, also a Canadian Olympian.
First up was the Uber Model horse; Touch. You may remember he was featured in a previous post. https://horseaddict.net/2020/06/20/the-olympianthe-uber-model-the-beautiful-venetian/
As they worked with Touch Megan said something to Belinda that made a real impression on me. “Sometimes I don’t think about ‘dressaging’ I just take a light seat and have fun.”
There were two things that struck me about this statement. First, the concept of riding with a light seat. Riders at Belinda and Megan’s level can lighten or strengthen their seat on the horse. They can dial up or down. Second, the idea of having fun. Dressage is not so easy and sometimes it is difficult to remember to have fun. I made a mental note to remind myself of that.
Belinda was very happy with how the work was going. With a big smile she said: “That’s awesome. I felt that was the best feeling in the collected canter.” Light seat and having fun had worked well.
The second horse was Feng de Lys. I wrote about this horse previously in my first blog post about Megan and Belinda helping each other. https://horseaddict.net/2020/06/05/the-olympians-are-in-the-arena/
Belinda told Megan that the change in the warmup, that Megan had suggested, had been very helpful. She said she would start with walking outside, weather permitting, and then would do forward and back transitions and not too much stretching. “It’s been really successful,” Belinda told Megan. After a few minutes Megan said: “Already he looks so much better.”
To me this reinforced the fact that horses are individuals. It is not one size fits all. One horse may need a certain style of warmup and another horse something different.
So what about trying to be perfect?
At one point Megan suggested to Belinda that she did not need to try to ride so perfectly. “I know we both try to do that,” Megan said. “So, just for now, try to ride less perfectly.” If Belinda helped Feng less he could learn to help himself more.
From my point of view both riders are my idea of being pretty close to perfect. They make it look effortless. Their horses respond to the lightest of aids and look happy in their work. But I think they still want it to be better.
Dressage is not the only thing where we can get snagged by the goal of the “perfect”: perfect jobs, perfect relationships, perfect looks. Let’s face it (no pun intended) if there was not a search for perfect faces plastic surgeons would not be so busy and beauty products would not be such hot items.
And by the way…. In my next lesson I am going to tell Belinda that I am learning to “not ride so perfectly”. Ha-ha!