January 11, 2011

Judge Me, Please!

Every once and a while my husband tags along to one of my lessons, whether it is because I need help loading Dexter or I want him to film it for me.  When he does tag along he happily sits on the bleachers and listens to and watches my lessons (what a guy, right!?).

After one of my first lessons on Dexter (and one of the first lessons my husband had ever watched) he said "I don't get it, why do you want someone to tell you all the things you are doing wrong?".  I laughed at him and said "How else do you get better at something?"

See, the only lesson my husband has ever had was a ski lesson 3 years ago.  And that was only so he didn't die as he careened down the mountain.  Otherwise he is pretty much self taught on all his hobbies.  He plays 5 or 6 instruments, all self taught.  He works on cars, trial and error but self taught.  Is he doing it technically the right way?  Probably not.  But he hits the notes and gets the job done.  He may work a little harder than someone who was technically trained but I think the fact that he figured it out on his own gives him the biggest sense of accomplishment. 

So when he sees that I can "ride" Dexter just fine (get him to walk, trot, etc.) he doesn't see why I need the lessons, he doesn't question it,, he just doesn't get it.  So I explained to him the nuances of riding, and the fact that the feedback from your horse isn't enough.  If you hit the wrong note on a piano, you can hear it right away, if you aren't queuing a horse right, you may never know.  Unless you are an expert (which I am not) you really need someone on the ground watching your frame and position to tell you exactly when you got it right so you can burn that feeling in your head for the next time. And that's how I think of it, my trainer isn't telling me what I'm doing wrong, she's teaching me how to do it right.  The best way, the most efficient way. 

For me the sense of accomplishment comes from getting it right, not just getting it done.  Every thing I've ever done - track, riding, violin, I've had an expert coaching me, so I'm used to criticism, I thrive on it.  I know I may get a lot of no's and negative criticism in the beginning.  But I know the more I learn and practice, the more rights come along so the lessons become an encouraging positive experience.  A few years ago when I bought Gunner we didn't have access to lessons.  We rode around for years, working on gaits and transitions.  But because no one ever saw us ride I never knew how we were doing.  Granted we didn't show so it didn't matter but I never got the sense of accomplishment I do now. 

And yet another reason why I enjoy dressage.... feedback and criticism.  Every test your ride in front of the judge is scored and commented on.  You don't just get to know if you were better or worse than others in your class, but you get to see the specifics that got you there. You placement in the class becomes secondary to your score, you start competing wiht yourself over everyone else.  The goal is no longer first place but a better score than your last.  You can read what the judges thought and work on that for next time.

 And I get why my husband likes to do things for himself, I get the same feeling when I do things for myself.  For me its the fact that I train all my horses myself. Yes, I have a trainer telling me what to do and how to do it, but I do it.  I prefer to do the work vs letting someone else ride my horse.  It just a personal preference.  I'm sure the horse would progress better and faster with someone else, but the teaching and learning together is what makes it fun for me.

Maybe lessons aren't for everyone.  And maybe some day I will get to a level of riding where I don't need them, but I don't think so.  Unless I am the best at the highest level (highly unlikely to happen) I figure there is always someone better than me I can learn from.  So thank you to all the excellent, positive trainers, teachers, and judges out there.  We may not always like what we hear, but as long as we listen and learn, we will always like the results.

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