From Endurance to Dressage
On Being a Student
Disclaimer: As a card carrying USEF Adult Amateur, I am not permitted to receive remuneration (money) for riding or teaching. Doing so would be in violation of the rules, so my lessons are free. Besides that, I am not sure how much my lessons would be worth anyway.
On Wednesday afternoon, "J" - Speedy's new friend, came out for a lesson. I can't say this enough times, but my heart swells with such pride when I watch Speedy do his thing. He is endearingly reliable during these lessons. The instant his rider asks him correctly, he tells her without equivocating that she's doing it right. It's also funny to watch him work because I know he's listening to me. As I start to coach the rider through the aids, and she starts to put her body in position, Speedy does the transition or movement immediately, often times before she has completely finished asking.
I should knock on wood before saying this (knock knock), but Speedy is also perfectly behaved during these lessons. He never refuses, kicks out, balks, spooks (okay, one time), or acts in any way ungentlemanly. I am so happy these ladies found us as they give Speedy a new purpose in life, and I know he is enjoying it.
My mom called during this lesson, but I sent the call to voicemail. On my way home, I gave her a call back and apologized for not taking her call and then explained why. She asked if I were getting paid for the lessons, and I explained why it is not permitted for me to do so. As moms do, she assumed I was just doing a good deed. I had to burst her bubble a bit and say that the lessons were actually more beneficial to me than to the riders. Speedy gets exercised, and I get a new and different learning experience.
During this particular lesson, I learned more about myself as a student by watching and listening to J. She and I are a lot alike, at least during a lesson. As we worked, J kept apologizing for things that she felt she was doing incorrectly. I kept saying no worries, don't worry about, no, it's not you. It was the same back and forth that happens with my own trainer, Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables.
When I miss one of Chemaine's directions - the other day she said cross the diagonal but I heard pass the diagonal, I always apologize, and she always laughs and says no worries. I am so eager to please and determined to get it right that not doing it perfectly the first time makes me feel like a poor student. That's ridiculous of course, but I can't help it.
Being in the role of teacher, I can now see what those apologies look and sound like, and it made me feel bad for my student. Does she think I think less of her because she didn't hear me or understand my coaching? That's a horrible way to make a student feel. As the teacher, I can see that her "mistakes" aren't mistakes at all. She's riding a quick moving animal who can't stop and turn on a dime, or at least he shouldn't.
Sometimes my instructions come just a tad bit too late for her to follow them. Sometimes she simply can't hear what I've said because of the wind rushing past her ears. Sometimes she's still focusing on the last 392 suggestions I just finished giving. No one who is trying should ever have to apologize for not being perfect. Hearing J apologize has really made me stop and think about the message that I send Chemaine when I say sorry.
Chemaine knows that I am trying, and I know that she is an excellent instructor, so why should I apologize? I shouldn't, and Chemaine wouldn't want me to either. I also need to get rid of the expressions that are like apologies - oops, my mistake, and so on. Instead, I need to replace those statements with let's try that again, one more time, or even with simple laughter.
I am not sure that I can convince J that she doesn't need to apologize either. She's already said how great of a rider I am (haha, if she only knew the truth!), and I know she worries that I'll think less of riders who don't ride as well as I appear to. I've tried to tell her that nothing could be farther from the truth. I know that everyone is on their own particular journey. I also know that there are MANY riders who ride much better than I do. Judging a rider for not being perfect would require me to throw stones at my own glass house/barn.
Being a more educated rider does not make one a better human being nor does it give that rider any reason to feel entitled. We're all the same. We're all learning. We all have the right to be here and to participate. No one should apologize for where they are in their journey.
I can't decide whether I am learning more as a student or as a teacher. Either way, no apologies.
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About the Writer and Rider
I am a lifelong rider.
I began endurance riding in 1996 where I ultimately completed five, one-day 100 mile races, the 200-mile Death Valley Encounter, and numerous other 50, 65, and 75 mile races. I began showing dressage in 2010.
Welcome to my dressage journey.
About Speedy G
Speedy went from endurance horse to dressage horse. After helping me earn a USDF Bronze medal in the summer of 2020, he is now semi-retired. Speedy is a 2004, 15'1 hand, purebred Arabian gelding. His Arabian Horse Registry name is G Ima Starr FA.
Izzy was started as a four-year old and then spent the next 18 months in pasture growing up. I bought him as a six-year old, and together, we are showing at the lower levels. He is a 2008, 16'3 hand warmblood gelding. His Rheinland Pfalz-saar International (RPSI) name is Imperioso.
National Rider Awards
State Rider Awards
State Horse Awards
CDS Sapphire Rider Award
Third Level: 63.514%
Third Level: 62.105%
2023 Show Season
(r) Ride-a-Test Clinic
2023 Show Schedule
2023 Completed …
2023 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
Qualifying Training Level
3 Scores/2 Judges/60%: