Training The Dressage Eye

When I was little Mum would sit for hours watching videos of Nuno Oliveira, or Reiner Klimke or Kyra Kyrkland, and while at that time I found them deathly boring, I was already being programmed to know what was right.
I grew up learning to compete on a pony that had the most correct basic rhythm and balance, and I was lucky to be able to feel that from a very early age.
I would watch my mum and my sister ride, who both had lessons with Nuno, and even though I didn’t really think I was taking notice, I was developing a sense of what was correct training. In fact I was never exposed to bad riding, or hand holding, or spurring, or rolkur, and it wasn’t until much later on that I was even aware that there was another side of dressage.
I had a comment recently on one of my posts that the person had become so used to seeing praise for something that he had begun to see it as correct.
When I see a flashy trot, I don’t go WOW, I look immediately to the horses ears, to his eye, to his mouth, then to the rider’s hand, the contact, the hindleg, the back. I look at all these different elements (elements that are the basis of the FEI rules and objectives) and tick them off one by one in my mind. The WOW will only come if all elements are given a tick.

I am the first one to admit that I have moments where I don’t get the ticks, I am holding, or I’m tight, and Batialo is tense, and I just can’t get everything to come together. The big difference is, I don’t post this with a comment saying “WOW” so that everybody thinks “WOW”, because then people see this to be right, and lose awareness , so the tick approval system gets lost in a sea of praise.
Condemning riders isn’t right either. It’s very very difficult to get relaxation and lightness, and correctness in training, add a big screen tv and an audience and lots of other hoopla and it’s a cocktail of added difficulties.

But until we see what’s correct, over and over, until we congratulate that and reward that publicly, then we ourselves begin to forget what’s right, and we automatically put a WOW on a photo that isn’t wow, it’s just flash.

It’s not our fault, we see it over and over, we see it praised and rewarded.
True change comes from knowledge, and knowledge comes from asking questions, and to ask the questions you need to have an eye that sees past the initial WOW, and checks off all the elements of our very complex yet fascinating sport that make a combination deserve a WOW for their pursuit of correctness based on the FEI objectives and a happy horse!

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